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Far From the Madding Crowd

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This is an alternate cover edition for ISBN 9780141439655

Independent and spirited Bathsheba Everdene has come to Weatherbury to take up her position as a farmer on the largest estate in the area. Her bold presence draws three very different suitors: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, soldier-seducer Sergeant Troy and the devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak. Each, in contrasting ways, unsettles her decisions and complicates her life, and tragedy ensues, threatening the stability of the whole community. The first of his works set in the fictional county of Wessex, Hardy's novel of swift passion and slow courtship is imbued with his evocative descriptions of rural life and landscapes, and with unflinching honesty about sexual relationships.

433 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1874

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About the author

Thomas Hardy

2,548 books5,826 followers
Thomas Hardy, OM, was an English author of the naturalist movement, although in several poems he displays elements of the previous romantic and enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural. He regarded himself primarily as a poet and composed novels mainly for financial gain.

The bulk of his work, set mainly in the semi-fictional land of Wessex, delineates characters struggling against their passions and circumstances. Hardy's poetry, first published in his 50s, has come to be as well regarded as his novels, especially after The Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

The term cliffhanger is considered to have originated with Thomas Hardy's serial novel A Pair of Blue Eyes in 1873. In the novel, Hardy chose to leave one of his protagonists, Knight, literally hanging off a cliff staring into the stony eyes of a trilobite embedded in the rock that has been dead for millions of years. This became the archetypal — and literal — cliff-hanger of Victorian prose.

Excerpted from Wikipedia.

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Displaying 1 - 29 of 7,868 reviews
Profile Image for Christine PNW.
712 reviews195 followers
February 25, 2016
Two people have complained that there are spoilers in this review. Read at your own peril.

Hi! I'm Bathsheba Everdene!

And I'm Poor Decision-Making Bathsheba Everdene.

I sent a random Valentine to a guy on a neighboring farm asking him to marry me, even though I don't even like him! This turned him into an annoying semi-stalker who spent the next several years begging me to marry him for reals!

And then, in a further display of my terrible judgment, I married a philandering asshole who only wanted my money and my luminescent beauty! The girl he really loved starved to death with his unwanted child, so he spent a bunch of my money to buy her a really great headstone, and then ran away to join the circus!

And then, when he came back from the circus for no reason whatsoever, the semi-stalker shot him. AT CHRISTMAS! In front of the whole county.

Don't be like this me!

Marry Gabriel Oak on page 25, like you should have, you silly cow.
Profile Image for Anne.
502 reviews509 followers
April 17, 2015
This was just so good.

"Sheep are such unfortunate animals! - there's always something happening to them! I never knew a flock pass a year without getting into some scrape or other."



More sheep!!!

I love sheep :) They are so cute! But sheep are actually not the reason why I love this book so much. That would be silly. But I do love the fact that Gabriel Oak was a shepherd, and not say, a pig farmer. Anyways! Even though this story takes place in rural Wessex and is filled with sheep and fields and moonlit nights and beautiful descriptions, there is a lot more to it than just animals and landscapes. Far From the Madding Crowd is the poignant, moving and brilliant story of Bathsheba Everdene and her three suitors.

"Love is a possible strength in an actual weakness."

Bathsheba Everdene; strong, wilful, independent and, above all, beautiful, Bathsheba is a woman ahead of her time. She doesn't shy away from work, she is courageous, intrepid and cannot be tamed. I read a lot of romances in which the heroines do nothing more than sip afternoon tea while entertaining callers, and attend balls and soirees and drink the waters in Bath. But here, we have a heroine who can do it, who is a farmer and takes on a lot of duties. She starts out as her own bailiff, superintends and manages everything, and boldly enters the world of market, a world of men. Bathsheba is unique and attractive, and she turned every man's head.

"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."

Enter Suitor #1!

Gabriel Oak. What a man. I'm completely head over heels in love with him!

"I shall do one thing in this life - one thing certain - that is, love you, and long for you, and keep wanting you till I die."

Gabriel is the kind of man you feel completely safe and secure around. He's the type who cherishes and protects those he loves (sheep or otherwise :P)and he's always there to save the day (I lost count of how many times he did it during the course of the novel), counsel, or simply to lend a should to cry on. He is so reliable, honest and trustful that one can tell him anything, and confide any secret to him; he's sure to keep it and give you good advice. Oak has moreover incredible self-control. He's not a man you need to fear. If you tell him you don't want to marry him, he sucks it up and humbly accepts it even though he may be hopelessly in love with you, and will never bother you with advances and declarations again, unless you hint that you are ready to welcome them.

Gabriel is also the kind of employee that every employer wants. He is serious, hard-working, always alert, and extremely helpful. He's constantly going the extra length to make sure that everything is running smoothly on the farm, and that all is well and working. He falls in love with Bathsheba early on, so early in fact that it is difficult to figure out what he sees in her to make him love her so. Being poor, he has nothing to offer her save his love and all his wonderful qualities, but unfortunately that is not enough for Miss-Stubborn-Bathsheba-Everdene.

So, enter Suitor #2!

William Boldwood. Possesses most of the qualities listed above, plus money and property! Should be good enough for you this time, Bathsheba, eh?

"'My life is a burden without you', he exclaimed, in a low voice. 'I want you - I want you to let me say I love you again and again!'"

Mr. Boldwood starts out as the epitome of thriving bachelorhood. He presents the picture of a hard-working, serious and brooding man who is quite happy living and working alone, and who hasn't wasted a thought on women and marriage in years. No woman, no troubles, no drama. Everything is going really well for him, and he did sound like a very good man; poised, composed, upright principles, good ways of living, etc...In short, he's quite a catch, and any woman who married him would be assured protection, security, and a good position...and undying passion?
With Boldwood, it's all or nothing. Either he doesn't give any woman a thought, or he will give one woman all his thoughts. And the lucky girl is...Bathsheba Everdene! Wee! Brace yourselves, because Boldwood is as stubborn as Bathsheba and about to make a complete cake of himself by not being able to take no for an answer. He probably proposes over fifty times during the course of the novel. Not a good sign.

"It was a fatal omission of Boldwood's that he had never once told her she was beautiful."

Cue Suitor #3!

Sergeant Francis Troy. No good qualities (okay, maybe a few), no money, no position, no house, BUT...GOOD LOOKS AND SENSUALITY! HELL YES!!!

"'I've seen a good many women in my time, [..] but I've never seen a woman so beautiful as you.'"

Sergeant Troy is the handsome, seductive rake who has no morals and no apparent life purpose. The past and the future mean nothing to him. He is careless, impulsive, rash and a complete asshole. But he is charming and tantalizing to a fault, and knows only too well how to infiltrate himself into women's lives. When the lovely Bathsheba catches his eye, he becomes caught in the moment and would give anything to win her...but does he love her? And, more importantly, does she love him?

Alas, her vanity has at last been flattered!

"When a strong woman recklessly throws away her strength she is worse than a weak woman who has never had any strength to throw away."

Who doesn't love a good Victorian love-triangle?! ;) Caught in the web of their own self-inflicted actions and the resulting consequences, these characters will have to go through a series of trials and events, happy and sad, trying and uplifting, before we come to a satisfactory conclusion. The story is written in an incredibly beautiful, flowing and passionate way, full of quotable parts (as we can observe since I can't seem to stop quoting!) and extraordinary descriptions. I enjoyed every single minute I spent reading this novel. And I also learned a lot of things, too.

Lessons to Remember From Far From the Madding Crowd:

*When you live in a hut and make a fire, always keep one window open unless you want to suffocate to death.

*Sheep, although very cute, are pretty dumb animals.

*Cover your ricks when it rains!!!!

*Sending a random Valentine to your elder bachelor neighbour is not exactly a good idea.

*Especially if said Valentine says "Marry Me" on the seal (why the heck did she have a seal that said 'marry me' in the first place anyways?), and you have absolutely no intention of ever marrying that man for real.

*Sheep can die from eating clover (and only a certain capable, skillful, heart-melting shepherd can save them).

*Watch out when planting flowers around graves...

*Don't keep anything in your hands or close by when you go to a fair and are sitting next to the canvas (stealers, ya know!).

*Don't freaking trust bailiffs! Those guys are overrated. Be your own bailiff! Unless you can have Gabriel Oak. Always choose Gabriel if you can!


*Don't make promises/proposals or any other kind of rash demands on Christmas Eve/Christmas day, so as to not ruin your enjoyment of the holiday if it goes awry.

*Don't buy things for your future significant other in preparation for your hypothetical wedding (effin' weird, seriously!).

*Don't creep up during the night to ride your own horse if you weren't expected at home (stealers , ya know, again!).

*When you feel overwhelmed and completely distressed, spend the night in a marsh! The dense, stifling air will help clear your head.

*Don't keep your husband's ex-girlfriend's coffin inside your house. May cause serious breakdowns.

*And, last but not least, ALWAYS ASK ABOUT THEIR EXES!!!

Honestly though, on a scale of 1 to Mr. Boldwood, I have definitely reached his level of obsession with this book, and have spent the whole day repeatedly stating that I finished it, and it was so good, and I can't wait to see the movie, and ahhh!!!!!

I loved this. Every bit is delicious, from Gabriel's tender devotion to Boldwood's mad obsession and Troy's promising passion, along with Bathsheba's evolutions and strengths and weaknesses. Hardy was certainly one love expert. Wow.

And Wessex! I want to go there!

