by Thomas Hardy
Genre: classic, historical fiction, romance
Gabriel Oak is only one of three suitors for the hand of the beautiful and spirited Bathsheba Everdene. He must compete with the dashing young soldier Sergeant Troy and the respectable, middle-aged Farmer Boldwood. And while their fates depend upon the choice Bathsheba makes, she discovers the terrible consequences of an inconstant heart.
This is both a romance novel and a story about farming in Wessex of the 19th century. If you’ve read Tess of the D’Urberviles, you are already familiar with many themes this book opens only partially. Tess is the portrayal of the lowest groups in society while Far from the Madding Crowd takes a look at the lives of the wealthy farmers and landowners. That said, be prepared for some dark elements in this story because, hey, it’s Hardy, and he can’t write a book without tragedy befalling one or numerous characters in his novels. No fear, it is very moderate when compared to Tess. The writing style might take some getting used to at first as it is not yet as polished as in Hardy’s later novels.
“I shall do one thing in this life – one thing certain – that is, love you, and long for you, and keep wanting you till I die. – Gabriel Oak”
I love Gabriel Oak – he may very well be one of my favourite characters. He’s kind and patient, an excellent listener, and hard worker; he knows his duties and he excels in performing them without bragging about his skills. Now that is what I call a man. 😀 He’s just an overall good guy and I was almost hoping for him to fall out of love with Bathsheba Everdene and marrying some girl who saw his qualities from the start. He deserves a woman who chose him from the start, not someone almost ruined by her stupid decisions.
“It appears that ordinary men take wives because possession is not possible without marriage, and that ordinary women accept husbands because marriage is not possible without possession”
I do cut our heroine some slack because of her young age and the frustrating lack of strong adult female characters advising her; nonetheless, I was so done with her whirlwind decisions and her vanity. Bathsheba loves to get attention from men, but she doesn’t want them to court her… She loves being independent, and I totally understand her desiring more time being the sole master of her estate, but she really has no impulse control whatsoever. The way she runs into a romance with Troy, a man about whom many tales of ruined girls are told, is just idiocy of the highest kind. I was pissed at her stupidity and his unbecoming behaviour. He is scum and an almost providential punishment for Bathsheba. Yet I hate that it is a woman who has to pay for her husband’s sins – it is so patently unfair.
Then again, before Bathsheba takes the plunge and marries that wastrel of a soldier, she sends a Valentine to poor Mr. Boldwood. He truly doesn’t deserve to get his life turned on its head by a girl high on her vanity and idea of fun. Sending a card with ‘Marry me’ on the seal is just too much when you don’t even like the man. I could hardly believe it. Boldwood falls head over heels for the girl since she so clearly stated her desires, no? She may take some enjoyment in admiring looks thrown her way when he has ignored her before, but when he seriously starts to pursue her she does everything to evade an engagement. *sigh*
“What a way Oak had, she thought, of enduring things. Boldwood, who seemed so much deeper and higher and stronger in feeling than Gabriel, had not yet learnt, any more than she herself, the simple lesson which Oak showed a mastery of by every turn and look he gave—that among the multitude of interests by which he was surrounded, those which affected his personal well-being were not the most absorbing and important in his eyes. Oak meditatively looked upon the horizon of circumstances without any special regard to his own standpoint in the midst. That was how she would wish to be”
It’s a fascinating tale and the more you read on the more you know things will go wrong one or the other way. I love the subtle changes in Bathsheba’s attitude towards Gabriel and how he doesn’t take her shit even though he loves her. He’s no pushover. Now I’m looking forward to the movie adaptation – I must watch it one of these days. 😀