2017 Review & 2018 Goals

2017 was a good year. Looking over my goals…

  1. Write/keep track of every novel I read this year. Success, in part. I have written about 13 books I read this past year. I didn’t keep track of every novel, for shame, since now I can’t remember all of them. I have a habit of being side-tracked by beloved novels and re-reading them during times I am trying to get through novels I can’t seem to get into, or (in Tess of the D’Uberville’s case) when the novel is too dark and depressing to continue before I take a breath of fresh air. My excuse to myself was that I’d read the novels before, so no need to write about them. But in truth it was mostly because I was so eager to get to the next one, I didn’t make the time to sit down and write. This year I shall write about each and every book I read. And I will read more books then last year. 
  2. Write more faithfully in my journal, as I’ve lacked the past few months. Unsuccessful. It was sporadic, and mostly not done. But I miss this habit. 
  3. No binge-watching. There were no long shows I’ve binge watched this past year. I slowly made my way through one long series, and enjoyed it more because it was spread out over several months. I did, however, binge-watch BBC’s ‘The Muskateers’ with Library (because she’d never seen it, and it’s a very entertaining series!)  
  4. Attend more social events. Friday nights are sometimes so hard to be social on, after a long work week – and I’m a social, adventurous extrovert! (Introverts, you have my sympathies on this, truly). Mind over exhaustion and be social before becoming squirrely. This goal became more about knowing my ability & my limits. Pushing through when necessary, but also allowing myself down time when deemed necessary. Sometimes it’s ok to skip out on something after three or four weeks of a busy schedule without down-time, and no need to feel guilty for it, even if I have been lacking purely social times. 
  5. Hike more in hiking season. Put other things aside and go out in nature, because that’s where I am happiest. This definitely did not happen. I think I went on a short morning hike once, early in the year, because of a very busy work schedule and my spring/summer/fall weekends being so busy with commitments. 
  6. Go shooting more. Unsuccessful. See #5 above. 
  7. Travel somewhere I want to go to. Success! In fact, more then a success. This past summer I travelled to PEI & Nova Scotia (a dream trip since I was old enough to read & watch Anne of Green Gables), and I also went to Australia for a pilgrimage, which was very last minute and whirlwind but an amazing experience and worth it! 

 

2018 goals: 

  1. Read more novels then last year.
  2. Write about every novel I read this year, including beloved re-reads. Attempt to keep the re-reads at bay, since there are countless new novels I want to read.
  3. Follow my work out/nutrition/cheat routine.
  4. Build back my habit of journal writing.
  5. Keep weekends more free from commitments, for recreational/personal time.

 

 

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2017 Book 13: Seraphic Singles: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Single Life, by Dorothy Cummings

seraphic-singles-083777079I fully appreciate that being single around multiple married and engaged friends can be disheartening. I’m typically not one for being sad or miserable, I can always find the pleasure and good things in any situation and enjoy it for what it is. Not everyone can flex this ability at will. But I believe if one tries hard enough and often enough (in other words, if one practises), one has this ability, and need only do just that – practise it. With time and prayer, it will become easier. It has become easier for me as well, even if it is inherent in my nature.

I recently ordered a copy of “Seraphic Singles: How I Learned to Stop Worrying, and Love the Single Life”, by Dorothy Cummings McLean. I began reading the blog “Seraphic Singles” a number of years ago and enjoyed it very much. I still read the bloggers new blog (though I’ll admit I do miss reading her posts about the single life). I read the first couple chapters a number of years ago, and have wanted to read the rest of the book ever since. I ordered it on Amazon (inexpensive and quick shipping – ah Amazon!) and zipped through it quickly, with lots of laughs along the way! Many passages I read out to Library, even though she had already read the book. We laughed-out-loud over various circumstances and tales, I even read some to Capital D&M and the rest of the pack while lounging on their couch one Sunday.

In short, it’s an hilarious read, even for non-singles. But for singles, Dorothy has a spunky, positive, balanced, and full-of-life approach to living life as a single twenty or thirty something, whether “searching” or “seraphic”. I highly recommend reading this book if you’re feeling the “singles blues” over this Christmas season, or any time of the year! Even if you’re content with where you are, this book is a barrel of laughs, and a reminder to remain happy and positive, no matter where God has you right now in life.

