Oh, Tess!

The heroine has just been executed, probably by hanging, given Victorian England as a setting for the story.  And I too feel betrayed somehow, just as she was betrayed.

In simple good faith, I opened the book and hoped to find a love story.

It is a love story, a beautiful one at that, and I am thankful for the one week of passion the heroine and her husband are able to share in the country house they stumble upon while on the run.  But the rest of it?

Hour upon hour, word upon word, of injustice, misunderstanding, high-brow piousness, class division, exploitation, and the sacrifice of a beautiful young woman, who succumbs to the pressure of her mother and leaves her home in an effort to make a claim of kinship with a wealthy family several hours’ distance from her village.  And every time she allows herself to trust, no matter who, her mother, the man who sullies her purity, and therefore, her future prospects, even the man she marries, the rug is pulled out from under her.

I like to think that this heart-breaking, beautiful book was written and offered as an indictment of those who presume to judge others, individually and as a culture.   I can clearly see the sacrificial lamb, the Christ, in the heroine:  Rude beginnings, pure in heart, a life’s mission of redemption, homeless, misunderstood, loved but always separate, and finally, hung for destroying her destroyer.

And what I had hoped would be a twisted plot with hand-wringing, worry and angst, ending in  finally requited love has revealed itself as dark and tragic, and leaves me perplexed and saddened.

Oh, Tess!


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