What the book is about:
Hardy’s powerful novel of swift sexual passion and slow-burning loyalty centres on Bathsheba Everdene, a proud working woman whose life is complicated by three different men – respectable farmer Boldwood, seductive Sergeant Troy and devoted Gabriel – making her the object of scandal and betrayal. Vividly portraying the superstitions and traditions of a small rural community, Far from the Madding Crowd shows the precarious position of a woman in a man’s world.
What I thought:
It has been a long time since I read any Thomas Hardy. I studied a few of his novels way back in High School and that was more years ago than I care to divulge! I was inspired to re-read by seeing the recent film and did have those actors in mind as I read. With Matthias Schoenaerts as Gabriel Oak and Michael Sheen as Farmer Boldwood, they were good images to have in mind! But back to the book. Thomas Hardy is renowned for having a lot of description of rural landscapes in his work and this was no exception. The first chapter does seem a bit wordy as the fields, trees and hills are all described in great detail. Once you are into the flow of the language though, it’s not a difficult book to read. I must admit having to look up quite few words I was totally unfamiliar with! Anyone else know what palanquin, metheglin, supererogatory or syllogism mean? Thank goodness for the dictionary facility on my kindle!
Bathsheba is an interesting character. On one hand she seems a strong-willed, hardworking but fair woman. She is haughty and impetuous but unusually independent for a woman of this era. I did find her a bit annoying going all a-flutter over Captain Troy though and tormenting poor Mr Boldwood. Gabriel Oak is as his name suggests a strong, trustworthy character who copes with any misfortunes that come his way in a stoic manner. Sergeant Troy is truly horrible and I did want to give Bathsheba a shake as she falls for his charms! One of the most moving chapters tells of Fanny Robin’s struggle to get to the poorhouse. Poor Fanny has been abandoned by Captain Troy and is in a desperate situation. Captain Troy’s behaviour following this point in the novel is the one time you see a good side to him. I love the cast of characters Hardy has created for farmworkers and villagers. There is a great deal of humour in their scenes but he does show what a hard life it was for manual workers in the countryside. Although this is a story of love between Bathsheba and her various suitors, I feel it is almost a love story to the rural England Hardy would have been familiar with.
I’m glad I re-read this and hope that the film inspires others to do so as well. Tess of the D’Urbervilles must be due a re-visit from me as well.