Title: Far from the Madding Crowd
Author: Thomas Hardy
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Date: 2012 (1874)
Genre: Fiction / Classics
Summary: Hardy’s powerful novel of swift sexual passion and slow-burning loyalty centres on Bathsheba Everdene, a proud working woman whose life is complicated by three different men – respectable farmer Boldwood, seductive Sergeant Troy and devoted Gabriel – making her the object of scandal and betrayal. Vividly portraying the superstitions and traditions of a small rural community, “Far from the Madding Crowd” shows the precarious position of a woman in a man’s world.
I fell in love with this book after reading chapter one. Everything about it captivated me and the story stayed with me for a while after I had finished reading. I wistfully think about it, wondering whether it is too soon to pick it up again. Hardy’s writing was enthralling and I didn’t want to put the book down. I had to force myself to stop reading so that I could extend the experience of reading this book. It was just a wonderful reading experience.
Far from the Madding Crowd is full of sorrow, disappointment, tragedy, joy, and humour. Reading the novel was emotionally fulfilling, but almost overwhelming, as the mood changed so quickly. One word from a character could completely alter the direction of the scene but every action (or inaction) felt completely natural. It wasn’t contrived or strained in any way.
I’m not sure what to say about the plot. I thoroughly enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t think of any particular moments to discuss without spoiling the novel. Can you spoil a 147-year-old novel? Anyway, the plot is one of scandal and intrigue as it follows Bathsheba’s relationships with three men: Boldwood, Sergeant Troy, and Gabriel. It’s a novel about passion, relationships, and hard work.
Hardy created some of the most compelling characters I’ve ever encountered in a nineteenth-century novel. I truly cared about Bathsheba and I wanted the best for her, even if she was annoying and stubborn at times, and this caused me a lot of heartache. I hated Troy with an absolute passion and wanted to reach through the pages, into the novel, and slap him silly. Hardy developed Troy into a complex character and I began to pity him, towards the end of the novel, but I still hated him. He was a cad. Boldwood was annoying and insistent while Gabriel was awkward and sweet. Gabriel was like a lost puppy and I found myself hoping that he’d leave everything behind and live a happy life without the drama that Bathsheba attracted. I really liked Liddy and her relationship with Bathsheba too.
I found that the pace of the book was manageable. It wasn’t unbearably slow but it lingered in the right moments. It was a pleasant but reflective read. I also found the writing easy to read but I don’t think I’m the best judge of this because I read much older literature on a daily basis. I’d say that it was a typical Victorian novel in regards to language but I’d also say that it’s easier to read than Dracula, for example. Does that help? Probably not.
I loved this book. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a book as much as I enjoyed Far from the Madding Crowd in years. I’d definitely recommend it!
I read the Penguin English Library edition – which I have linked to below – but Far from the Madding Crowd is available to read for free via Project Gutenberg.
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