A poor villager, Jude Fawley longs to study at the elite University of Christminster, but his ambitions are thwarted by class prejudice - and an earthy country girl who tricks him into marriage by pretending to be pregnant.
Entrapped in a loveless marriage, he becomes a stonemason and falls in love with his cousin - the intellectual, free-spirited Sue Bridehead, who is also unhappy in marriage. Sue leaves her husband to live with Jude and eventually bears his children out of wedlock.
Their poverty and the weight of society’s disapproval begin to take their toll on the couple, forcing them into a shattering downward spiral that ends in one of the most shocking scenes in all of literature.
“There is no other novelist alive with the breadth of sympathy, the knowledge or the power for the creation of Jude.” - H. G. Wells