So beautiful :)

"What a way Oak had, she thought, of enduring things. Boldwood, who seemed so much deeper and higher and stronger in feeling than Gabriel, had not yet learnt, any more than she herself, the simple lesson which Oak showed a mastery of by every turn and look he gave - that among the multitude of interests by which he was surrounded, those which affected his personal well-being were not the most absorbing and important in his eyes."

*Sigh* That too, is beautiful. And it perfectly sums up the whole book (minus Troy's shenanigans). And it is why I love Gabriel so much.

Buddy read with Becca!! :D
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews807 followers
January 1, 2018
"The heart wants what the heart wants"

No, that is not from this book. I just thought it would have been a good tagline for the 2015 movie adaptation of this classic (they went with "Based on the classic love story by Thomas Hardy" instead).

"Serve you right you silly cow"

That is also not from the book, but it's a sentence that popped into my mind while reading some later parts of the book.

"Fuck off Boldwood!"

Still not from the book but I wish it was.

"It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs."

Now that is from the book, which is brimming with quotable lines. Not being a woman I don't know how true it is but I find this one very interesting. Thomas Hardy was not a woman either (unlike George Eliot) but I am sure he had much better insight than I do.
(For some clarification of this quote please refer to the comments section after the review).

This is the latest of my ongoing project to "read" classic books in audiobook format. I find that printed books require more patience and commitment.

Far from the Madding Crowd is basically the story of Bathsheba Everdene and how her three suitors affect her life. This is my second Thomas Hardy book, Jude the Obscure was the first, I found Jude the Obscure very depressing though quite a gripping read. I am glad to report this book is somewhat more upbeat, somewhat being the operative word. What a gloom merchant Hardy seems to be, was he a buzz killer at parties? I can not fault his talent as a writer though, his prose is consistently beautiful and elegant, his characters are well developed and vivid. His plot twists and turns are often unpredictable.

Looking at the protagonist Bathsheba Everdene, considering her wit and intelligence how she ends up choosing to marry the worst of the three suitors is hard to imagine. Obviously in the context of the book she is dazzled by Troy's oily charms, but I find it a little out of character and feel like she chooses him to drive the plot forward. If she had chosen the best man out of the three we would have ended up with a short story of nonevent.

May 1, 2015 that is.

Of the other two, that Boldwood seems to have a very appropriate name. His "wood" makes him bold (sorry). His bullying Bathsheba into submission is hard to take, apparently he his a man driven by passion (or his little fireman). Gabriel Oak is the perfect gentleman throughout, I am not surprised Bathsheba does not choose him to begin with, he seems like a safe and dull choice.

If the overall plot of the book seems like a soap opera I may have misrepresented it, There is a lot of psychological insight here about human nature and how we often make the wrong choices based on superficiality. As mentioned earlier this novel is not as grim as Jude the Obscure, the first half of the book is in generally good spirit, the story becomes very dark towards the end of the book but ended on a moderately cheerful note. I find the ending a little predictable but very satisfying, I imagine most readers would want the book to end just like this and perhaps Hardy did not want to alienate his readers too much and indulge in a gloomy ending as seems to be his wont.

An enjoyable book to read when you are in the mood for a classic or some pastoral mayhem.

I have not read Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles yet but it sounds really depressing. Can't wait!

fancy line

I do love to read Hardy's unique brand of depressing fun, if you like this review I hope you will check out my other Hardy reviews:

Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Jude the Obscure
The Mayor of Casterbridge
The Return of the Native
The Woodlanders

• I have not seen any of the film adaptations if you have please let me know what you think in the comments, thanks.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
469 reviews3,256 followers
November 24, 2022
Bathsheba Everdene a gorgeous, mesmerizing young woman, 22, ( the formerly poor, now rich girl ) she inherited a prosperous, large farm from her late uncle, set in rural Wessex , ( Dorset ) southwest England, in the 1860's, has three, very different suitors, common Gabriel Oak, eight years older a shepherd and fine flute player, who will soon lose his sheep, the first time he sees her, Miss Everdene is admiring herself in a hand mirror and smiling, William Boldwood, a wealthy, good looking farmer and neighbor but middle -aged -bachelor, at 40, when she sends the rather standoffish man, as a silly joke anonymously, a Valentine's Day card, telling him to marry her, he falls insanely in love, after discovering the identity of the writer and the handsome, dashing, irresistible, youthful rake, Sergeant Francis "Frank" Troy, a couple of years her senior in the British cavalry, he woos by displaying his amazing swordsmanship, that both scares and thrills her , it is no surprise the winner of this contest. Miss Everdene has only one real friend and confidant, her patient loyal servant Liddy, they are always together in her huge house, the independent but still frightened woman, is strangely lonely, running the big farm solely, with no experience to guide her. A few days after Bathsheba's arrival a pretty, pleasant maid of the house, Fanny Robin, 20, mysteriously disappears into the night, rumors say she fled to be with her lover a soldier in a nearby town, but nobody can be sure. Later after turning down marriage proposals from Mr. Oak and Mr. Boldwood, to her ultimate regret and considerable sufferings , Bathsheba secretly weds the unstable, ( not in her own village of Weatherbury, but in another small community) the fickle Mr. Troy, she was understandably dazzled. But Frank soon becomes restless, bored, his nature is to wander, he has little to do on the farm, the unemployed but capable Gabriel, hired to work there, has taken charge of the laborers and farm, also the love distracted Mr. Boldwood's land too. By accident Troy meets Fanny on a deserted road with his wife, he recognizes her in the dark , Bathsheba doesn't, but grows very suspicious, the unfortunate girl needs immediate help, Frank gives her a little money and promises Miss Robin, to see her the next day...But unforeseen events prevents that from happening , and terrible consequences occur because of this. A classic novel , Thomas Hardy's first big success, is his only real "happy ending" book but tragedy , turmoil and heartbreak abounds, the unforgiving countryside is shown as beautiful but harsh, and mournful, the people are a lot brighter than they were given credit for then, still life is never easy, mistakes are made and deaths follow, a masterpiece in literature.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews36 followers
September 23, 2021
(Book 846 from 1001 books) - Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy

Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy, C1874

Characters: Gabriel Oak, Bathsheba Everdene, William Boldwood, Francis Troy, Fanny Robin.

Abstract: Independent and spirited Bathsheba Everdene has come to Weatherbury to take up her position as a farmer on the largest estate in the area. Her bold presence draws three very different suitors: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, soldier-seducer Sergeant Troy and the devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak. Each, in contrasting ways, unsettles her decisions and complicates her life, and tragedy ensues, threatening the stability of the whole community. The first of his works set in Wessex, Hardy's novel of swiftpassion and slow courtship is imbued with his evocative descriptions of rural life and landscapes, and with unflinching honesty about relationships.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: یازدهم ماه مارس سال 2004میلادی

عنوان: به دور از مردم شوريده، یا «دور از اجتماع خشمگين»؛ اثر: توماس هاردی؛ برگردان: ابراهیم یونسی؛ نشر فرهنگ نشر نو، 1382، در536ص، شابک 9647443188؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده ی 19م

شخصیت رمان، دختری زیبا، به نام «بت شبا» است، که پس از مرگ پدر و مادر، با خاله اش زندگی می‌کند؛ گله‌ داری به نام «گابریل اوک»، بسیار به وی علاقمند است؛ «گابریل»، بر اثر سانحه‌ ای، گوسفندان خویش را از دست می‌دهد، و به کارگری جویای کار، بدل می‌شود؛ شبی «گابریل» در راه گذر خویش، شعله‌ های آتشی را می‌بیند، که مزرعه‌ ای را میسوزاند؛ «گابریل» برای خاموش کردن آتش، تمام توان خویش به کار می‌گیرد، و با یاری اهالی روستا، آتش را خاموش می‌کنند؛ با صاحب مزرعه که رودررو می‌شود، «بت شبا» را می‌بیند، که از او، برای یاریش، تشکر می‌کند؛ «گابریل» درمی‌یابد، که مزرعه میراثی است، که از یکی از اقوام «بت شبا»، به او رسیده است؛ بدینسان «گابریل» مشاور مزرعه دختر شده، در آنجا کار و زندگی می‌کند؛ اما «بت شبا»، با یکی از خواستگاران خویش، به نام گروهبان «تروی» ازدواج می‌کند؛ و ادامه ی داستان

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 14/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 31/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Susan's Reviews.
1,107 reviews534 followers
July 18, 2023
They say all good tropes have a literary ancestry. I recall reading this quintessential "innocent country girl falls for philandering bad boy" story/trope years ago.

Bathsheba Everdene was a (nowadays "badass") country girl who inherited her late uncle's farm and made it thrive, with the help of Gabriel Oak. Gabriel has always loved Bathsheba, but the strong-willed Bathsheba rejects his marriage proposal. Indeed, she rejects all potential suitors - until she is bedazzled by the handsome (but secretly nefarious!) Sergeant Francis Troy.

After a whirlwind courtship, the two are married and Bathsheba begins to repent in leisure, as the saying goes, slowly realizing that Francis Troy is nowhere near half the man that Gabriel Oak is.

Things go from bad to worse when Troy's former lover seeks him out (see, love triangles existed even in literary fiction!) Troy is heartbroken by his former lover's death, disappears and is presumed dead.

But Bathsheba is never short of a love triangle: her older neighbour, Mr. Boldwood, is also in love with her and pesters her to marry him as well. (Poor girl can barely set foot out the door without someone harassing her to marry him!) Suffice it to say that things do not end well with poor Mr. Boldwood's suit. It becomes a nail-biting melodrama at this point!

