Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented by Thomas Hardy. It was published in 1891. Although it is a nineteenth-century report English novel and possibly fictional masterpiece, Victorian England.
Anna Bentinck ratchets up the melodrama for this full-blooded reading of Hardy's classic a staple of high-school English classes everywhere. Students desperate to penetrate Hardy's notoriously slow masterpiece should turn to Bentinck, who gives it an intense emotional coloring. She makes Hardy sound like a brother to the Bront sisters: passionate and brooding. Bentinck alternates between a crisp, precise narrative voice that sounds like Helen Mirren, and Tess's own voice, quavering, shallow and meek. Bentinck retains her composure throughout, and her assured performance may be a welcome rescue for struggling 11th graders across the country.