By Thomas Hardy
"The novel is set in impoverished rural Wessex during the Long Depression. Tess is the eldest child of John and Joan Durbeyfield, uneducated rural peasants. One day, Parson Tringham informs John that he has noble blood. Tringham, an amateur genealogist, has discovered that "Durbeyfield" is a corruption of "D'Urberville", the surname of a noble Norman family, now extinct. The news immediately goes to John's head."
"Tess's father, overjoyed with learning of his noble lineage, gets too drunk to drive to market that night, so Tess undertakes the journey herself. However, she falls asleep at the reins, and the family's only horse encounters a speeding wagon and is fatally wounded. Tess feels so guilty over the horse's death that she agrees, against her better judgement, to visit Mrs. d'Urberville, a wealthy widow who lives in the nearby town of Trantridge, and "claim kin." She is unaware that in reality, Mrs. d'Urberville's husband, Simon Stoke, purchased the baronial title and adopted the new surname, and so is not related to the d'Urbervilles."
(Above taken from this page... WARNING: Link contains spoilers!)
I'm sure I've read this before - at least once - but I don't seem to have a review for it on my blog. Anyway, I enjoyed the book very much.