Okay: seriously now: the 1998 Masterpiece Theater production, starring Paloma Baeza and Nathanial Parker is my favourite (and most faithful) movie adaptation, followed by the 1967 Julie Christie/Alan Bates version. Paloma Baeza nailed the role of Bathsheba - not even Julie Christie's performance could touch this one. Nathanial Parker - especially that very last scene! - just stole my heart! A truly excellent adaptation, which you can watch on Youtube here:
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
688 reviews3,625 followers
September 16, 2021
What a story! I was going to give it 4 stars, but the ending was so intense and wrapped everything up so beautifully that I had to rate it 5 stars.
What I love the most about this book is that it deals with an unorthodox woman. Bathsheba (I know, what a name?) is admired by a lot of men; still, she keeps on rejecting them one after another. She doesn't want to be like every other woman at that time who marries the first man to propose and has children. Bathsheba is stubborn and she's insecure, and she takes the reader (and all her suitors) on quite a journey. She's human and she just wants to make the right choice, and I loved her for that.
This was my first book by Thomas Hardy, and one of the first things I noticed about his writing was that he spends a lot of time on heavily detailed descriptions. In particular the beginning is filled with descriptions of the surroundings and nature, and while I was a bit frustrated to start with, I couldn't deny the fact that these descriptions were beautiful and really set the mood for the book.
I loved this story because it's honest and very relevant. Read it with an open mind, and I'm sure you'll end up appreciating it as much as I do :) (Now I've got to watch the movie...)
Profile Image for Alok Mishra.
Author 9 books1,195 followers
November 11, 2016
"I shall do one thing in this life -- one thing certain -- that is, love you, and long for you, and KEEP WANTING YOU till I die."

Tell me one guy who hacks the story and stands close to your heart - Oak!
I don't yet understand why Hary is put in the box of pessimists when he has always been a 'lover' who never wishes to lose the 'love'. Far from the Madding Crowd was prescribed in our syllabus for graduation and I enjoyed the book, no doubt. Hardy is a little detailed author, of course, but there is joy in reading the way he gives the details - whether be it of the Oak's smile or Bathsheba's misfortune or Oak's loyalty in love... Hardy is a classic - a classic in true sense!
Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.6k followers
Want to read
May 17, 2023
mostly adding this to my tbr because i want to watch the movie (for carey mulligan reasons) and i'm a self respecting bookworm who will read the book first
Profile Image for Lea.
119 reviews449 followers
October 22, 2020
I have to say I was well annoyed with this book at times, specifically with the main character, Bathsheba Everdene, a young woman of great beauty, a coquette of a sort. Throughout the storyline, we follow her and her distinctive multiple suitors engaging in the love quadrangle and what at times seemed as neverending drama. Bathsheba is immature, has some qualities of femme fatale (looking at the consequences of the actions she is femme fatale), and has some other features of histrionic personality disorder but all of that is concealed in the pretense of a strong independent woman that exerts her rights not to marry and belong to any man. I would argue that she is irrational, dramatic, moody and manipulates man around her just for the satisfaction of having their attention while disregarding their emotions and at the end being very vague to engage with them in any kind of relationship. That makes her not a great example for other young women whatsoever, as which she is sometimes perceived, and I think she kinda gets a free pass on the extent of her destructiveness. Ultimately, she marries the most narcissistic of her suitors, the one without any moral, ethical, or intellectual qualities or virtues. He abuses her and does not love her, but his surface charm and flattery were the strongest - that tells a lot about her priorities and her own need for validation. I feel like that is a pattern that I see in real life in practice - the more beautiful woman is, the possibility that her partner is an a-hole increase, and I find that very disheartening. This quote says everything about what kind of men is Batsheeba not attracted to and why:
''Farmer Oak had one-and-a-half Christian characteristics too many to succeed with Bathsheba: his humility, and a superfluous moiety of honesty.''

I also generally find tiresome the romantic plotline where the attraction to the women is solely based on her superficial appearance, meaning physical beauty, as I find Batsheeba really lacking in other areas and ultimately irritating as a person. That reminds me of a depressing reality of the extent to which men can be intoxicated and manipulated with mere physical features. Boldwood was the prototype of a man that is willing to lose everything, ultimately himself in the hurricane of that kind of infatuation.
“I feel that I do,” said Bathsheba; “that is, if you demand it. But I am a changed woman—an unhappy woman—and not—not——”“You are still a very beautiful woman,” said Boldwood. Honesty and pure conviction suggested the remark, unaccompanied by any perception that it might have been adopted by blunt flattery to soothe and win her.

The fact that her entitled behavior is portrayed at times as the behavior of a strong independent woman hero, which I would never consider her to be, just because she endures some difficulties of rural life, is beyond me. I find Bathsheba to be very dependent upon the opinions, feeling and attention of the man around her, disregarding the facade of independence, and she is not stoic but stubborn, and not strong-willed but moody and controlling. Willa Charter's heroine from O Pioneers! is a good healthy example of women that is truly independent, strong, prevailing and prospering alone in men's rural world with maintaining a healthy relationship with all men in her life.
I will give Bathsheba credit that she showed some remorse in the end and some hint of maturation. Nevertheless, I don't think that Gabriel

However, Hardy's language was exquisite, infused with sarcasm, witty characterizations and intoxicating quotes describing the natural environment, and I can see why Hardy is such an important classical writer. I fell in love with Wessex and I will try Hardy's other darker and more mature work in the future.
Profile Image for Kimber Silver.
Author 1 book267 followers
November 9, 2022
"You're begging me to go
Then making me stay
Why do you hurt me so bad?
It would help me to know
Do I stand in your way,
Or am I the best thing you've had?"

—Pat Benatar 'Love is a Battlefield'

I would have loved to reduce my reading speed, so that I could savour the lyrical prose, but I was unable to stop flipping pages as if my life depended on it. This book left me emotionally wrung out and wanting for nothing. I’ve seldom experienced such a feeling of complete exhaustion, coupled with a glowing satisfaction after reading.

The character development was delicious; the writing spoke to my soul. Pride, greed, deep abiding love, life-destroying despair, plus deception and betrayal, run rampant throughout these pages. Toss in a strong female lead, and you have a story that will keep you reading through the night to see what happens next.

This fantastic tale will stay with me for the foreseeable future and maybe, if I pluck up enough courage, I’ll reread it. Hopefully, with more control next time, but I'll make no promises.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,992 followers
January 11, 2019
This book can be summed up in one sentence: Bathsheba Everdene's milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.

Okay - now that I am more awake - I am ready for more of a review!

I was leaning 5 stars, but something about the end brought it down to 4.

Click the spoiler for my thoughts on the ending:

Many books these days are all about the love triangle. To get into the crazy love shapes that are occurring in this book. You need a degree in Advanced Geometry. What is great about each "point" of the relationship "shapes" in this story is that each represents extremes of nobility, arrogance, insanity, patheticness, immaturity, and complete disregard for how their actions affect those around them (until it is too late). Because of this, you get a lot of fascinating drama and fascinating character behavior.

"Madding Crowd" - frequently when I read a classic, I like to follow up with reading about it on Wikipedia to get some side facts and trivia. I discovered that the word "Madding" means "frenzied" and the title is actually a tongue-in-cheek joke. The book takes place in what is supposed to be a bucolic and peaceful setting "Far from the madding crowd". But, with the adventures and misadventures Bathsheba, Oak, Boldwood, Troy, and Fanny, the drama might just be crazier in the countryside!

And, speaking of tongue-in-cheek humor, I love Hardy's delivery of descriptions throughout this book. Almost every description has hints of cynicism and sarcasm. I think most people imagine this book as a drama, and it definitely has its dramatic moments, but I found myself laughing at the silly characters, their silly actions, and the silly descriptions quite a bit. Bravo, Hardy!

So, if you have been holding off on this book because you think it is a boring and stuffy classic, think again - that could not be farther from the truth. Give it a go, its pretty darn good!
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
July 7, 2020
By far my least favourite of the Hardy books I've read. It's hard to believe the Guardian named this one of the twenty greatest love stories (though I suppose with Wuthering Heights in first place for romance I should have known something was up.)

I've come to "get" Hardy, or so I felt before reading this; I thought I understood when picking up one of his books that I would be getting a depressing, but nevertheless compelling, story about people getting beaten down by this cruel, cruel world. The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure didn't exactly make me feel good, but I wanted to keep reading the stories being told. Not with this one.

In fact, I disliked this one almost instantly. I began reading and genuinely had to check that I hadn't made a mistake. That I hadn't picked up the wrong book, or that this wasn't a totally different Thomas Hardy. The writing style was nothing like his other books. It was dense, verbose, and dull. He would spend paragraphs lost in a lukewarm metaphor about a woman's blush. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that Far From the Madding Crowd was one of his earlier works, with the three I had previously read and enjoyed being written 10-15 years later. And I personally feel that Hardy improved a LOT over that time.

As far as female characters go, Hardy has never been the greatest IMO, but Bathsheba Everdene was the worst by a long way. She sounds great in theory-- an independent, feisty farmer herself --and yet this might be Hardy's most misogynistic novel. It's the most misogynistic one I've read. We are told that Bathsheba is strong and smart, but for the most part she seems incapable of doing anything without getting a man to help her. And we are constantly beaten over the head with Hardy's insistence that Bathsheba is an exception among women. Smart and tough because she's not like all those other girls. Bathsheba has - and I quote - "too much understanding to be entirely governed by her womanliness".

