Friday, August 1, 2014

Far From the Madding Crowd ~ Thomas Hardy

Bathsheba Everdene is a strong spirited girl, and whilst she thinks she knows her own mind she has not a clue with regards to the workings of a man’s mind.

Farmer Boldwood is a confirmed bachelor and even the beauty of Miss Everdene can’t turn his head at market. Bathsheba’s maid points out Boldwood’s indifference to her so, out of fun or maybe girlish spite, she sends him a Valentine Card sealed with a stamp marked ‘Marry Me’. 

This frivolous throw away moment changes everything. 

Boldwood becomes a man desperate to possess her, and presses her for her promise to marry to the point of breaking her spirit. Bathsheba had already turned down a proposal of marriage from the kindly Shepherd Oak when she first arrived in Weatherbury and Oak’s status looked like it was improving but, as her own situation improves by taking on her late Uncle’s farm, Bathsheba is in no hurry to lose her independence.  Unfortunately, during her unwanted courtship with Boldwood, she is dazzled by a rake (Sergeant Troy), who has already ruined one young woman, and the chance of future happiness begins to unravel for all.

Through this emotional drama Shepherd Oak remains a staunch and loyal friend, putting aside his own feelings to manage Bathsheba’s farm and trying to morally guide her.  In a time when propriety means everything, he has to withstand gossip from the neighbourhood which insinuates that he’s just hanging around Bathsheba and ‘biding his time’.

Set in Wessex, I loved the country setting and also the minor characters that work the farm.  Their dialogue and actions hark back to simpler times which consisted of manual labour, cider and gossip.

This novel highlights the fickleness of young women in matters of love. In an era when a promise is a promise, and solemnly binding, there’s no room for mistaken feelings. I’m not usually sentimental but Bathsheba’s realisation of Oak’s true friendship towards the end of the novel, and Oak’s realisation of his one dream, had me fighting back tears.

As for the title of the novel, it was taken from the following:

                      Far From the madding crowd's ignoble strife
                      Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
                      Along the cool sequester'd vale of life 
                     They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
                                                        Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray

Throw away your bodice rippers, and read a love story with real class!


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