• Tess of the D'Urbervilles

  • By: Thomas Hardy
  • Narrated by: Peter Firth
  • Length: 14 hrs and 27 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (662 ratings)

Publisher's Summary

Exclusively from Audible

When John Durbeyfield discovers a family connection to the ancient Norman family, the D'Urbervilles, the fate of daughter Tess is transformed.

Sent by her ambitious parents to visit her wealthy D'Urberville cousins, Tess attracts the attention of the unscrupulous Alec. Seduced and discarded by him and alone in the world, she finds work as a milkmaid and the love of Angel Clare. Yet his love cannot accept the truth about Tess's past.

Considered Hardy's masterwork it presents a major departure from conventional Victorian fiction, causing controversy and mixed reviews on first publication due to it challenging Victorian sexual morals. The work was subtitled 'A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented' as Hardy felt that its heroine was a virtuous victim of a rigid Victorian moral code.

Hardy considered it his finest book and due to his enlightened and forward thinking, the story has captivated audiences since it was first released.

Thomas Hardy was an English writer and poet in the Romantic era who was greatly influenced by Charles Dickens and William Wordsworth.

Narrator Biography

Having started his career as a leading child actor, Peter Firth received a Tony Award nomination for his performance in Peter Shaffer's play Equus (1973) at only 21. He later starred with Richard Burton in its film adaption earning him a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and an Academy Award nomination. His other film work has included roles in Pearl Harbor (2001) and The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005). He is best known for his role as Sir Harry Pearce in the BBC show Spooks (2002-2011) appearing in every episode of the show's 10 series. Recent roles have included Jacob Marley in the BBC's Dickensian series (2015) and Ernest Augustus in ITV's drama series Victoria (2016). He has narrated several audiobooks and starred in Audible's multicast drama Amok.

Public Domain (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Peter Firth gets this book

Peter Firth played Angel Clare in Polanski's film version of this novel. His reading demonstrates great affection for Hardy's characters, and an understanding of the many nuances of the story. Don't worry if it seems slow to begin with, if you let the plot unfold, there is plenty of excitement and tragedy in store. Originally published as a serial, each phase builds up to its own climax, which makes for pleasant and interesting listening. Definitely not a "boring 19th century novel."

26 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Luscious

A heartbreaking story possesses both the clarity of rural life and the confusion of the epic struggles of a human heart. Tess and Angel Clare are so beautifully realized that the frustration one feels with them becomes all-too-real. The narration of this version, by Peter Firth, is among the best in the audible.com catalog that I've encountered so far. Tess is a book to read and re-read with your ears, eyes, mind, and heart.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A wonderful classic!

I had read this in high school, and, even though I couldn't remember the plot, always remembered it as a story I liked it. This audible version was delightful and I truly enjoyed my listen.

7 people found this helpful

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Heartbreakingly beautiful

I nearly gave up on this halfway through. While Peter Firth does a good job with the characters, I found his reading too halting, with so many pauses that the language did not flow, and I had trouble connecting the sentences. This is not usually a problem in listening to Hardy. I switched over to Davina Porter's narration and was riveted for the second half of the book. I don't think this was entirely due to Peter Firth's narration. I think the first half of the book (prior to Tess's marriage) is overlong and repetitive. My advice is to stick with it; the rest of the book is more than worth it!

What a skilled and complex rendering of a good woman victimized by men's response to her beauty, and the double standard of sexual mores. And what an evocative and intense description of the love between two people and the very human inability to transcend judgment and to forgive those we love. This is such a beautiful book, with Hardy's exquisite prose and descriptive skills. I highly recommend Davina Porter's narration. Her voicing of Tess is so simple, yet so infused with feeling, and it brought me to tears more than once.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Ripples of either holding or releasing a grudge

Well written and artistically read, this book illustrates in story form the ever-enlarging circles of refusing to forgive a wrong. The beautiful contrast is seen in Tess.

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Tragically Unbelievable

The writing is excellent and Peter Firth is perfect. It certainly was a depressing book and Hardy only shows a slight ray of hope for happiness. I found the ending unbelievable and felt a more natural ending would have made the story better. I wanted something for the characters that Hardy never delivered on although perhaps that elevates the book. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys nineteenth-century English literature.

2 people found this helpful

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Wow!

Spent many hours commuting yelling at this book! Excellent narration! Unexpected story! What an interesting window into another time!

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Depressing story

Would you try another book from Thomas Hardy and/or Peter Firth?

Yes, I have read "The Mayor of Casterbridge," also by Thomas Hardy, and I really enjoyed that book. "Tess of the D'Urbervilles," though, I found to be a truly depressing story with very little redemption in the ending to overcome that view of the book.

Which character – as performed by Peter Firth – was your favorite?

Peter Firth performed the narration well, giving different qualities to each of the characters. His portrayal of Angel Clare was my favorite, for he had a sense of the thoughts and motives of Angel that were evident in his voice and tone.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

No

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

I didn't get bored

I didn't get bored. It was a good listen....good narrator. Too bad the story couldn't have continued with Angel Claire relationship with Tess' younger sister...that might have been a juicy tale.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

boaring

very boaring narrater hard to listen to didn't like this book at all

2 people found this helpful

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  • Dawn
  • 03-13-15

Amazing, loved now and no longer hated ☺

Any additional comments?