And I don't buy into the "past attitudes" excuse. This was the 1870s. Many authors at this time knew enough to treat women like human beings and not air-headed stereotypes.

But whatever. I finally finished the only other Hardy novel I felt I needed to read. Maybe I will read The Return of the Native one day. Maybe not. If by any chance this is the first Hardy you've tried and you're also unimpressed, I recommend skipping ahead to the three books mentioned above. The Mayor of Casterbridge is my favourite.

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Profile Image for Graham Herrli.
97 reviews69 followers
April 3, 2011
The only emotions that this book evoked for me were boredom and annoyance. The boredom stemmed largely from its predictable plotline and its verbose narrative style (and its utter failure to engage me intellectually, which may have made this verbosity pardonable). The annoyance stemmed from Hardy's method of creating the protagonist, Bathsheba. He repeatedly describes Bathsheba as being self-willed, confident, independent, and poised; but he only tells us this about her, while her actions demonstrate a considerable lack of these characteristics. He has a habit of writing in sweeping generalizations about the nature of "women," often describing such nature in its supposed relation to Bathsheba. Each time he tells us of her supposed independence, he does so with the implicit, and often explicit, assumption that what he is saying about her sets her apart from that which defines women in general, yet his negative stereotypes about women later manifest themselves in the actions which he gives to Bathsheba.
Profile Image for Chavelli Sulikowska.
226 reviews219 followers
June 20, 2020
‘Love is a possible strength in an actual weakness…’ What an exquisite and profound line.

It had been years since I read Tess, which is a favourite, but I think this goes one better. Here, it is all about the characters. Hardy’s characterisation is perfect. I related to Bathsheba, her confusions and follies as a young maturing woman, I sympathised with the long suffering Gabriel Oak who while consistently loving her, never lets her walk over the top of him, I pitied the lonely farmer Boldwood and his pathetic devotion, and I despised Sergeant Troy in all his swarmy and devious abuse.

While Tess was vulnerable, Bathsheba is seemingly invincible. She refuses to be a victim (though she is at times sulky and moody), despite the immense responsibilities, solitude and upheavals she must confront at a young age. While her behaviour if often perplexing and infuriating, she is forgivable because she is still ultimately young and stupid! With no motherly (or fatherly guidance) she must rely on her own instincts and steely reserve, taking on the management of a large farm. At one point she even declares that she wants somebody to ‘tame’ her – ‘I am too independent; and you would never be able to , I know.’ It is ironic and saddening that independence and a sense of self will and determination were viewed as negative qualities in women by both sexes in the Victorian era.

What we have here is literature’s most famous love quadrangle – that’s right, not triangle, quadrangle. For the feisty Bathsheba has not two but three suitors – the humble, gentle and steadfast shepherd, Gabriel Oak (the only one with any sense and guts to speak up to her when she is way out of line), the quiet, broody and intense Mr Boldwood (the wealthy farming neighbour, somewhat obsessive and ultimately mentally unstable), and Sergeant Troy (the dashing and flamboyant young soldier, who as expected turns out to be a lying, using piece of shit).

Basically, this is an excellent study in relationships – with sheep and rolling green hills. Bathsheba’s is a confoundingly complex character – at first glance she seems highly strung and irrational, however, given her youth and her steely will to make a success of her farm, she is open to learning from her mistakes and concedes to advice – most often from her greatest confidante, Gabriel. Men perplex her, and like all young girls, she is not immune to charm and falling for the ‘bad boy’ – which like us all, we come to regret eventually – hopefully not too late, and move on.

Hardy, as a male Victorian writer (and he did the same with Tess), displays an incredible insight into the female psyche. To me, this is unique amongst not just male authors, but even women writing at the same time. He goes deep. Deep and profound.

A reviewer once noted that Hardy is to English ruralism what Dickens is to London urbanism. Very true. Both are masters of their chosen locale. Hardy’s capacity to capture the beauty and bounty of the English countryside, its bucolic plenty as well as the seasonal hardships of farming is second to none. No author has done it better. His landscape descriptions are literally poetic prose, like admiring a Casper David Friedrich painting – ‘every blade, every twig was still. The air was yet thick with moisture, though somewhat less dense than during the afternoon, and a steady smack of drops upon the fallen leaves under the boughs was almost musical in it’s soothing regularity…’

Hardy writes that to experience epic poetry in motion, one must ‘stand on a hill at a small hour of the night, and having first expanded with a sense of difference from the mass of civilised mankind, who are dreamwrapt and disregardful of all such proceedings at this time, long and quietly watch your stately progress through the stars. After such a nocturnal reconnoiter, it is hard to get back to earth and to believe that the consciousness of such majestic speeding is derived from a tiny human frame…”

Like Tess, in this novel, the natural environment – the forests and fields, the pastures and livestock, the drops of dew and the rays of the sun, all provide a rich tapestry onto which Hardy projects his story. The language reflects the sentiments and psychologies of the characters. His language is exquisite and is simply a pleasure to read.
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
499 reviews856 followers
September 20, 2023
What is a reading slump? The last six weeks of my life, where my body has been preoccupied with writing but my mind plagued by a loquacious yet luscious 19th century novel by Thomas Hardy. Published in 1874, Far From the Madding Crowd is the first book I've read by this author and won't be my last. Like most antiquated fiction, this was no ride on the automated people mover. This was a hike through an airport in the 1970s carrying luggage that had yet to come with wheels on it.

The story is essentially that of Gabriel Oak, a bachelor shepherd in the rural southwest of England who has leased and stocked (with sheep) a farm he hopes to own. Into his life rides the prideful Bathsheba Everdene (great names!), a black haired beauty eight years younger than he. Circumstance exposes the rawest and most unattractive qualities of each to the other and Bathsheba rejects Oak's proposal of marriage.

Further circumstance sees Oak offered a job as shepherd to the farm Bathsheba inherits from her father and sets to manage herself, with no husband or bailiff. Oak neither courts Bathsheba nor conceals his feelings for her. He operates her farm with the highest expertise, earns her respect and watches as two fools vie for her hand: a prosperous farmer named William Boldwood and a soldier named Francis Troy, who may be the first example of a fuckboi in English literature.

Pour yourself a pint, take a load off your boots and luxuriate in the opening paragraphs of Hardy's chapters:

Christmas-eve came, and a party that Boldwood was to give in the evening was the great subject of talk in Weatherbury. It was not that the rarity of Christmas parties in the parish made this one a wonder, but that Boldwood should be the giver. The announcement had had an abnormal and incongruous sound, as if one should hear of croquet-playing in a cathedral aisle, or that some much-respected judge was going upon the stage. That the party was intended to be a truly jovial one there was no room for doubt. A large bough of mistletoe had been brought from the woods that day, and suspended in the hall of the bachelor's home. Holly and ivy had followed in armfuls. From six that morning till past noon the huge wood fire in the kitchen roared and sparkled at its highest, the kettle, the saucepan, and the three-legged pot appearing in the midst of the flames like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; moreover, roasting and basting operations were continually carried on in front of the genial blaze.

Whether my general tiredness burning the candle at both ends is to blame or the author, I thought that Far From the Madding Crowd was too long. Hardy, who'd published three novels, was retained by the Cornhill Magazine to submit a serial. He furbished chapters for publication as he completed the novel. This paid-by-the-word approach taxed me. There is entirely too much of the local yokels hee-hawing over parish gossip. I would've preferred Hardy focus on Oak and Bathsheba.

When it comes to character development, drama and psychology, Hardy excels. He shifts into the bodies of Oak, Bathsheba, Boldwood and the fuckboi Troy with ease, relating their thoughts or feelings. Hardy illustrates that relationships based on fantasy, in which men or women display only their best qualities--or qualities they don't even possess--are doomed, while relationships based in reality, with the sexes revealing their worst qualities to each other, have a shot.

Estimated word count: 111,714 words

Adaptations: There was a stage production Hardy himself adapted in 1879 and a silent film produced in 1915, both lost to time, obviously. A 1967 film adaptation directed by John Schlesinger starred Julie Christie as Bathsheba Everdene, Alan Bates as Oak, Peter Finch as Boldwood and Terence Stamp as Troy. A new version in 2015 directed by Thomas Vinterburg cast Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen and Tom Sturridge in the same roles.

Thanks for reading: Without thinking, just being extemporaneous, my favorite film leading lady is ... Ingrid Bergman. My next favorites start with Julie Christie.

Profile Image for Philip.
513 reviews683 followers
January 16, 2019
4.75ish stars.

With a name like Bathsheba how much could we honestly expect from her? Imagine playing with her as a child, "Come here little Bathy-Bathy!" She was doomed from the start. And she was obviously one of those children who was told entirely too often how special she was and how pretty and how she could do anything she set her mind to. Poor Bathsheba.

Not that it should need to be said for a novel that's almost 150 years old, but in case you still haven't read this and plan on doing so: spoilers ahead.

I love characters who are awful people, idiots, fools, douchebags and the like. But woof, there are some doozies here. How about that dog, Young George, eh? The nerve! One should never be too efficient at one's work! Naturally, he had to be put down. Okay, sorry, I just had to say something about him, the poor guy. :'(

There are some very memorable key characters in this book, and not all of them are worthy of a punch in the face. There is, of course, one of my greatest literary man-crushes of all time, Gabriel Oak. But it's the small, supporting crowd that really elevates the book to favorite status. There's self-righteous but well-meaning Joseph Poorgrass, full of bible verses and pseudo-wisdom; sweet, simple Liddy Smallbury, Bathsheba's friend, confidant, doormat and indentured servant; the ol' maltster, coming up on 184 years of age give or take; and the true heroes of the story, namely the sheep.

