When I was in college one of my good friends, who was an English major, once told me she hated Thomas Hardy. Unfortunately, I let her opinion influence me and I’ve avoided his novels for years. Last summer I read The Return of the Native and loved it. But I was still hesitant when I began Far From the Madding Crowd, published in 1847. Now I can officially say I don’t agree with my friend at all.
I can also say, I never thought I would read a novel with a character named Bathsheba Everdene. Not only that, several men are in love with Bathsheba. When she arrives in Gabriel Oak’s life, it changes both of their lives drastically. Oak, is a young shepherd who has his own sheep farm. After knowing Bathsheba for a short time, he proposes to her. She turns him down. Shortly after this refusal, she moves to Weatherbury. Oak suffers a terrible loss and has to give up his farm. He moves on in search of work.
Along the way, he encounters a fire on a farm and helps put it out. Of course, the farm is owned by Bathsheba. She inherited the farm from her uncle. When Oak met Bathsheba, she was poor, but now she is wealthy and has her own farm. Oak ends up working on her farm.
However, not all goes smoothly for Oak. He still loves her, but now he has two rivals. William Boldwood, a neighbor of Bathsheba falls for her after she sends a valentine that says “Marry me.” She wasn’t actually proposing, but sent the valentine as a joke. Boldwood decides that he must marry her. She admits that she doesn’t love him, but the mad suitor doesn’t want to take no for an answer.
When Boldwood is away, Sergeant Francis “Frank” Troy returns home. At first Bathsheba is repulsed by him, but this quickly turns into lust. Troy is the bad boy and has a reputation. You may see where this plot is heading. I don’t want to give too much away, since I recommend the novel. Many aspects of this story are predictable, such as Bathsheba falling for the rebel in the crowd. Yet, there is more to this story. There were several twists that surprised me and many made me cringe.
I wouldn’t call this novel a romantic novel. Yes, it’s about three men who love the same woman, but I didn’t get many warm fuzzies while reading this novel. There’s a lot of tragedy. Also, if you want to find out about rural country living during Hardy’s time, this would be a great start. Moreover, I really appreciated that the main character is an independent woman.
I have a couple more Hardy books on my shelf and many of his novels are on my 1001 books you must read before you die. Thank goodness I don’t agree with my friend since if I hated his style reading all of them would feel more like a chore. The two novels I’ve read so far have been a delight. I’m not sure which one I’ll read next. Any suggestions?
Below you’ll find some photos I took in Brompton Cemetery. My dog and I go for walks here and then we take a break. I sit and read and he wanders around sniffing everything he can find. Both of us are getting older and we enjoy this time to relax.