Many years ago, Tess of the D'Urbervilles was one of my ‘A’ level texts and I HATED it and have spent the intervening year disliking this novel intently. Presented with an audible version I decided to “try again.” The book remains as Hardy wrote it, to me previously Tess was an annoyance, but this time I felt so sorry for her, maybe frustrated and saddened at her choices, but I LOVED this audio version. It is so well read by Peter Firth, I can’t believe how much I missed and how I could have improved my grade if I had this audible version all those years ago. I will listen to another Thomas Hardy audible book and also any read by Peter Firth. I am glad my faith in a classic is restored. Well done Audible ☺

20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Thames
  • 11-25-11

Highly recommended!

After having read and adored Tess of the D'Urbervilles last year, I thought this audiobook did Hardy's novel justice. HIs rich descriptions of Wessex and his compassionate character portraits are just as alive and vivid in an audiobook format as they were for me when I first read this book.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • GK
  • 07-23-11

Excellent

A wonderful story that is read beautifully in this audiobook. Peter Firth uses a wide range of voices and accents for the different characters which really brings them to life.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mirium
  • 03-24-09

Excellent

I've read the book (more than once), I've seen the film, but the story of Tess is always spellbinding, and this audio version is excellent. Peter Firth reads it beautifully; his rustic accents are quite convincing, although he does occasionally lapse into 'Oirish'. Highly recommended.

12 people found this helpful

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  • birdie
  • 06-20-14

Wonderful imagery

What made the experience of listening to Tess of the D'Urbervilles the most enjoyable?

I first read Tess many years ago as a teenager and didn't think much of it. Having revisiting through this audiobook I am astounded at how much I missed! This is one of those reads which benefit from a few years of life experience. Wonderfully read, atmospheric and colourful.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Tess of the D'Urbervilles?

The description of milking: a real feast for the senses. Brought the era to life and the imagery is superb.

What does Peter Firth bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Well read and very consistent... Believable voices and accents. I am local to this area and found the dialect very believable.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It was very easy to see things through the eyes of the characters and to empathise with them, even given the very different attitudes of the time.

Any additional comments?

Thomas Hardy at his best....Highly recommended.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Emma
  • 05-29-09

An excellent audio reading of this book

Peter Firth read this book beautifully. I can't wait to read more Thomas Hardy novels.

11 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • D. J. C
  • 10-06-15

Peter Firth's narration was excellent.

Fabulous Hardy novel enriched by the voice and skills of Peter Firth. Go buy it.

8 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • kazztan
  • 05-08-15

Great way to know the classics

Old text sometimes makes it difficult to get into the classics - this is the way to do that ... Hooked ❤️ forever

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • beverley spencer
  • 11-23-08

great

a great story and very well read. will listen over and over again

8 people found this helpful

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  • Liz
  • 08-07-15

Superb narration of a classic novel

Would you consider the audio edition of Tess of the D'Urbervilles to be better than the print version?

Peter Firth has a fundamental understanding of the text (having played Angel in the Polanski film) and this comes across in the sensitivity of his reading. It is a different experience listening rather than reading the novel - the sheer beauty of Hardy's writing is conveyed in a different way. I don't think either reading or listening is superior; both allow you to engage with the novel in different ways.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I'm sorry, us girls love a cad! Alec d'Urbeville is far more interesting than Angel, although all of Hardy's male characters are less well drawn than his female ones.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The scenes that stay in your mind are the most harrowing: the death of the horse and the imagery of the blood on Tess's white dress, Tess burying her still born child, the wedding night confession, the scene in the d'Urbeville vault and the final act at Stonehenge can still chill me, no matter how many times I read/listen to them. Enjoy isn't the right word, however.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

If you don't have an emotional reaction to this book, I would be very surprised.

Any additional comments?

If you have only read the book, I would recommend both listening to the audio book and watching a film version (Polanski, for me, created the best film interpretation, well cast and both gorgeous and chilling). The complexity and the beauty of Hardy's novel mean that mutiple media give different perspectives and emphases on the story and add to your understanding and enjoyment of the text.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon customer
  • 07-16-22

A bad luck story

Good narration with good pronunciation of accents. Tess is a bit pathetic-can any man be as attractive to a woman as is Angel Clare? But Hardy brings out the suffocating effect of social conventions, which he does even more so in Jude the obscure, which I prefer. Good plot.

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  • julee latimer
  • 05-05-22

An epic tale

An epic tale of love, loss, and heartbreak. Any lover of the classics should read this. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-27-22

I love T ❤

loved it ... Wish I knew you great book the narrator absolutely fabulous kept me interested 😊

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-16-22

loved this one.

I loved this book for do many reasons and how up and down it is very sad and also not.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-18-21

Surprised by this Hardy classic

I love Thomas Hardy - but this book just wasn’t the same good writing as Mayor of Casterbridge or The Woodlanders.

I tried to hang in there as long as I could but I drifted away like the morning frost on the fields.

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  • Cassie Long
  • 11-14-21

Great reading

I’ll definitely buy more books by this reader. Great reading. Enjoyed it a lot thanks

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • JW
  • 08-15-21

Tess, a classic Hardy tale

My favourite book! Beautifully read. Such a sad tale but no doubt a realistic portrait of 19th century rural poor.