The writing is beautiful, if not a little long-winded and flowery when giving descriptions of the Wessex countryside. I get it, you've convinced me, it’s great to be far from the madding crowd.

It's also chock-full of quotable quotes on a variety of subjects.

“All romances end at marriage.”

“It may have been observed that there is no regular path for getting out of love as there is for getting in. Some people look upon marriage as a short cut that way, but it has been known to fail.”

(on the day of Gabriel's and Bathsheba's wedding)
""Faith," said Coggan, in a critical tone, turning to his companions, "the man hev learnt to say 'my wife' in a wonderful naterel way, considering how very youthful he is in wedlock as yet-hey, neighbours all?"

"I never heerd a skilful old married feller of twenty years' standing pipe 'my wife' in a more used note than 'a did," said Jacob Smallbury. "It might have been a little more true to nater if't had been spoke a little chillier, but that wasn't to be expected just now."

"That improvement will come wi' time," said Jan, twirling his eye."

“I am not a fool, you know, although I am a woman, and have my woman’s moments.”

“Women are never tired of bewailing man’s fickleness in love, but they only seem to snub his constancy.”

"I shall never forgive God for making me a woman, and dearly am I beginning to pay for the honour of owning a pretty face."
Way to humblebrag, right?

And my personal favorite:
This supreme instance of Troy's goodness fell upon Gabriel's ears like the thirteenth stroke of a crazy clock.

I'm gonna start using that expression day-to-day. I'm gonna make it a thing.

Sarcasm and sketchy 19th-century sexism aside, Hardy really is a brilliant wordsmith and there are so many gems throughout the novel- wise commentary, clever dialogue, wry observations on human relationships.

Speaking of sketchy 19th century sexism, let's talk about the Boldwood rape-gagement. If we didn't know that he was only forcing Bathsheba into a marriage blood oath, several statements could be taken way out of context when just a few filler words are omitted. What does it seem like they're talking about? :

Boldwood: "But do give me your [--] . You owe it to me!"

Bathsheba: "Don't press me too hard. [...] Pray let me go! I am afraid!"

Boldwood: He begged in a husky voice unable to sustain the forms of mere friendship any longer. "Promise yourself to me; I deserve it, indeed I do. Be gracious and give up a little to me."

Bathsheba: The trimmings of her dress, as they quivered against the light showed how agitated she was, and at last she burst out crying. "And you'll not-press me-about anything more?" she sobbed, when she had the power to frame her words.

Boldwood: "Yes, then I'll leave it." Boldwood came close to her side, and now he clasped one of her hands in both his own, and lifted it to his --.

Bathsheba: "What is it? Oh I cannot!" she exclaimed on seeing what he held. "Don't insist Boldwood- don't!" In her trouble at not being able to get her hand away from him at once, she stamped passionately on the floor with one foot, and tears crowded to her eyes again.

Boldwood: "No sentiment- the seal of a practical compact," he said more quietly, but still retaining her hand in his firm grasp. "Come, now!" And Boldwood slipped the -- on her --"

Bathsheba: She said, weeping as if her heart would break. "You frighten me. Please let me go!"

Boldwood: "Only to-night: just to-night, to please me!"

Bathsheba: At length she said, in a sort of hopeless whisper- "Very well, then. I will-to-night, if you wish it so earnestly."

Boldwood: "And it shall be the beginning of a pleasant --?

Bathsheba: "It must be, I suppose, since you will have it so!" she said, fairly beaten into non-resistance.

Boldwood: "Boldwood pressed [his] -- and allowed it to drop in her lap. "I am happy now," he said. "God!"

He left the room, and when he thought she might be sufficiently composed sent one of the maids to her. Bathsheba cloaked the effects of the late scene as she best could.

Heavy stuff.

But finally in all seriousness, this book, when it comes down to it, is not a flippant romance. It isn't the Bachelorette. It isn't love at first sight. Bathsheba and Gabriel end up with something deeper and more meaningful and true:

“This good fellowship - camaraderie - usually occurring through the similarity of pursuits is unfortunately seldom super-added to love between the sexes, because men and women associate, not in their labors but in their pleasures merely. Where, however, happy circumstances permit its development, the compounded feeling proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death - that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, besides which the passion usually called by the name is as evanescent as steam.”

Honestly, the kind of relationship I respect and strive for.
Profile Image for Piyangie.
530 reviews491 followers
September 23, 2023
This is my first read of Thomas Hardy and it was a rewarding read. I'm absolutely in love with his style of writing: the poetic and metaphoric language and his sense in detail to description. What a power of observation Hardy had possessed? His eye for accuracy in detail throughout the book was simply amazing whether it is human emotions, human psychology, the rural setup, the structures, fixtures, weather, or any other thing. This is what captured me more than the story or the characters.

The story is simple, but through the characters and his breathtaking writing, Hardy has turned this simple tale into quite an impressive and memorable one.

Gabriel Oak is a decided character and the one I loved the most. His steadfastness, his strength and courage, his honesty and loyalty, and above all, his unconditional love for a woman who rejected him say much about his character. I liked Bathsheba as well, although she grated on my nerves more times than pleasing to me. Bathsheba is strong-willed and independent. Her life circumstances have made her guarded. She is proud yet her pride is not injurious to others. It is rather a cloak of protection for her. Young as she is, she is not free of fault, for she is impetuous and insensitive to others' feelings. Her biggest fault is her failure to understand her own heart! I was impressed by the appropriate choices Hardy has made for his supporting characters. The variety increased my interest in the story. Out of these minor contributors, I liked Mr. Boldwood the most. His obsession with Bathsheba and his behaviour added a little humor to the story. Since the story is more or less a love story, having a villain is quite customary. So we have a sort of an "Austenian" villain in Sergeant Troy, who I killed numerous times in my mind before the actual deed was done. :)

I'm glad to have read an author whose writing has mesmerized me. If I'm to sum up this fascinating novel which is very beautifully written, I could only say that Hardy took me on quite an enchanting journey.
Profile Image for Anne .
455 reviews376 followers
May 17, 2021
I am surprised by how much I loved reading this novel. I haven’t read Hardy since college so reading him now is like reading him for the first time and probably appreciating him more than I could have when I was much younger. I loved this book for the beauty of Hardy's writing, full of exquisitely detailed and beautiful descriptions. No matter what happened in the story, good or bad, I had a smile on my face admiring the glorious way Hardy strung words together. And what a surprise to discover that Hardy wrote a 19th Century soap opera that was a page turner. I could not put this (audio) book down. Between the plot , the well-developed characters and the amazing writing I was enthralled from the first to the final page.

Written in 1874, this novel seems both of it’s time and modern in some ways with the main protagonist, a young woman aged 20, owning a farm. She is independent of men, rare in Victorian times. She also has a proudly independent spirit. This proudly independent woman is Bathsheba which means “daughter of oath.” Well, it just so happens that our Bathsheba makes 3 oaths to 3 different men in very different ways; impulsively, reluctantly, (and with great guilt) and finally with maturity and sincerity. Each of these oaths brings about very different consequences. Bathsheba is a complex character; couragous, hard-working and generous at times. But also vain, imperious and impulsive at others. Some of the time I did not like her but I always enjoyed her character because she is so real. She is riddled with contradictions. For instance, she feels independent one moment, such as when speaking to her farmhands for the first time after inheriting her uncle’s farm:

“I shall be up before you are awake; I shall be afield before you are up; and I shall have breakfasted before you are afield. In short, I shall astonish you all.”

But after a marriage proposal she states:

‘I want somebody to tame me; I am too independent; and you would never be able to.’

The man whom she turns down is Gabriel Oak, the first man who proposes marriage to her and the man who later becomes her best farmhand and later her foreman, always watching over her and her farm as well as attempting to save Bathsheba from herself. He is also well-named. Gabriel is a complicated name with various shades of meaning depending on the source, but the terms and characteristics which come up most frequently are “guardian angel,” “saint” and God’s strength.” These words indeed apply to Gabriel, a character I adored. To make sure we fully understand his character Hardy further emphasizes his positive qualities by giving Gabriel the last name of “Oak,” meaning “towering strength, wisdom and knowledge.” He lives up to both his first and his last name.

This story is set in Wessex, in the country. Hardy’s capacity to capture the beauty of the English countryside and all that entails with poetic precision is extraordinary. This is what captured me more than the story itself. Without the beauty of his finely honed descriptions the story would be more mundane. But the way he writes about an oncoming storm, for instance, is just magical. I could see it all and I felt like I was right there.

“The heaven opened then, indeed. The flash was almost too novel for its inexpressibly dangerous nature to be at once realized, and they could only comprehend the magnificence of its beauty. It sprang from east, west, north, south, and was a perfect dance of death. The forms of skeletons appeared in the air, shaped with blue fire for bones -- dancing, leaping, striding, racing around, and mingling altogether in unparalleled confusion. With these were intertwined undulating snakes of green, and behind these was a broad mass of lesser light. Simultaneously came from every part of the tumbling sky what may be called a shout; since, though no shout ever came near it, it was more of the nature of a shout than of anything else earthly. In the meantime one of the grisly forms had alighted upon the point of Gabriel's rod, to run invisibly down it, down the chain, and into the earth. Gabriel was almost blinded, and he could feel Bathsheba's warm arm tremble in his hand -- a sensation novel and thrilling enough; but love, life, everything human, seemed small and trifling in such close juxtaposition with an infuriated universe.”