2017 Book 12: Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen

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It had been such a very long time since I’d read this book, I thought it should count as part of my book reviews for 2017. It was such a good time reading this one again, I wonder I haven’t picked it up in so long. I had forgotten how I like Lizzy. (Warning: Austen man-loving about to ensue…) I had also forgotten how well I like Mr. Darcy. Although, let’s talk real here, Mr. Knightly will always be my favourite. Now that that Darcy-Knightly proclamation has been made, let’s appreciate a few character traits in the heroine & hero.

Lizzy’s humourous and positive approach. She is able to see most everything from a lighter perspective, not taking anything so seriously that it affects her in a negative way. I would actually go so far as to say she isn’t actually “offended” by Darcy’s insult at the Meryton assembly, but rather she is so taken aback by such a negative and self-important pride that she decides Mr. Darcy’s opinion is meaningless to her, and she would rather avoid his company then be exposed to such negative arrogance. She is a person who finds joy wherever possible, and these types of people are repelled by anything seeming like a negative vortex. I can fully appreciate this trait. She is strong-willed, but not stubborn, since she will listen to another side of a story (ie. Darcy’s side of the Darcy-Wickham story, as well as Charlotte’s reasoning for marrying the ridiculous Mr.Collins) openly, despite thinking she already knew all that was necessary. She knows herself and her own mind well, and isn’t afraid to speak it when prompted. Lizzy also fosters good and healthy relationships with those she trusts and admires, namely her sister Jane, her Father, aunt & uncle Gardiner, as well as her aunt Phillips. She is patient with her trying mother, despite often being the bud of said mother’s vexation. She is far from perfect – she can get haughty in her sass, her second chances only come to those who first prove they deserve it, and her wit is occasionally uncharitable in it’s sarcasm and pointedness. But she is also very real, she doesn’t mince words (and yet she isn’t abrupt or rude) and what you see is what she is. She isn’t manipulative or over-sensitive. And I especially love her relationship with her father.

Mr. Darcy’s genuine masculinity. Darcy is in no way effeminate. It’s refreshing to read about male characters that possess such virtuous qualities in a time when women are wrapped up with effeminate, disturbing male characters in the latest “New York Times Best Sellers”. Darcy is a good brother, he loves and care for his younger sister with such attention, somewhat making up for the lack of their father’s presence. Despite being wrong in his judgement, I can’t fault him for persuading Charles away from Jane. He took care to observe Jane for the sake of his friends happiness, found her attachment lacking (as it appeared to him) and then took action to keep his friend from a match that Darcy was convinced would not bring Charles happiness. Of course we all know Darcy was wrong in his conclusion of Jane’s feelings, but the fact that he went through efforts to watch out for his friend in this way proves that he is a good and trustworthy friend to have. This is certainly one of the reasons Charles and he are such good friends. (More men could use friends like Darcy, in my opinion!) Jane is also not a very open person, and therefore the way she comes across to others can be vastly different then what goes on in her head. Ergo, Darcy wins, despite being wrong. I will admit he’s pretty arrogant once we come to Elizabeth, or rather, her family. But honestly, once he realizes he really does love her, and isn’t just infatuated with her, I respect the fact that he wanted to marry her despite her ridiculous relations – even if his wording and tactic weren’t stellar. But come on, what guy really does have perfect wording and tactics? Hallmark men are not real men. I much prefer the Darcy’s to the Hallmark men.

I will most likely not be waiting so long to read this book again.

Side note: I love that Mr. Bennett is so supportive of Lizzy’s wish to marry Darcy. Lizzy & her father have a great relationship. Lizzy is his sanity in a world of silly women. The fact that he trusts her judgement enough to give his blessing on a match he thought bizarre and out-of-the-blue to a man he thought wasn’t good enough for her, shows how strongly he trusts her judgement. A real tribute to their strong bond.

