I have tried to read Hardy before and failed, but despite my 15 year old self not being enthralled by Tess of the D’Urbevilles, I have heard many great things about him and thought I would give him another chance. I was thoroughly pleased with this novel and thought it was fun, fast-paced and exciting. I would definitely recommend this book to friends.
The story begins with Gabriel Oak, a shepherd with his own flock of sheep. He falls in love with Bathsheba Everdene who is staying nearby with her aunt, but she rejects his proposal because she says she is not good enough for him as she has nothing, and he could not tame her. They part ways, but a reversal of each of their fortunes finds them together again; Bathsheba with her own farm this time and he without. Gabriel works for Bathsheba for years, still in love with her from afar and they become friends. He stays loyal to her throughout all the dramatic events that Bathsheba experiences, and you will spend the book waiting to see if their romance will come to anything.
What I really liked about this book was that, unlike many other classic novels, any unlike some of Hardy’s work that I have tried to read before, Far From The Madding Crowd was easy to read and events happened quickly. The chapters, for example, were not long, and they all held my attention. Nevertheless, it did not stop the writing being beautiful. The descriptions were poetic and such that they could, in a few lines, tell you what other books spend pages trying to describe. Take, for example, the following descriptions, which stopped me in my tracks.
- – “Any observer who had seen him now would hardly have believed him to be a man who had laughed, and sung, and poured love-trifles into a woman’s ear.”
- “She was of the stuff of which great men’s mothers are made. She was indispensable to high generation, hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises.”
I also loved the characters of Bathsheba and Gabriel. Bathsheba’s character is an oddity in other novels from the time, and also many from today. She is, unlike many other female characters, fiercely independent to begin with, and actually loses it. I would have liked to get a stronger sense of her regaining her fieriness at the end of the novel, but she did seem to be well and truly tamed. I am sure that Hardy did not mean it to be that way, because she was written in a very flattering manner for a self-supporting woman of the 19th century, but it did seem like it. Gabriel was also a great character although, for such a principal character, very little was said about it. He always seems to be on the side-lines of the story, but I guess the little emphasis placed on him mirrors his role. He is loyal to Bathsheba, but watches her from the outskirts of her life and waits for any sign that she may want him back. Perhaps more stories for Gabriel or more action from him would have taken away from the fantastic love story which drives the novel.
Overall, I am definitely glad that I decided to read Far From The Madding Crowd and will definitely try to read more of Hardy – perhaps I will finally finish Tess of the D’Urbevilles. Now I am ready to sit and watch the new movie when it is released on May 1st.