There is one aspect of Hardy’s writing which I want to mention because it was very powerful and made me think hard about his meaning. I don’t know if there is a term for this particular type of phrase but it reminded me of the style of Oscar Wilde’s wtticisms. Hardy always used these sentences to express the complexity of the human spirit:

“Love is a possible strength in an actual weakness.”

“Men thin away to insignificance and oblivion quite as often by not making the most of good spirits when they have them as by lacking good spirits when they are indispensable.”

“He had been held to her by a beautiful thread which it pained him to spoil by breaking, rather than by a chain he could not break.”

The title, Far From the Madding Crowd, is borrowed from a passage in Thomas Gray’s Elegy “A Country Churchyard.

"Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way."

 ”Madding" here means "frenzied" or "crazed." Hardy seems to be suggesting that the country is quiet and serene, as in Gray's poem, better than the city because it takes you away from all the hustle and bustle of the crazy city crowds. But Hardy must have meant this title to be ironic, at least in part. In this story there is little peace and quiet for the main characters whose lives are filled with drama and anguish. I think his point is people are people no matter where they live.

On every page of this book, including the title, Hardy shows that he understands not only nature but human nature.

Hardy's words were further enhanced by the captivating voice of the narrator, Jamie Parker. Audiobook lovers, check him out.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,081 reviews2,720 followers
March 7, 2017
I loved escaping into this 19th-century English novel. I dove into it and found both comfort and sustenance.

One of my reading goals for 2017 is to make time for classics I haven't read yet, and Far From the Madding Crowd was perfect because this was my first Thomas Hardy book. The fact that I enjoy novels set in the English countryside was just a lucky bonus.

I had seen two different movie versions of the book, so I was familiar with the basic story: Strong Woman Refuses Wonderful Man; then Strong Woman Taunts Another Wonderful Man; and finally Strong Woman Foolishly Marries Total Jerk. Chaos Ensues until Strong Woman Comes To Senses and Marries First Wonderful Man.

I love the character of Bathsheba Everdene, and how she wanted to defy the traditional role of women. (Fun trivia: the writer of the Hunger Games series reportedly named her heroine Katniss Everdeen as an homage to Bathsheba.) I also loved the character of Gabriel Oak (aka Wonderful Man), and despised Sergeant Troy. And how could you not pity Farmer Boldwood for the way Bathsheba flirted with him?

Far from the Madding Crowd was first published in 1874, and reading this more than 140 years later, it's difficult to appreciate how groundbreaking some aspects of this story were for the time. I liked this note about Hardy's candor from the Introduction to my edition: "It was imperative that the 'things which everybody is thinking but nobody is saying ... be taken up and treated frankly' — and for Hardy this included such unmentionable 'things' as female sexuality (and) illegitimacy."

I just adored this novel — I liked the prose and I enjoyed spending time with these characters. Five stars to Mr. Hardy for letting me escape into the English countryside for a week, even if things are never as calm and quiet as they appear.

Favorite Quotes
"It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs."

"A resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible."

"It may have been observed that there is no regular path for getting out of love as there is for getting in. Some people look upon marriage as a short cut that way, but it has been known to fail."

"Bathsheba loved Troy in the way that only self-reliant women love when they abandon their self-reliance. When a strong woman recklessly throws away her strength she is worse than a weak woman who has never any strength to throw away. One source of her inadequacy is the novelty of the occasion. She has never had practice in making the best of such a condition. Weakness is doubly weak by being new."

"I am not a fool, you know, although I am a woman, and have my woman’s moments."

"To persons standing alone on a hill during a clear midnight such as this — the roll of the world eastward is almost a palpable movement. The sensation may be caused by the panoramic glide of the stars past earthly objects, which is perceptible in a few minutes of stillness; or by a fancy that the better outlook upon space afforded by a hill emphasizes terrestial revolution; or by the wind; or by the solitude; but whatever be its origin the impression of riding along is vivid and abiding. The poetry of motion is a phrase much in use, and to enjoy the epic form of that gratification it is necessary to stand on a hill at a small hour of the night, and, first enlarging the consciousness with a sense of difference from the mass of civilized mankind, who are horizontal and disregardful of all such proceedings at this time, long and quietly watch your stately progress through the stars. After such a nocturnal reconnoitre among these astral clusters, aloft from the customary haunts of thought and vision, some men may feel raised to a capability for eternity at once."

"Fitness being the basis of all beauty, nobody could have denied that his steady swings and turns in and about the flock had elements of grace."
Profile Image for Jr Bacdayan.
211 reviews1,741 followers
October 24, 2013
"The poetry of motion is a phrase much in use, and to enjoy the epic form of that gratification it is necessary to stand on a hill at a small hour of the mass of civilized mankind, who are dreamwrapt and disregardful of all such proceedings at this time, long and quietly watch your stately progress through the stars."

While I was in the midst of reading this novel, I was struck by general wonderment with regards to the title of this book. Why "Far From the Madding Crowd"? It had always seemed that Thomas Hardy bestowed titles in the form of the book's protagonist. Why not Bathsheba of Weatherbury or The Mistress of Weatherbury or Bathsheba the Complicated? Why this vague title? And then it hit me. Far From the Maddening Crowd is the embodiment of what we feel when we're in love. When one is a victim of cupid's arrow, one tends to think of nothing but infatuation. It becomes your strength, your weakness, your nourishment, your insomnia. Your attention is deflected by this love-centric desire. You may seem to do trivial things, the body may work but the mind wanders. In essence, you are far away from everything going around you that have nothing to do with the person you love. You live in a suspended reality where the face of your darling is both the sun and the moon. You live far from the crowd, which is madding, because it has nothing to do with your romance. As stated in the excerpt I selected to start this review with, "it is necessary to stand on a hill at a small hour of the mass of civilized mankind, who are dreamwrapt and disregardful of all such proceedings at this time" if you are to watch your proceedings through the stars.

The title may very well be Hardy's most romantic.

Bathsheba Everdene, described as a free-spirited, independent, and strong-willed woman named after King David's queen, Uriah the Hittite's wife, Solomon's mother is subject to much scrutiny. Many people find fault in her apparent fall from Hardy's descriptions. She becomes weak, slavish, and inconsistent especially with regards to her love with Sergeant Troy. Hardy is often accused of gender-stereotyping and sometimes rightly so. There are instances where he blames Bathsheba's weakness of character to her "womanliness". But I should say that it is unfair to accost him because of this. He did live in a society that practiced much worse treatments. You have to keep in mind that gender emancipation was not yet realized in 1874. I remember using this line of thought in my review of Tess, and I still stand by it. Though, I should add that Bathsheba's inconsistency with Sergeant Troy is mainly due to the type of love that they share, and is no fault of Mr. Hardy. I shall be getting to this in a minute.

Three choices are presented to Bathsheba. The Sergeant Troy, the gentleman farmer Boldwood, and the shepherd Gabriel Oak, all three signifying different kinds of love. This, I believe is the main idea of the book, to enumerate and dissect the different kinds of love present in a lover's beating heart. Sergeant Troy's love, if it is to be called love at all, is known by the name of passion. It is physical attraction, the weakest of the three. It is easily suppressed and forgotten. Some may even call it lust, one of the seven deadly sins. If it is so, then it veers away from the goodness that we attribute to love. No wonder, Bathseba's relationship with Troy is destructive. It is also the reason, why I stated earlier, that Bathsheba becomes inconsistent when she is around Troy. For the temptation of lust weakens even the strongest and most virtuous of men. Bathsheba's flaws are clearly not a byproduct of gender, as some claim it to be, but it lies in human nature itself. This, I understand, should clear some misgivings about Mr. Hardy. Also, in application, I understand that most marriages are destroyed because a great number of couples mistake this passion for love and hastily vow forever. And so, when it is exhausted, as it easily is, the marriage falls apart. Exactly like Bathsheba and Troy. Moving on, farmer Boldwood's love, on the other hand, is a kind of wild and strong, yet self-centered love. It is strengthened to an insane proportion but it only seeks to appease itself, it doesn't consider the person it is being given to. It is like a fire burning and scorching everything in its path; it is a dangerous kind of love that will turn everything to dust after the love has been consumed. And as exemplified, this is the kind of love that makes people do crazy things, like murder. It is a love so self-centered that it will deny its recipient of happiness when rejected. Lastly, we come to shepherd Gabriel Oak's love. In contrast to Mr. Boldwood's self-centered love, this love is so great that Gabriel is willing to sacrifice his own happiness for the sake of hers. I believe this is the strongest of the three. Willing to consider, willing to endure, willing to suffer for the sake of one it loves. It may not be as bright as Troy's passion, or loud as Boldwood's insane self-love, but it is never wavering in its steady stream of purity. Like Oak, it is often ignored by its recipient in favor of those kinds much brighter and louder. But, also like Oak, when it is given the chance, it is the one that will last forever.

"Where, however, happy circumstances permit its development, the compounded feeling proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death - that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which the passion usually called by the name is evanescent as steam."

With regards to this, it just occurred to me that certain famous quotations about love are true. For Troy - Love is the strongest desire. For Boldwood - Love is blind. For Gabriel - Love conquers all. Forgive me, for these trifles. I just thought it ironic that all of them are correct, yet none of them talk of the same thing.