 

 

2017 Book 11: Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen

 

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I approve of J.J.Field’s Henry Tilney

 

Naturally S&S put me into an Austen kick, and I picked up the other Austen novel I had never read. I had heard years ago that Northanger Abbey was a ghost story, and quite different then Austen’s other novels. Well, reader, this is only true in part. It is not a ghost story, and it is quite different then her other novels.

Catherine is the oldest daughter of a parson’s large family, and receives the excitement of her life when asked to accompany her mother’s friend & husband to Bath for the season. She meets new friends – some unsavoury characters, others quite savoury – that shift her life and character for the better. Her explosive imagination leads her down some paths she should not have allowed her mind to wander down. But that’s as far as the “ghost” department goes

It’s not as widely a read novel as Austen’s others, so in the hope of avoiding spoilers for those who have yet to read it, I’ll end there with the plot outline.

But I must have an honourable mention for Henry Tilney. What a solid character with excellent male leadership. He is one of Austen’s good clergyman (not all of her clergymen are laughable characters). I love that, though Henry easily loves Catherine’s amiable, sweet and innocent nature, he is not afraid to correct her wrong doings (in all gentleness and charity) or show disappointment in her conduct when due. I also love that Catherine nearly worships the words he utters. She is very young and inexperienced, but there is a goodness in him that Catherine picks up on immediately, and his opinion becomes all that matters – none of her (worthless) friends opinions compare to Henry’s. Because he holds high standards for himself, those around him are also brought to hold higher standards for themselves. Catherine easily aspires to be that much better, that much more virtuous. And really, isn’t that what love should do?

The second preconceived notion I had about this novel turned out to be true. The tone of this novel is very different then Austen’s other main works. It has a constant comical oddness about it that differentiates it from her other novels – almost a slightly mocking story-tellers tone, as if telling a fairytale to young minds in need of learning what not to do. I find it hard to pinpoint exactly what is it, but the tone difference is apparent in even the first few paragraphs of the book, and I found myself laughing quite often over Austen’s narrative.

 

2017 Book 10: Sense & Sensibility, by Jane Austen

 

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2008 BBC version. Arguably the most beautiful “finally!” on screen love moment

Confession: I had never actually read S&S before now. Shocking, I know. But now I have.

Since I’ve seen both versions of the movie countless times, I initially visualized certain characters as the different actors portrayed (which is always a con of watching movies before reading the books – your imagination is stumped by the movie). But I found the further in I read, the more my own imagination took over the various characters and now it’s basically a separate story from the movie, which I am happy about.

Let’s talk characters, since we pretty much all know the story and I don’t feel the need to give a plot outline.

Miss Lucy Steele: Ugh. She’s awful. The movies portray her as a slyly friendly and somewhat bratty young woman. But she’s actually so much worse. She is manipulative and nasty, with the façade of being sweet and innocent. She is probably what many good men fear – a beautiful woman being more focused on his money and her own desires then truly loving him. Lucy uses Edward very badly – they rashly become engaged at a young age, and despite his obvious indifference now, she holds him to it, feigning ignorance to his indifference, and in fact playing up their “deep love”. She treats Elinor with contempt, layered in a thick coat of familiarity and friendship. Yet ever-good Elinor is nothing but patient and accepting of this.

Mrs. Jenkins & Sir John: Austen does love her ridiculous characters. But what I do appreciate in these two (along with Miss Bates in “Emma”) is their utter and complete desire to treat their friends kindly and do everything they can for said friends. Yes they try Elinor & Mariann’e patience at times, embarrass them, and have a jolly laugh at their expense when it comes to teasing about men. But they always mean well, even if they don’t perceive how they are trying their friends. There is no reason to dislike these two characters, save for their being overly accommodating to the point of frustration (which is in fact NOT a reason to dislike someone).

Mrs. Dashwood: Oh that more of the world had mothers like Mrs. Dashwood! She is all feminine tenderness, motherly affection, and earnest love for her family. She has her faults, which include allowing her sensibilities too much freedom. But she loved and relied on her husband, who, based on references toward him, I gather, was her counter-balance in that regard. She does all she can by her daughters in kindness, love and concern.

