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The novel tells the story of Tess whose fate is changed when her ne'er-do-well father tries to improve the family fortune via a misguided association with a local well to do family. Hardy's writing produces such empathy for Tess that one is compelled to continue reading even though it is unbearable to imagine where the story will go.
One of James' best-known and most acclaimed longer tales follows an un-named narrator as he goes to almost any lengths to obtain a dead poet's papers and letters from his widow. James lovingly creates a Venice where the unexpected seems an everyday occurrence and the unrelenting tension mounts until the final page.
When first published in 1899 the work received a mixed critical reception; praise for its outstanding writing style and condemnation for it's frank presentation of the limits of a woman's role and its sexual openness. At the time the book only had one printing. After it's rediscovery in 1969 the book has been praised for its treatment of issues facing women and its wonderful style.
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