3* (out of 5*)

Gee, what a bleak, bleak, bleak read. Did I mention the book was bleak?

I had 14 hours to kill between trains and airports on the way back from Christmas and this was the book I picked. Unfortunately. Or maybe fortunately as otherwise I probably would not have finished it.

Having been through the ups and downs of social injustice, sexism and double standards with the heroines of Jane Austen and Bronte sisters, I expected a similar story from Tess, just in a different style. But, oh no… no wit, no aspirations, no sappy ending.

And yet, I don’t begrudge that the story is dark and depressing. I just find it difficult to read about such infuriating characters and utterly hopeless circumstances. And, strangely, this for me is also the story’s one redeeming feature.

It is easy to forget that the civil liberties, social mobility, equality and independence – debated as they still are – that we take for granted today have not been available to Tess.