John Willoughby: Scoundrel. (Ever so slightly comforting that he did fall in love with Marianne during the time he was simply amusing himself with her, which he wasn’t expecting. It doesn’t change that he’s a scoundrel, but at least he is the worse off between the two, since he knew he would long for her years after she’d forgotten about him).

John Dashwood: Pathetic excuse for a brother and man. I’d sock him a good one if he were my brother. Thankfully my brothers are men. The only redeeming quality about him is that he has a genuine concern for his sister’s well-being – even if he’s incapable of doing anything worth while to make it come about, or man-up against his wife.

Fanny Farrars Dashwood: Worst sister-in-law ever. Selfish, snobby, the sister-in-law equivalent to an evil-stepmother.

Marianne: Sensibility. Marianne wears her heart on her sleeve, takes and gives everything as it is. She is innocent, if naïve, and assumes the world is the beautiful, perfect place she assumes it to be. She lacks prudence in discerning the characters of others, and follows Willoughby’s lead in being uncharitable in thought and word against Colonol Brandon, whom she finds boring and stiff. (I would note that Willoughby finds fault in Colonol Brandon only on account of Brandon’s over-all goodness and seeming severity. Hardly things to be considered faults in such a virtuous character – might Willoughby feel animosity towards Colonol Brandon because of the inferiority he feels when around the Colonol?). Marianne means well in all she does, though she lacks the sense and discernment that Elinor has.

As a side note, in Austen’s day, “sensibility” meant something quite different then it’s current meaning today. In Austen’s writings it refers to one being strongly affected or lead by one’s emotions, or one’s actions being emotionally influenced. “Sensitivity” would be the world we use nowadays in place of “sensibility”.

Colonol Brandon: Ahh, what a man. Perhaps he is seemingly severe in his quiet and strength. But his genuine care, attention, and kindness to his friends (and even friends of his friends he has never met) is an humble and unassuming virtue. He has loved and lost, but holds true to love as it expanded to a child in need of him. He is upright, thoughtful, generous, and unshakable in his character. Would that any Marianne’s of the world be given a man such as Brandon.

Edward Ferrars: Oh Edward, you dear, you. The poor man was badly done by, at the hand of everyone who should have been caring for him. The kind, genuine and uncomplicated young man spent so much time in Plymouth because he found a tutor and friends who appreciated him, and whose company he enjoyed more then his own dreadfully stuck-up family. Naturally, with a mother and sister such as his, he would be starved for female affection, and easily fell for the steely Lucy (please take a moment to appreciate my witty pun, for puns are not my forte). But alas, his young age quickly matured and he realized his mistake. For he had, in fact, engaged himself to a dame just as cold as his mother and sister. Elinor’s friendship is precisely the female companionship his gentle, honourable self was in need of. But, his honour, or rather, attention to Lucy’s honour, holds him to his engagement. As awful as Lucy is, it’s the same awful in her we dislike that brings her to transfer her “affection” from Edward to his brother Robert, and she breaks off the engagement with Edward herself. Bravo! Our hero will finally be free to marry the one woman he adores for her virtue. The two are so well suited.

Elinor: Sense. I gathered that Elinor’s character was similar to her deceased father. She was “her father’s daughter” it would seem. After his death, she is the strength of the family. She holds her mother and sisters up, she is the sense and leadership in a family of women desperately in need of their patriarchal leader. (That’s right, I just used the words ‘need’ and ‘patriarch’ in the same sentence.) Her wise, sensible, balanced, and kind approach to life helps her mother to make more balanced decisions, encourages her sister to higher virtue, is the draw of a friendship with kindred spirit Colonol Brandon. These are also the very virtues that enkindle such a true love from our virtuous hero Edward. I appreciated that the book contains a less perfect Elinor, we read her faults – her personal anxiety and frustration with Lucy Steele – but we also read her unshakable kindness and patience with Lucy in public and when speaking of her to others, even during the most trying social times. Elinor must be one of the most virtuous fictional female characters who’s story I’ve read.

And now that I’ve finally read Sense & Sensibility, my mind is slightly more at ease in the classic literature department. And doubtless, I’ll read it many more times in future. But seriously, Colonol Brandon though.

