Book Review || Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy became one of my favourite writers after reading 'The Mayor of Casterbridge'. I fell in love with his passionate depiction of the natural world, with his detailed depiction of a fictional town in the 1800s, and the representation of his characters. 'Far From the Madding Crowd' was no different in this regard, and I wonder why it took me so long to open the cover.

The book follows the trials and tribulations of shepherd Gabriel Oak and Bathsheba Everdene, the woman he has fallen in love with. When the pair first meet officially, she rescues him from suffocation. He is in a somewhat better position financially than she is and asks for her hand in marriage. She rejects him, however, on the basis that she does not love him. By a strange turn of events, Oak soon finds himself in a lower position than she after she inherits a farm from her uncle. She hires Oak knowing of his business savvy and his knowledge of sheep while Oak's feelings for her remain through all of Bathsheba's poor choices.

My favourite aspect of Hardy's novel is its enamored representations of Mother Nature in all its seasons and glory. His descriptions of the weather, such as the storm that breaks as Gabriel and Bathsheba rush to save her stockpiles, as well as his sketches of the beauty of forests, pastures, and coasts, dotted with beautiful portrayals of the sun and stars' movements is certain to leave unforgettable imagery in your mind.

He also presents lively debate on religion and philosophy as he describes nature, through the debates and conversations of his characters, mostly those who are classed as servants, and his descriptions of woman or man.

Bathsheba rescues Gabriel (Helen Allingham [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Bathsheba is such an interesting depiction for me for Hardy does not represent her as only a woman, but so much more; even as he talks in the same breath of her feminine vices and sometimes thoughtless mannerisms he has placed her in an exceedingly powerful position for a woman of her time. Indeed Bathsheba's only downfall is falling in love with Sergeant Troy and marrying a man whom she knows very little about. However, he juxtaposes her collapse with that of one of her suitors, William Boldwood, who is a prosperous farmer until he becomes obsessed with Bathsheba to the point of ruining his farm and his life.

When it comes to talking about the people of Weatherbury, they are all interesting and amusing, from having double vision problems to being known only as a woman's husband to absolute loyalty, these folk are straight from a simpler world where there is a respect for one's place in it, a respect for oneself, and a respect for others.

In all, 'Far From the Madding Crowd' can now be seen as an elegy to the dreamlike world of agriculture and rural life before industrialisation, where the farmer and his workers lived to the tune of the sunrise and sunset, of the seasons, of the wet and dry; where time passed according to harvests and stock sales, to a time when life was simpler and man lived in harmony with nature.

While I had committed that error of errors by watching the film before reading the book, it made no matter - I turned page by subsequent page because Hardy's writing was so good! And if you're looking for one of the greatest romance novels of all time, this is one: it's tenth on the Guardian's list.

Have you read the novel?


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