Thomas Hardy was known for his realism rather than romantisism. This story is a thing of beauty and tragedy that caused alot of mixed reviews in it's time. The author hits on themes of morality, innocence, double standards and more in a story that was designed to provoke. I loved the character of Tess, young and lovely in character and in looks. She is cruelly misused by her “cousin” Alec, a man driven by his lusts and reckless desires. He rapes Tess and as a result her life is pummelled with tragic consequences. Tess tries to make do with her lot in life, carrying a heavy burden of shame. She meets the lovely Angel Clare and falls in love but tries desperately to resist marrying him, not wanting to bring him down with “her shame”. She keeps her secret until after they are married and on their wedding night after he tells her of his own secret shame she finally reveals hers in all innocence thinking he surely could not hold her “sin” against her when he has admitted his sin somewhat equal to her own. However, he takes her admission badly, thinking himself wronged in that he thought he was marrying a maiden and she wasn't. Here falls the reality of a terrible double standard. He leaves her and she is left to fend for herself. Tess works hard to provide for herself and at times help out her family, but after the death of her father, times go from bad to worse and eventually Tess, as a deserted wife, feels the only option left for her is to return to her rich “cousin” Alec and become his mistress in order to provide for her widowed mother and Tess's young brothers and sisters. A terribly sad tale, but so beautifully written. Thomas Hardy is poetic in his scenic descriptions and created has many characters that you both love to hate and hate to love. I can only describe this story as a very tragic romance. One would hope for a happy ending, but if that's what you are expecting you'll be disappointed. The tragic ending sets this story apart from fanciful romance and yet the story was so beautiful I didn't really feel disappointed. I like stories that get me emotively involved.