 

 

 

 

Gestures: A Lost Art

I want to take a moment to talk about house-warning gifts, hostess gifts, and thank you cards. Small acts of graciousness and thoughtfulness which have somehow been lost in today’s world.

Once we settled into our newest Hobbit Hole, Library & I had a house-warming party. I love to hostess – filling others with good food, drink, being the instrument of a merry time for those I care for. Capital D&M (i.e. my parents) have always been such virtuous examples of generosity, welcoming others into their home and providing for their needs and wants. I give credit to them for my own ability and desire to do just that. When I was younger I didn’t think much of it, I just did it and knew I enjoyed it, despite the work it sometimes was. But as I’ve aged (how that word makes me sound far older then a 20-something!) I’ve grown to truly appreciate good hospitality, hostessing, and general care and attention given to those you welcome into your home.

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ConvertKat’s perfectly delightful housewarming gift

When ConvertKat walked through the Hobbit Hole door, she had with her a quaint basket, filled with desirable things. It was so sweetly displayed, it took me a week to unpack it simply because I enjoyed looking at it every time I walked past the liquor cabinet which I had set it on! As I looked through it upon it’s arrival, I couldn’t help but acknowledge how deliberately thought out this house-warming basket was: a set of tea towels, whose colours and patterns match the Hobbit Hole just so; a matching butter dish & creamer in pretty colours & pattern; quince jam; some Italian treats. Every item in the basket had a reason for being in there. The entire basket contained items of use and necessity (tea towels – when I expressed my admiration of how well the tea towel colours suited the Hobbit Hole, ConvertKat confessed that she had been taking mental note the last time she had been here, of colours and patterns and what would suit), pretty but functional items (butter dish & creamer, for company usage), an adventurous and personal item (quince jam, ConvertKat & I had talked about it some weeks before because I had read about it and ConvertKat said she likes it, and I probably would too, and should try it), and finally just a sweet little treat (Italian wafer rolls) for us to enjoy. This basket was the epitome of thoughtfulness and kind consideration towards friends who are settling into a new home. It displays such virtue in ConvertKat, with such care and attention that went into something for another person.

Another friend, LitNurse (as in “literature” nurse, not “drunk” nurse, except that she is one who enjoys her libations at the appropriate times, and so this pseudonum fits her just right) brought us a pumpkin. It was very like her, season suited, and the perfect decorative but non-permanent item to enjoy for the next while.

But the thoughtful gifts weren’t only left to the girls. IntenseKnight brought us a bottle of red wine, because he knows how much we both enjoy that. HandsomeAndSingle brought a bottle of the whiskey he had been telling me about during a whiskey conversation we had a couple weeks prior. And DancingGoof – despite him living in the US and only seeing him when he is home on the occasional Christmas visit or summer vacation – brought a bottle of scotch he thought I would like, because he remembered that I like scotch. And finally, AmericanNeighbour brought some lovely muffins he baked.

I was so heartily impressed by these friends’ thoughtfulness, and yet not truly surprised, for these are exact reasons I am friends with each of them. Their consideration and attention towards others is a virtue I strive for as well, and it is natural to surround yourself with those who would bring you higher.

Housewarming gifts are a corner of the lost art of friendship and hospitality. When someone moves into a new home, for a friend to provide their presence to warm it, and a little something to hold warmth after they leave, is an invaluable gift which both fosters friendship and provides care and attention to someone you care about. You are both bringing warmth and leaving some behind as your friend tries settling into a new house and making it “home”. Friends are meant to support and encourage each other, keeping the path lighted with comaraderie and joy. A housewarming gift is just the sort of physical thing to show that support, encouragement and friendship during a change.

Hostess gifts serve a bit of a different purpose. Hostesses are hard at work while you are in their home, enjoying their company, their personal space, and their provisions. A hostess gift – which can be something as simple as a bar of scented soap, some wild flowers, or tea – is a little something to show your appreciation of being welcomed into their home, of their effort going into making you and other guests comfortable. It lets your hostess know you consider her as someone to be appreciated, and are grateful to her for her friendship and care.

