Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented is a novel by Thomas Hardy. It initially appeared in a censored and serialised version, published by the British illustrated newspaper The Graphic in 1891, then in book form in three volumes in 1891, and as a single volume in 1892. Though now considered a major 19th-century English novel, even Hardy's fictional masterpiece, Tess of the d'Urbervilles received mixed reviews when it first appeared, in part because it challenged the sexual morals of late Victorian England. Tess was portrayed as a fighter not only for her rights, but also for the rights of others.
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.