Let me not detain you any longer, as I end, I should just like to admire Hardy's attitude with respect to love, and his attitude towards humanity in general. At first, I thought that the simple workfolk of Weatherbury were just background and were there only to provide humor in the story. But as the tale progressed, it became apparent that they were the echoes of Hardy's own beating heart. They embodied his appreciation for country living, for his Wessex, for Mother Nature, for the preservation of things old in this rapidly changing world, and lastly for his optimism in both love and life. As the great blusher Joseph Poorgrass (probably my favorite character) says as he closes the tale:

"But 'tis as 'tis, why, it might have been worse, and I feel my thanks accordingly."

I guess when it comes to love, romance, and relationships I'm not one to talk. I'm pretty certain I'm not an expert on these things, so I can't really give any insights or anything. Personally, all I do is echo: It is better to have loved and lost, than to not have loved at all.

Hey, I feel my thanks too.
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353 reviews887 followers
November 3, 2011
Ah Far from the Madding Crowd, even saying the book title aloud summons images of an overcrowded class room, sweaty adolescents and a fraught English teacher. I was forced to read this book when I was about thirteen. Other books I was forced to read, learn and regurgitate in vast, ungainly and probably largely misunderstood swathes include Macbeth, Hamlet, Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead, Pride and Prejudice, A Winters Tale, The Colour Purple and Wuthering Heights.

A diverse selection you might think. Yes indeed, diverse but with one key element in common. They all possess the correctly ordered group of elements required to send a class of teenagers into a coma. What? OK yes maybe that was a bit unfair. Not all teenagers, but certainly the clump of hormonally driven monsters that I shared my school years with anyway.

A Winters Tale by Bill the Bard was my least favourite of all of these - frankly I thought it was a badly cobbled together parody, a poor imitation of his previous work. Yes that was what I thought at thirteen. Far from the Madding Crowd was second least favourite because it was set in a time where a man was judged on the number of sheep he owned which basically just spelled D-U-L-L to my uncomprehending eyes.

However, looking at it now with the perception and clarity of an adult mind (hahahaha) I can see the merits of this text particularly some of its themes which are quite modern if you squint a bit and overlook the references to sheep and horse and carts.

Bathsheba Everdene (great name!) arrives in a rural idyll and accidentally steals the heart of lonely shepherd Gabriel Oak (even better name). While she thinks Gabriel is alright, he's not exactly romantic dynamite and his offer of marriage is rebuffed in the hope of better things. Nowadays she could have married him, serialised the wedding as part of a reality TV show and then divorced straight after while still up to her arse in the detritus of plundered wrapping and opened gift boxes. But, this was days of yore so Bathsheba didn't have those kind of opportunities. Luckily for her in lieu of reality TV, a wealthy relative dies and she inherits a fortune. Gabriels fortunes on the other hand go rapidly down hill, or more to the point, over the edge of the hill. He unleashes a sheep dog with ADHD and it drives his flock over a cliff (swap Dodos "doom on you scene" in Iceage the Movie for sheep to obtain correct comedy effect).

While luckless Gabriel ponders what to do with his sheep puree, Bathsheba acquires a few new admirers; the prosperous Boldwood and the dashing Troy. Boldwood is not really her cup of tea and the erroneous valentine was a big mistake - the 19th century equivalent of a drunken text message. Troy on the other hand has got the sort of allure possessed by Sean Bean in his Sharpe uniform and Bathsheba's head is turned by a spot of private sword play (dirty girl!). From here on in it is a comedy of errors, spurned lovers, missing persons and during this time Bathsheba racks up a rapid turnover of husbands which would have earned a round of applause from Liz Taylor. In the end, patient sheep-doctor Gabriel wins out and gets the girl. Not baaaa-d Gabriel!

Profile Image for Luffy (Oda's Version).
765 reviews761 followers
November 13, 2016
For my O Level year, I had to make a choice. Either take English literature as my option, or take Hindi. I took the latter. Had I taken the former, I would have read Far From The Madding Crowd in my teens.

Now I'm in my late thirties. The mistake of passing over English Lit has been rectified, if only partly. I remember noticing my friends taking a hefty paperback tome to read their book assigned to them. How would I know that one day I'll be reading the book on a device that's so light, regardless of how long or chunky a book should be.

I would lie if I said that I was connected as one with the book. Or that I understood every single word among its pages. Yet I have a feeling of satiety, of wholeness and accomplishment. Far From the Madding Crowd has a pastoral setting. The characters are immortal. The writing style is confident. Never shaky.

The denouement of the plot is like a set of fast exchanges on a chess board. How does Gabriel Oak fare? How strong is the love of the main female character - Bathsheba - for her first flame? The loose ends are tied. There's a happy ending. Most of the book points to one direction. The resolution is a twist in itself, confounding the previous indications.

Though some chapters of the book are slow as hell, and the pacing grinds to a still-life halt, the sands of time make themselves felt. You know that you are reading a Classic. This classic is indeed, a page turner, and a crowd pleaser, especially when compared to the author, Thomas Hardy's other books.

Profile Image for Rochelle ✿.
103 reviews125 followers
November 29, 2021
Edit 29/11/21: Judging by the fact that I think about this book at least once every few months, I am now able to realise that it deserves that extra star, and its place on my all-time favourites shelf :)

To think I almost didn't buy this book when I found it at a second-hand bookshop... Needless to say, I'm glad I took it with me in the end.

In Far from the Madding Crowd, the lives of Gabriel Oak and Bathsheba Everdene become intertwined when Gabriel falls asleep in an overheated farmer's hut; Bathsheba turning up there just in time to save his life. Shortly after, Bathsheba inherits her uncle's farm and moves away. When disaster befalls Farmer Oak's sheep, he leaves Norcombe Hill in search of a job — coincidentally ending up in Weatherbury, the charming new hometown of Bathsheba Everdene.

Bathsheba, the character the story revolves around, is a very fun person to follow. Her naivety and her switch-y moods make her character arc frustrating, but at the same time very interesting. She is a lot of things at once, but most of all, she's impulsive. Men fall at her feet, but she continually trifles with their emotions. A perfect character, therefore, to set up a love quartet (?) for. Hardy knew what he was doing.

"In making even horizontal and clear inspections we colour and mould according to the wants within us whatever our eyes bring in."

The counterparts of this mess, Farmer Oak, Mr. Boldwood and Sergeant Troy, are intricate and a joy to read about. Gabriel is my favourite character, with his sheep and his thoughtful and sweet temper. He's a perfect example of the idea that good will come to those who wait. He gives the story a melancholy tone, but there's still a great deal of happiness between the pages that gives Far from the Madding Crowd its reputation of being Hardy's sunniest novel.

The dynamic between Bathsheba and Gabriel had me sold right from the beginning. I think it's a whole art form to be able to throw such a careful, meditative character together with such a careless, vain one, and portray a love that does not put one person above the other. Cue Gabriel's speech:

"But mind this, I don't wish 'ee to feel you owe me anything. Not I. What I do, I do. Sometimes I say I should be as glad as a bird to leave the place — for don't suppose I'm content to be a nobody. I was made for better things."

Nor have one be jealous of the other's qualities without their level of respect imploding:

"Oak meditatively looked upon the horizon of circumstances without any special regard to his own standpoint in the midst. That was how she would wish to be."

I'm a fan.
In addition to the descriptions of deep-running passion and pretty scenery, Far from the Madding Crowd contains just about everything I love to read about: intense drama, puzzling personalities, love affairs, high-running emotions, and even the occasional death. There is always something happening, whether it concerns Bathsheba, Gabriel, or someone from Gabriel's cute little club of farmer drunkards.

Hardy has a great sense of humor. I still haven't recovered from this strange line: "She saw coming up the road a man like Mr. Boldwood. It was Mr. Boldwood." (Do keep in mind I came across this sentence late at night, and I most probably had already lost my head by way of sleep-drunkenness by that time)

The only reason I can't give Far from the Madding Crowd five stars is the fact that Bathsheba's character doesn't sit right with me. You can very clearly tell this book was written by a man just by reading about other characters' views on Ms. Everdene, or her own manner of speaking and thinking. In a way, she consists of a kind of caricature of what men think women are. But then, the problem, in this case, lies not so much in that per se (this book is really old), but more in the fact that I found it slightly bothersome.

This will not be the last of Hardy's works I'll be reading. Here's hoping the influences from the Romantic era are also prominent in his other novels, because I'd love to see more of that!


Additional Notes:
- Sergeant Troy is so full of sh*t and I'm still not over it
- The scene with Gabriel in the rain OUCH
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.5k followers
November 9, 2022
"I believe you saved my life, Miss. I don't know your name."
"I would just as soon not tell it."
"Still I should like to know."
"You can inquire at my aunt's—she will tell you."
"My name is Gabriel Oak."
"And mine isn't. You seem fond of yours in speaking it so decisively, Gabriel Oak."
"You see, it is the only one I shall ever have, and I must make the most of it."

“Well, what I mean is that I shouldn’t mind being a bride at a wedding, if I could be one without having a husband.”

Hardy published Far from the Madding Crowd in 1874, twenty years before that darker and richer indictment of Victorian notions of class and sexuality, Tess of the d’ Urbervilles, a book I also just re-read. Both, as with D.H. Lawrence, romanticize nature, connect women’s beauty and men’s roughness to Nature (Gabriel Oak [get it?] is a shepherd, and Angel Clare of Tess is a dairyman). Both are set in rural fictional Wessex, its title meant to be seen as ironic, in that plenty of “madding” things supposedly happen in the city, mainly, but Hardy is saying they happen in the country just as in big metropolitan areas. {This was supposed to be a joke title; Hardy was not a comedian, however.]

