Classics Club #8: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Far from the Madding Crowd is 10th on the The Guardian’s poll of greatest love stories of all time. I did not find it as great as that. Yes, Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak are well realized characters, and Hardy’s descriptions are evocative and detailed, but the plot did not grab me at all. I can appreciate a good classic romance now and then, but for some reason Far from the Madding Crowd lost my interest fairly quickly. Maybe it was the fact that Bathsheba kept shooting herself in the foot, so to speak, or the fact that every man she met fell madly in love with her. Whatever it was, I got bored with it fairly quickly, and only kept reading because of the character of Gabriel Oak.
Here is the description from the publisher:
Spirited, impulsive, and beautiful, Bathsheba Everdene arrives in Wessex to live with her aunt. She strikes up a friendship with a neighbor, Gabriel Oak, and even saves the young shepherd’s life. But when he responds by asking for her hand in marriage, she refuses. She cannot sacrifice her independence for a man she does not love.
Years later, misfortune has bankrupted Gabriel, while Bathsheba has inherited her uncle’s estate and is now a wealthy woman. She hires Gabriel as a shepherd but is interested in William Boldwood, a prosperous farmer whose reticence inspires her to playfully send him a valentine. William, like Gabriel before him, quickly falls in love with Bathsheba and proposes. But it is the dashing Sergeant Francis Troy who finally wins her heart. Despite the warnings of her first two suitors, Bathsheba accepts his proposal—a decision that brings long-buried secrets to the fore and leaves everything for which she has fought so hard hanging in the balance.
Published a century and a half ago, Far from the Madding Crowd was Thomas Hardy’s first major success and introduced the themes he would continue to explore for the rest of his life. A love story wrapped in the cloak of tragedy, it is widely considered to be one of the finest novels of the nineteenth century.
I remember liking Hardy’s Return of the Native in a college English class, so perhaps I simply rushed too quickly through Far from the Madding Crowd to appreciate it. In any case, I’ll give Thomas Hardy another chance when I get to Tess of the D’Urbervilles on my Classics Club list.
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
First American edition New York: Henry Holt, 1874
Kindle edition Open Road Media, 2014
Print length: 448 pages