Sunday, May 27, 2012

Book Review: Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Title: Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Series: Standalone
Author: Thomas Hardy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 05/17/2012 (first published in 1891)
Publisher: Duke Classics
Genre(s): British Literature, Historical Fiction


Highly controversial because of its frank look at the sexual hypocrisy of Victorian society, Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles was nonetheless a great commercial success when it appeared in 1891. It is now considered one of the finest novels in English.

Using richly poetic language to frame a shattering narrative of love, seduction, betrayal, and murder, Hardy tells the story of Tess Durbeyfield, a beautiful young woman living with her impoverished family in Wessex, the southwestern English county immortalized by Hardy. After the family learns of their connection to the wealthy d'Urbervilles, they send Tess to claim a portion of their fortune. She meets and is seduced by the dissolute Alec d'Urberville and secretly bears a child, Sorrow, who dies in infancy. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer Tess love and salvation, but he rejects her—on their wedding night—after learning of her past. Emotionally bereft, financially impoverished, and victimized by the self-righteous rigidity of English social morality, Tess escapes from her vise of passion through a horrible, desperate act.

With its compassionate portrait of a young rural woman, powerful criticism of social convention, and disarming consideration of the role of destiny in human life.


My reading of English literature until this work has almost exclusively been limited to those books by Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Charlotte Brontë. All of which were not designated "tragedies" and whose heroines' lives, at the conclusion of each novel, alluded to a promising future. Such was not the case with Tess Durbeyfield. Personally, I am partial to happy endings. Knowing the tragic nature of this story is likely why I had not read it before now. I avoided all detailed descriptions, which certainly encouraged my compulsive desire to finish it quickly. I had watched the motion picture, Tess, but that was so long ago (decades) and I recalled nothing of the story based on that one viewing.

I saw Tess as, on one hand, naive, and, on the other, very wise. She was aware of her beauty, but she did not use it to make an easier life for herself. She trudged relentlessly through her brief existence. She was a diligent and capable laborer, a tolerant daughter, a thoughtful friend, and devoted her heart completely to Angel Clare. Her nature was, to be honest—to share her "secret" with him before they married, but he would not listen. She was so confident in his love for her (especially after his own post-wedding confession) and even when he essentially turned away from her, she blamed only herself. In nearly every action she was thinking of others above herself. The one act she impulsively carried out solely to benefit herself—to bring about her happiness, resulted in her demise.

The 19th-century prose, word usage (British, old, literary), and poor rural dialect certainly hindered my understanding of all that transpired. I used my reading app's dictionary a great deal and re-read many passages. Symbolism and themes abounded throughout the book. Thomas Hardy obviously had strong feelings for the character he created and after reading this treasured classic, so do I.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Book Review: The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts

Title: The Last Boyfriend
Series: Inn Boonsboro Trilogy #2
Author: Nora Roberts
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Published: 05/01/2012
Publisher: Berkley
Genre(s): Fantasy, Contemporary Romance


Owen is the organizer of the Montgomery clan, running the family’s construction business with an iron fist—and an even less flexible spreadsheet. And though his brothers bust on his compulsive list-making, the Inn BoonsBoro is about to open right on schedule. The only thing Owen didn’t plan for was Avery McTavish...

Avery’s popular pizza place is right across the street from the inn, giving her a first-hand look at its amazing renovation—and a newfound appreciation for Owen. Since he was her first boyfriend when they were kids, Owen has never been far from Avery’s thoughts. But the attraction she’s feeling for him now is far from innocent.

As Avery and Owen cautiously take their relationship to another level, the opening of the inn gives the whole town of Boonsboro a reason to celebrate. But Owen’s hard work has only begun. Getting Avery to let down her guard is going to take longer than he expected—and so will getting her to realize that her first boyfriend is going to be her last…


My main issue with this book, as with The Next Always, was the whole ghost element. I would have preferred a purely historical discovery rather than a paranormal entity lingering at the inn. Ditch the ghost and spend more time with Owen and Avery. Their interaction is what I wanted most. Their lifelong friendship, mutual childhood crushes, adult romance—SWEET! The brotherly conversations and the "girl talk" were very entertaining. Owen's reaction to finding his mother and Willy B. "together" was perfect! The gumball machine ring—adorable!

Based on Ryder's behavior around Hope in the first two books, I've got a feeling the third book, The Perfect Hope, is going to be the most gratifying!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Book Review: The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Title: The Shoemaker's Wife
Series: Standalone
Author: Adriana Trigiani
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 04/03/2012
Publisher: Harper
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction


Beloved New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani returns with the most epic and ambitious novel of her career—a breathtaking multigenerational love story that spans two continents, two World Wars, and the quest of two star-crossed lovers to find each other again. The Shoemaker's Wife is replete with the all the page-turning adventure, sumptuous detail, and heart-stopping romance that has made Adriana Trigiani, “one of the reigning queens of women’s fiction” (USA Today). Fans of Trigiani’s sweeping family dramas like Big Stone Gap and Lucia, Lucia will love her latest masterpiece, a book Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, calls “totally new and completely wonderful: a rich, sweeping epic which tells the story of the women and men who built America dream by dream.


Being a voracious reader with endless literary options is better than being a kid in a candy store. How we choose our next read: a friend's recommendation, a website's reviews, a favorite author's latest release, a description that sounds promising, or even a fascinating cover...all these things can lead to being completely enthralled with a creative and talented writer's storytelling. Several of these reasons led me to select The Shoemaker's Wife. I adored Adriana Trigiani's Big Stone Gap Series. The ratings on Goodreads and elsewhere are very positive. The book's description is alluring. I wanted to meet Ciro and Enza; their friends and family - to accompany them on their separate journeys to America and their paths to creating a family, home, and business.

I was captivated with the estimable principal characters and the vividly described locations. I enjoyed the sequence and pace of the book. I was also taken with the character's subtle realizations and the quiet introduction of gadgetry as the book progressed. The chance meetings between Ciro and Enza had a magical quality. Their cherished friendships were touching. Their dedication to their chosen crafts and hard work to obtain their goals was inspiring. Through the triumphs and tragedy, the love and loss, this book is a moving masterpiece!