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Review: Far From the Madding Crowd

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Author: Thomas Hardy
Pages: 318
Rating: 5/5 stars
Published in: 1874

Thomas Hardy. He does it every. Single. Time.

This was the only major novel of his besides Under the Greenwood Tree that I haven't read yet, and I absolutely loved it. It's probably the most descriptive of his books that I've read so far, but the backdrop and setting of Hardy's stories have always featured in a major way (e.g. The English countryside in Tess of the D'Urbervilles, the heath in The Return of the Native).

Being one of his earlier novels, Far From the Madding Crowd isn't as doomy and gloomy as Tess or Jude, although there is certainly a significant amount of tragedy that befalls many of the characters. However those that do suffer in FFTMC are mostly antagonists or villians, rather than innocents or people being tragically undone by Fate or cruelty. There are also, as usual with Hardy, numerous references to the Old Testament and ancient mythologies that are explained with footnotes and a set of Notes at the back.

The story revolves around Bathsheba Everdene, an educated woman who becomes heiress of her uncle's farm after he passes away. Her beauty and independence catches the attention of three very different men: Gabriel Oak, a farmer-turned-shephard who loves her from the very beginning; Farmer Boldwood, a 40 something year old bachelor; and womanising Sergeant Troy, who is dashing and flirtacious. Bathsheba herself is an interesting and capable character whom I would go as far as to describe as having quite a few feminist qualities. There is a lot of commentary on her being a female farmer, and yet the men on the farm are mostly supportive and respect her position, despite a few misgiving comments here and there. I have actually always liked Hardy's female characters (Eustacia Vye, Tess Durbeyfield, Sue Bridehead). Whilst not creating strong female protagonists as such, I have always felt he was hugely critical of the patriachy of those times that was stifling to so many women, and a lot of his work tends to reflect this.

I always look to Hardy for tragedy, fatalism and insights into the human condition, but Far From the Madding Crowd is a genuinely touching love story that I enjoyed from beginning to end. It's not as intense or as important thematically as later works, but it does make for much lighter reading and I would recommend it as a good introduction to those who would like to start reading Hardy.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 10th, 2009 11:25 pm (UTC)
I've been meaning to read more Hardy, and I always forget that he wrote this one. Thanks for reminding me!
Dec. 11th, 2009 04:48 am (UTC)
This is one of my favorite books! It's definitely my favorite Hardy book.
Dec. 11th, 2009 09:53 am (UTC)
I've only read Tess and liked it, but you've definitely made me want to read this too. Thanks!
Dec. 11th, 2009 03:57 pm (UTC)
If you liked Tess I really recommend Jude the Obscure, which is very similar, but even more tragic. It's probably my favourite Hardy work, although the controversy it caused made him decide to give up novel writing altogether.
Dec. 12th, 2009 09:50 am (UTC)
I have seen Jude, the movie, so I know what you mean. I loved the movie and I'm sure the book will be better, but I just didn't get to it.

Dec. 12th, 2009 12:20 pm (UTC)
Oh the book is definitely better. I liked the film but they changed the ending completely, which I didn't understand at all. It's a pity though because the characters were well cast - Kate Winslet especially did a great job.
Dec. 11th, 2009 10:31 am (UTC)
I'm slowly working my way through his works, and I just checked this one out last week. Now I want to read it immediately, but it'll probably have to wait until Christmas when I have some time off!
Dec. 11th, 2009 01:27 pm (UTC)
I haven't read this one yet, but Under the Greenwood Tree is my favorite Hardy novel so far!! It too seems much more lighthearted, but the resolution is poignant and unsettling... it's every bit as much of a tragedy as his other works, but more subtle. Definitely recommend it. :)
Dec. 11th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
It's next on my to-read list. Can't wait :D
Dec. 12th, 2009 02:21 am (UTC)
i've only read Jude yet, and i love it in that weird way it inspires:P (but i'll only recommend it to certain people:P) Tess is on my shelf, and i think one other, and i'll for sure be adding this one:) Thanks!
Dec. 12th, 2009 02:39 am (UTC)
It's lighter? Thank goodness. Tess of the D'Urbervilles nearly did me in. I think this is going onto my TBR list. Thanks for the review!
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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