Day 977: Far From the Madding Crowd

Cover for Far From the Madding CrowdBest Book of the Week!
I had to laugh at the blurb on my old 1960 paperback copy of Far From the Madding Crowd. It says, “She was a wanton who needed taming.” I think that says a lot more about 1960 than it does about Thomas Hardy’s novel.

Bathsheba Everdene is not a wanton, but she is a spirited, beautiful young woman. We first see her from the eyes of Gabriel Oak, a farmer and sheep breeder, as she moves house to live with her aunt. He observes that she is vain, but she takes his fancy. Soon, he proposes marriage.

Bathsheba is not interested. Still, Gabriel has fallen in love with her and stays in love. Soon, in a horrible mishap, Gabriel loses all his sheep and has to sell his farm for debts. His first thought is relief that she didn’t have to be brought low by his sudden poverty.

By this time, Bathsheba has left the area. When Gabriel is hired as a shepherd, he finds himself working for her, as she has inherited a substantial farm from her uncle. Soon, she has dismissed the thieving bailiff and put Gabriel in his place.

The bulk of the plot of this novel is about Bathsheba’s relationships with three different men—her growing friendship with Gabriel; the obsession Farmer Boldwood has for her, which is provoked by an act of mischief; and her own infatuation with Sergeant Troy, a liar and womanizer.

Far From the Madding Crowd is the first of Hardy’s Wessex novels, and it is much sunnier than any of the others. That is not to say it is light-hearted. It has many dark threads—Farmer Boldwood’s fetishist obsession, Gabriel’s ruin for a freakish reason, the fate of Fanny Robin, a supposed suicide, and a murder. Victorians would have categorized this novel as sensationalist.

With Tess of the D’Urbervilles, this is one of my favorite Hardy novels. I love its depictions of English rural life and customs of the times. I think Bathsheba is an interesting heroine and Gabriel a fine hero. I have been meaning to reread this novel since I saw the new movie last year (good, but not up to the Julie Christie classic), and I’m happy to have finally done it. Also, this is one of the few remaining books left on my current Classics Club list.

Related Posts

Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Rustication

The Land of Green Ginger

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8 thoughts on “Day 977: Far From the Madding Crowd

  1. Carolyn O September 28, 2016 / 8:30 am

    I made the mistake of deciding to read all of Hardy and starting with Jude the Obscure. I wish I’d started with Far from the Madding Crowd instead!

    • whatmeread September 28, 2016 / 8:38 am

      Oh, that is one of the most depressing. I sort of view Jude and Tess as a pair, although I feel as if Tess is less depressing but sad.

  2. Emily J. September 28, 2016 / 11:02 am

    I love Hardy and I love this book, especially! Have you seen the new movie version of it? I liked it. I also love the blurb from the back of your copy. Yes, definitely more about that era than the book. So funny.

    • whatmeread September 28, 2016 / 11:09 am

      Yes, I did see it. I enjoyed it, but I still think I like the Julie Christie/Alan Bates version better, although maybe I would change my mind if I saw it again. If you haven’t seen that version, you should! I think the only thing that really bugged me about the modern version was they had her riding astride in pants. That would never have happened. Maybe astride, but not pants.

  3. FictionFan September 28, 2016 / 8:56 pm

    I read this at school, so a long time ago! But my abiding memory is that I felt Gabriel was too good – I couldn’t really see why he didn’t just get over Bathsheba and find some nice girl who’d appreciate him more. But maybe I’d feel differently about it now that I’m not 15 any more… 😉 It’s one of my favourite Hardys, though, but Tess holds the top spot for me.

    • whatmeread September 29, 2016 / 7:23 am

      Well, me too. She must have had something about her, that Bathsheba, since she seemed to be irresistible to everyone except the man she wanted most. But isn’t that always the way.

  4. Naomi September 29, 2016 / 7:49 am

    I loved this book. Like FF, though, I did feel sorry for Gabriel through most of the book, wishing there was someone else who would see how good he was.
    The blurb on your book made me laugh. 🙂

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