Madding is a romance, which is to say it presents several choices for young, strong, and independent Bathsheba Everdene (if you have read the Bible, you know Bathsheba was married to Uriah, a soldier, lusted after by David, and so on). One choice, which she makes for a while, and might have been best in the long run, is to just be alone. Possibly nothing in particular would have happened to Bathsheba, who runs the farm her prematurely dead father left her, except she is remarkably beautiful (as all Hardy heroines are) and this gains her the attention of men, three of them in particular, who all pursue her: Her lonely neighbor William Boldwood, the faithful shepherd Gabriel Oak, and the thriftless soldier Sergeant Troy.

One might see the book on one level (as many romances seem to be) as a primer on how to choose men in that the young Bathsheba is always confused about and making bad choices with respect to men; for example, always choose (in the long run, at least!) character over lust, young ladies! As a primer, and because it is Hardy, it also has to involve plenty of heartache, too. A teaching tool, but as opposed to many contemporary romances, this is often very beautifully written literature.

We pretty much know who Bathsheba will end up with in the end, though in Victorian fashion, she spends actual decades making mistakes before a dramatic set of events involving men and guns helps her with her dilemma. Here’s an example of Hardy’s moral guide in this (again, pretty dark) tale:

“What a way Oak had, she thought, of enduring things. Boldwood, who seemed so much deeper and higher and stronger in feeling than Gabriel, had not yet learnt, any more than she herself, the simple lesson which Oak showed a mastery of by every turn and look he gave—that among the multitude of interests by which he was surrounded, those which affected his personal well-being were not the most absorbing and important in his eyes. Oak meditatively looked upon the horizon of circumstances without any special regard to his own standpoint in the midst. That was how she would wish to be.”

And another:

“Troy's deformities lay deep down from a woman's vision, whilst his embellishments were upon the very surface; thus contrasting with homely Oak, whose defects were patent to the blindest, and whose virtues were as metals in a mine.”

You see, ladies, how to make the right choice? And if you are a lad and want to win the heart of your lass, be patient and steadfast and true even if your young love fails to see you clearly, as she will (hopefully) eventually see you (or not!), as fate will have it:

“I shall do one thing in this life--one thing certain--that is, love you, and long for you, and keep wanting you till I die” (Idiot! Oops, it's a romance, so, um, I mean, hang in there forever, Gabe!).

But Hardy knows that the difference between lust and love is hard to figure out for anyone , and he writes some lovely romantic lines along the way to show he is sympathetic to the lures of the heart (and flesh):

“She heard footsteps brushing the grass, and had a consciousnesss that love was encircling her like a perfume.”

“Oh, sir, what you say is too dashing! How could you love me? You hardly know me.”

“O, how I wish I had never seen him! Loving is misery for women always.”

Spoiler alert: Brooding Boldwood is a good man she trifles with thoughtlessly but he’s a man she could never truly love. We feel sorry for him, but he’s dull as dishwater. The dashing soldier Troy says dashing things but is trifling with her. Of course she falls for him, though we can see through him. It is really only shepherd Gabriel Oak, who remains constant to her throughout (and whom she constantly mistreats!), who is the ultimate shepherd of her heart.

Bathsheba is at the core an admirably competent farmer, but it is around men she is quite incompetent. She��s usually annoying in her choices and undeserving, really, of Oak’s love, but he is patient in waiting for her to come around to her. What a mess she makes of her and others’ lives for much of the book! But Hardy seems sympathetic that this young woman who has what men wants doesn’t know what to do with it:

“Such a woman as you a hundred men always covet--your eyes will bewitch scores on scores into an unvailing fancy for you - you can only marry one of that many. . . The rest may try to get over their passion with more or less success. But all of these men will be saddened. And not only those ninety-nine men, but the ninety-nine women they might have married are saddened with them. That's why I say that a woman so charming as yourself, Miss Everdene, is hardly a blessing to her race.”

Again, this isn’t quite as good a book as Tess was for me, but it is really, really entertaining (though sometimes frustrating, sure), and all of you (statistically, mostly women?) who read contemporary romances should read a classic Victorian romance, too! This is one of the greatest romances of all time!

Julie Christie 1967 film version:

Profile Image for Axl Oswaldo.
332 reviews165 followers
January 24, 2022
“Es difícil para una mujer definir sus sentimientos en un lenguaje creado principalmente por el hombre para expresar los suyos.”

Esta novela es mi primer acercamiento a Thomas Hardy y debo decir que me ha sorprendido mucho.

Al inicio pensé en compararlo con una de mis autoras favoritas, Elizabeth Gaskell, por el sitio donde se desarrollaba la historia, y al presentar de entrada a un pastor, una granja, todo muy campestre y costumbrista; creí que la cosa iría por ese rumbo. Pero, de repente, al final de uno de los primeros capítulos, ocurre algo que me hizo escupir la sopa, algo que en principio no vi venir.

De ahí en adelante la novela generó un mayor interés en mí y debo decir que no veo la hora de leer más obras de este autor. Desde los personajes, la ambientación (el entorno rural, alejado de la ciudad en todo momento), la trama, las descripciones que hace Hardy para hacerte sentir dentro de la historia y, sobre todo, el final.

Después informándome un poco, me entero que este autor suele llevar el hilo argumental por un sentido pesimista; si bien en esta obra presenta algunos caminos hacia ese destino, también he leído que esta es una de las más optimistas (no me puedo imaginar entonces cómo serán las demás).

En fin, disfruté mucho de esta lectura y por supuesto que la recomiendo.

A propósito, Bathsheba Everdene (la protagonista) entra a mi lista de mis personajes femeninos favoritos, compartiendo el podio junto a Jane Eyre, Emma Bovary y Úrsula Iguarán.
Profile Image for Melki.
6,042 reviews2,390 followers
July 23, 2016
I almost didn't read this book, the February selection for my real-life book club. It seemed rather dull and there's a huge stack of yummier-looking books calling my name, saying "Read ME next!" BUT, since I'm the one who's always bitching to the group about how we need to read more classics, it seemed in poor taste for me to give this one a miss.

And, I'm glad I read it.

Even though Hardy's writing style took some getting used to. It's sort of wordy. Okay, it's really wordy. Near the beginning, there are two entire pages that could easily be summed up as: It was night. The stars were bright. Farmer Oak played his flute.

Even though bad things happen to lots of sheep and a dog.

Even though Bathsheba Everdene, due to her wishy-washy dithering, is way, WAY up there on the list of characters I'd like to punch, sharing the company of Holden Caulfield and Adela Quested.

Once again - glad I read it, but equally glad it's over. I doubt I'll ever read it again. It didn't rock my world, but I didn't hate it.
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,494 followers
February 6, 2020
Thomas Hardy writes often about women, with a sympathy that looks a little like contempt. In Far From the Madding Crowd he lays out the options available to Bathsheba Everdene (yes, Katniss is named after her): Frank Troy is the dashing adventurer, charming and dissipated. He ensnares her in a ferny grove, showing off his swordplay. ("It will not take five minutes," he says, and we picture Hardy snickering.) Boldwood (that's what she said, lol) is the older, stolid man, a rural Casaubon, representing security and the abdication of passion. And right in between them is Gabriel Oak, "only an every-day sort of man," the Goldilocks middle.

But Bathsheba doesn't seem well-suited to any of them; even Oak doesn't really attract her. "I want somebody to tame me; I am too independent; and you would never be able to, I know." Maybe taming isn't really her thing. "Though she scarcely knew the divinity's name, Diana was the goddess whom Bathsheba instinctively adored." Diana, the goddess of chastity.
"But a husband - "
"Why, he'd always be there, as you say; whenever I looked up, there he'd be."

Ugh, right? Husbands. So the question isn't just which man will Bathsheba choose, but why should she choose anyone at all?

It's all serious business, of course, but people forget that Hardy can be funny. He throws out phrases like "rather deathy," and there are cracks like this: "There is no regular path for getting out of love as there is for getting in. Some people look upon marriage as a short cut that way, but it has been known to fail." Not the most original joke, even back then, but it's still funny.

He's second to none in describing nature. He can set a scene like no one else. Here he describes the countryside in an impending storm:
The moon...had a lurid metallic look. The fields were sallow with impure light, and all were tinged with monochrome, as if beheld through stained glass.

And the scenes he sets in these vivid landscapes are infinitely memorable, too. His books always contain a few gloriously melodramatic setpieces: the audacious climax of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, the "too menny" of Jude the Obscure. Here, in addition to the sexy swordplay with Troy, there's a decisive midnight lightning storm, and the long walk of Fanny Robin. This is one of the two reasons I love Hardy: in each book, I know I'll get a few scenes I'll never forget.

The other is the schadenfreude. His books would get glummer as he grew, culminating in the misery porn of Jude the Obscure; Madding Crowd is by comparison light reading. But he's still going to trample your heart.

Earlier authors like Dickens and even Eliot wrote books where every plot development followed inevitably from the actions of their characters. But for Hardy, again and again, despite the best intentions and noblest natures of his characters, fate throws a wrench in. This Murphy's Law is one of the reasons Hardy seems like such a pessimist. (The other is that everybody dies miserable and alone.) The action in Madding Crowd is kicked off by the chance destruction of most of Oak's sheep (discovered in a bloody heap at the base of a cliff, in another of Hardy's vivid images). Boldwood's storyline begins with a nonchalant prank. (Which, btw, I didn't really buy; that's a rare case where Hardy's plot manipulation shows.)

So vicissitudes prey on our characters; fate slaps them around. How happy do you think the ending is?
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