And finally, thank you cards are a missing gem from modern society. Where did the days go when one sent a note the day after a dinner party to say thank you for the lovely evening? One can (and naturally does) thank a friend for a gift or for a lovely dinner evening upon receiving it. But a little note the following day, or the following week, shows a lasting appreciation – you haven’t forgotten about that gift after the rush of the party, that you hold the gift or time spent very dear, and are grateful to your giver or host for having given or made it happen.

All three of these ageless acts show a thoughtful consideration for others, a gracious humility, a tender act of friendship, and should undoubtedly be carried out by all of us striving to live a virtuous, Catholic life.

2017 Book 9: Tess of the D’Ubervilles, by Thomas Hardy

Oh where do I even begin!? This is quite likely the most tragic of novels I’ve read.

***SPOILER ALERT***

tess1.jpgThe story begins with a beautiful, virtuous, innocent girl of 17, and ends with a broken, beaten down spirit of a woman who once was. Tess is a victim from the start. Her misery is sparked by a few regular ever-day actions which lead to a mis-hap, killing the family horse. Since the horse is the means of her family’s income, Tess feels it is her fault/responsibility to make up for the lost income and well-being of her family. Her mother’s idea to marry her off to a supposedly distant family member by sending her to work on his property where he will obviously fall in love with her, is the first phase of her life long misery, the beginning of her detriment.

Alec D’Uberville is a villain if there ever was one. Smooth talking and persistent, he takes advantage of Tess’ sweet and vulnerable nature, quite literally leading her through the forest, manipulating her emotions, and when she is exactly where he wants her, he takes what he wants. Claiming love from the start, Alec persists, during the three months following, that he wants to marry her. Tess is forever pushing him away, verbally, physically, emotionally. But to her he is somewhat of a viper, tranquilizing her into eventually being unable to avoid him any longer. Knowing him to be evil, Tess packs up and leaves when she realizes she is with child. Despite knowing how wretched Alec was from the moment she met him, Tess somehow feels that she is to blame.

Tess goes back to her parents home in shame, but her mother, knowing that she should have been more considerate towards Tess’s innocence, takes her back without qualms. A few months later Tess gives birth to a little boy, and lives the next year in her childhood village as an outcast, where she toils day by day with her child on her back. Her pride as well as her disdain for him keeps her from asking Alec D’Uberville for anything. Tess often has mixed emotions towards her child, though she loves him unconditionally. He is the only beam of sunshine her sad life contains. But after a year, her little joy becomes ill, and despite every effort Tess makes throughout the night, he dies. She had the minister called during the night as her little one fought for his life, and requested a baptism. She didn’t want him to suffer the sins of his father, she wanted him to rest in peace. But the minister refuses to baptize her son, claiming that children born of sin have no place in heaven. By dawn her little one takes his last breath, but not before Tess herself baptizes her son. Again, her son isn’t granted a place in the cemetery, and one night Tess goes out into the dark and buries her little boy alone, leaving a cared for but nameless grave behind her.

Tess leaves her parents home for a job as a milkmaid at Talbothay’s farm, where her story isn’t well known and may only be heard through rumour or speculation. She tries to make a clean start of life. But instead of living a secluded, hidden life, she meets Angel Clare. Angel is an apprentice farmer, having walked away from potentially living the clergy way of life. He and Tess have a certain chemistry between them that the other girls admire and pathetically mourne for. Angel is seemingly exceedingly good and forthright, an honest and hard working man. For as long as she can Tess keeps him at a distance despite her growing attraction and love for him – “for his own sake” she claims, due to her past. She believes herself unfit for such a man, that he would despise her once the truth is known of her (through no fault of her own) impurity. But Angel continues in persuading her, claiming that nothing she could possibly have done would ever warrant the removal of his love for her. Eventually Tess’s heart over-rules her head, and she accepts his proposal.

