Back in December, I took part in The Classics Club’s 22nd Spin event, for which my result was to re-read the wonderful Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy and as I thought a lovely re-read would be super comforting over the festive period, I was very pleased with my result.
And I wasn’t to be disappointed, as I found it still as heartbreakingly lovely to be swept away into this pastoral tale of love and loss; trials and tribulations; and the countryside and seasons of Hardy’s fictional English county of Wessex. That all surrounds the story of the honest, hardworking Gabriel Oak and his steadfast love for the beautiful, spirited Bathsheba Everdene, whose feisty nature leads her and the men who love her into tragedy, true love and madness.
Yes, men in the plural! As not only the young Gabriel has his heart set on Bathsheba, after he first set eyes on her as a penniless orphan, when he was an up-and-coming farmer. In a short time their situations are to switch dramatically, as Gabriel loses everything in one fatal incident and Bathsheba is taken away, as the sole named heir, to her uncle’s prosperous farm. In her new station Bathsheba attracts two new suitors: the dashing, rakish Sergeant Troy and the reclusive, gentleman farmer, Mr Boldwood.
I can’t really say I like Bathsheba, however I do have to admire her courage and independent nature as she takes on the management of her farm, much, amusingly, to the shock and awe of her neighbours, workers and male peers. Unfortunately, when it come to matters of the heart all of Bathsheba’s worst qualities come to the fore: primarily, her naivety, impetuousness and vanity! You do have to feel for her by the end though, because she ends up learning the hard way and I do feel she genuinely does learn and change due to the hardship and tragedy she brings upon herself.
On the other hand, I absolutely love Gabriel! After he loses his own farm, he is forced, humiliatingly, to take employment as a shepherd on Bathsheba’s farm! Where he watches on as she spectacularly mucks everything up. And yet, through it all, he remains kind, good-natured, hard-working and dignified, and unwavering in his support and love for Bathsheba, even when it means being the only one brave enough to tell her the truth. They end up weathering a lot together, but I won’t tell you more because that would spoil things for you! 😉
All in all, I think Far From the Madding Crowd is a beautifully, tragic classic, that cleverly explores gender roles, society, wealth and position, all set against the glorious backdrop of the quiet, unchanging English countryside. I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading this and I highly recommend you read it, if you haven’t already. I hoped re-reading this would also spur me on to finally read something else by Thomas Hardy. Great read.
I’d love to hear you thoughts: Have you read this? Or anything else by Thomas Hardy? Any recommendations what of Hardy’s other novels I should try next?
This is book #15 off my Classics Club II list.