Thomas Hardy – Far From The Madding Crowd

I decided to read this book mainly because I saw that the film was starting to be advertised in the cinema and I wanted to try and read it before I saw it. The book had been on my Kindle for probably about 2 years and I’d just never got around to it before.

And although I did start reading it before the film came out, it was very slow going to start with and I ended up going to see the film about half way through, so that I didn’t miss it before it disappeared from the big screen, like I have done with many books before (Jane Eyre, for example).

But seeing the film on the big screen definitely kickstarted my love for the story and the characters and I read the second half much quicker than the first.

*WARNING: Major spoilers below*

Although written by a man, you’d be hard pressed to tell at times.  The book is a definite beautiful romance, revolving around a young woman called Bathsheba Everdeen (what a name, right?!). As a young woman living with her aunt, she receives a marriage proposal from a farmer named Gabriel Oak, but turns him down for what seems like no apparent reason. I mean, his proposal wasn’t the most romantic in the world, but when you’re not particularly well off and the prosperous farmer next door asks for your hand, you should probably give it some thought. And if someone tells you that:

“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.”

You can’t really ask for much more, can you? That’s quite romantic enough for me.

After the knock-back from Bathsheba, Gabriel’s life is turned further upside down when his enthusiastic young sheep-dog accidentally sheep-dogs his flock off the side of a cliff and Gabriel is left with nothing, forced to look for work on someone else’s farm.

But lo and behold, young Bathsheba’s uncle has died and she is now in charge of her very own farm, and young and experienced as she is, she could do with his help. I guess the fact that he saved her crops from incineration before she even offered him a job probably didn’t do any harm.

But although Bathsheba is now a farm owner, she’s still immature when it comes to love. As a joke, she sends a ‘Marry Me’ Valentine to a neighbouring farmer (Boldwood), which turns him into a semi-obsessed stalker who is convinced that they should be married.

But rather than marry him and join together their two prosperous farms, she decides (in yet another show of poor judgement) to marry a soldier (Troy) who only wants her for her money. And when Troy’s true love dies carrying his child, he spends a huge chunk of Bathsheba’s money to buy a huge headstone for her grave, and then fakes his own death to get away from her.

Bathsheba then spends the next 2 years (!) grieving for her lost husband, even though he was a money-grabbing brute when he was alive, and simultaneously trying to avoid the affections of poor Boldwood, who is still convinced that he’s madly in love with her.

And just as Boldwood thinks he’s about to get the promise of engagement that he’s wanted so badly, Troy returns on the scene, and is promptly shot by Boldwood who ends up in jail (narrowly avoiding a death sentence).

All this leaving Bathsheba free to marry Gabriel Oak, her constant rock through all these ridiculous troubles, just like she should have done back in the first 30 pages of the book and save everyone all this heartache.

I’ll just leave you with my favourite quote from the book, when Boldwood confronts Bathsheba and asks her if she loves him, or if she just respects him. Her response:

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

I like this, we can’t all express our feelings in words, especially if like Bathsheba, we’re afraid to admit the truth.

I’d definitely recommend this book, if you’re prepared to push past the first half which seemed to be at a slower pace than the second. And the film was simply wonderful, so I’d really really recommend you watch that too (but read the book first!).


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