Tess and Angel marry. The day is pure bliss for both of them. But they each had a secret they didn’t want to divulge to the other. Once Angel has secured her in marriage, he feels the need to come clean. Angel admits to Tess that he was once with another, by his own choice and actions, and begs her forgiveness. Once Tess hears this, she feels compelled to tell Angel about her own past, with sure hope that he will forgive her as readily as she forgives him, and they can continue this new life in openness. But nope. Angel is stunned into silence by her story, and says he needs time to think things over. SAY WHAAT!!!??? He literally just says “hey babe, I slept with this girl one time, but I didn’t love her, and I love you, I was young and foolish, can you forgive me?” And of course Tess’s heart forgives this love of hers, because it was in his past, and isn’t who he is today. Then Tess says “since we’re on the topic, I was raped a few years ago by a horrible man, had a baby, my baby died, and then I came here.” And Angel’s response is “wow, you’re not as pure and good as I thought. I’ll have to think things through, this sort of changes all the vows I just made to you five hours ago.”

Angel decides to go away for a spell, across the ocean, where he had originally been thinking of taking Tess to farm with him. He leaves money at Tess’s disposal so that she might not want for anything while he takes time to think and just be far away from everything he knows. Tess humbly and quietly accepts this, returning to her parents home for the time being, dreadfully unsure of her future, and for some reason still believing that she is completely to blame for Angel’s change of tune towards her.

At this point of the novel, I had to put it down for a while. I picked up some “Anne” books instead because, to be honest, this story was just too tragic and depressing for me to handle. Both men made me nauseous. Tess’s lack of gumption when it came to telling both men off drove me insane. Her humility is admirable, but I also found it too much. There is virtue in humility, no doubt about it. But there is also virtue in strength and will power for justice’s sake. And Tess allowed these two men to take terrible advantage of her. Yes she was done a horrible disservice by her mother, who kept her in the dark when it comes to the world of men. And I don’t necessarily think anything she could have said or done would have changed either of these men’s actions. But had her character responded differently,  I think she could have stirred something in each man that would have made them feel disgust for their behaviour as well as remorse and a proper way of dealing with things afterwards. The tragic circumstances and lack of immoveable goodness in every single character of the book (except Tess) was just too much. I had to put it down for a spell.

The rest of the story continues in just as much tragedy. Now Tess is forced to live a life of toil, since she won’t use any more of the money her husband left for her and is determined to find her own way, while being committed legally and emotionally to a man who has more or less deserted her. It’s horrible. Then Alec comes back on the scene, and he is smooth and disgusting and she is fighting to be rid of him. She FINALLY feels anger towards Angel when she realizes she can’t hold Alec off much longer. The man she loves – who loves her – has left her to be swallowed up by a fiend, without so much as a backward glance.

Eventually she does give in. Alec uses his wealth and her fatherless family’s situation to manipulate her into – quite literally – a life of sin. Fully aware that her strength is weakening, Tess writes a hostile letter to Angel; first accusing him, reproaching him, and finally imploring him. But by the time Angel receives her letter, months have gone by, Tess is trapped, and Angel has already realized his injudiciousness.

Angel hunts Tess down, and after seeing him, it sets something off in her that crazes the mind of one who has been badly used by too many people for far too long. She sends him away in a cold manner. She returns upstairs, and ends up stabbing Alec to death after an argument. She runs after Angel, and they spend the next six days in compete bliss, hiding from the world for as long as they can. Tess doesn’t actually feel remorse for her crime. She feels a sort of freedom, even though she knows she’ll face death once she is found. And yet she is at peace with it. She expects it to come, and simply wants to enjoy the few days she has with her love before she is arrested and sentenced.

The morning before her arrest, Tess convinces Angel to take with her younger sister after she is gone. Liza-Lu – who is most similar to Tess of anyone else – is the only creature in the world “good enough” for him, Tess claims, and Tess couldn’t bare for Angel to be alone once she is dead. Liza will be a consolation to him, she claims. And it would put Tess’ sole ally in the care and protection of the only man Tess ever loved and trusted. Even after everything Angel put her through, Tess is good enough to be considering his welfare after she is gone. Certainly he is undeserving. But Tess is that virtuous.

Angel and Liza-Lu watch Tess’s execution from afar. They turn, hand-in-hand, away from their pure and loving wife & sister.

The only consolation in the ending of this story is that Tess is free from the horrible injustice and abuse she received throughout her life from the hands of all those around her.

I knew I would be reading a depressing story in Tess of the D’Ubervilles. But I didn’t realize it was THIS tragic.