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Far From The Madding Crowd (2003)

Far from the Madding Crowd (2003)
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Rating
3.88 of 5 Votes: 5
ISBN
0141439653 (ISBN13: 9780141439655)
languge
English
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publisher
penguin classics
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Far From The Madding Crowd (2003)
Far From The Madding Crowd (2003)

About book: Far From the Madding Crowd is without a doubt the strangest romance novel I have ever read.Before starting the review proper, I do have a slight confession to make. When I saw this novel in the bookshop a month ago, the only reason I recognised the title was because Harry Kennedy – played by my favourite actor, Richard Armitage – quoted a line from the story in The Vicar of Dibley:Harry Kennedy: "As Gabriel Oak said to Bathsheba in Far From the Madding Crowd; ‘Whenever I look up, there shall be you, and whenever you look up, there shall I be.' "Though Far From the Madding Crowd did look like the type of book I would enjoy, I cannot deny that my primary reason for buying the novel was because a character played by Richard Armitage quoted a line from it. Yes, I am that bad. Now I've got that out of the way, when you’ve all stopped laughing at me, I can continue with my review.… No, seriously, you can stop laughing now.So then, why does Far From the Madding Crowd classify as the strangest romance novel I have ever read? For a great many reasons; first of all, one might expect that the above quote would come near the end of the novel, at such a time when the two lovers are confessing their love for one another, no? Wrong. So wrong. In actual fact, much to my surprise, this quote (which is also somewhat switched around) appeared when the story had gone on for a grand total of forty pages, during an impassioned proposal from Gabriel Oak to Bathsheba Everdeen, which is promptly refused; so much for my intention to enjoy reading a beautiful and familiar quote in a romantic setting. Hmph.The author is the second reason this was such a strange story. One would expect that the author of a classic romantic novel would have some sort of understanding of love – and Thomas Hardy certainly has that. What baffled and perplexed me was to read a novel during which the author at times seems to have uncannily accurate and perceptive observations on the subject of love, with lines that make your heart want to soar, but at other times he seems to have very little opinion of love at all. Certain comments which are almost scathing in nature are enough to knock you right back, perhaps not agreeing with such a statement, but it nags at you nonetheless because of the kernel of truth at its centre. Here is one such quote:"The rarest offerings of the purest loves are but a self- indulgence, and no generosity at all." It took me at least half an hour of uneasy and careful contemplation of this line in order to understand my own thoughts on the matter. Indeed, it was quite impossible for me to pick up the novel again until I understood why such a statement bothered me so. My heart immediately cried out against the injustice of the statement, yet at the same time the ring of truth made it imperative that I justify my disagreement to myself. In the end I was glad to have been able to make such a justification. I decided that every action that we ever undertake does indeed have an element of self-indulgence or selfishness; after all, it is we ourselves who choose the actions we take. But this need not diminish the value in any act of love or kindness, and I could never consider it a weakness to wish those we love to be happy.There are two more reasons why Far From the Madding Crowd was such a unique romance, and these reasons go hand in hand; the characters and the subsequent plot. Our heroine Bathsheba Everdene – who is an interesting character in herself – spends most of the novel being courted not by Gabriel Oak, our hero, but by two other men; Sergeant Troy and Mr Boldwood. I will return to those two in a moment, but first I must describe Gabriel Oak – don’t you just love that name? Gabriel is a reasonably young farmer, with unremarkable looks, a wonderful and very adorable way with animals (well, except when he shoots his dog…) and steadfast principles. He is extremely kind, intelligent in his own simplistic way, admirably humble and shatteringly honest. Steady, quiet and dependable, Gabriel remains almost in the background for a decent portion of the novel, but the strength of his presence means that he is never forgotten. One would think it would be hard to respect or like a man who can fall in love within the space of about twenty pages and offer marriage to Miss Everdene when she barely knows him, but Thomas Hardy does a wonderful job of making it believable. Gabriel Oak feels a special connection to Bathsheba, despite being well aware of her faults, and would be content only to be liked in return for the privilege of having a bride he loves.Miss Bathsheba Everdene, however, is quite a different story. Gabriel endures some ill fortune which eventually brings him to be employed by Bathsheba, who recently inherited a large farm from a deceased relative. Observing Miss Everdene moving amongst the community of male farmers with grace, confidence and skill does indeed inspire admiration. Bathsheba is clever, beautiful, hard-working and determined, so one can quite understand Gabriel’s attraction to her. But she is dangerously capricious, and unbelievably conceited. Indeed, her despicable vanity made it difficult for me to like her, at times. There is even a point where she feels piqued and disappointed that Gabriel Oak is no longer showing any love or admiration for her; even though that would mean she would have to continue breaking his heart. I found it hateful that Bathsheba desired the admiration of others so much she did not care nearly enough for what that admiration might cost them.As one might expect, her caprice and vanity quickly lead her into a very tangled situation. On the spur of the moment she decides to send a love note to a neighbouring Farmer, Farmer Boldwood, asking him to marry her. The note is meant to tease, to amuse Bathsheba, as she wishes to see what reaction she will get from the man who is the biggest catch in the district, yet is reputed to have a heart of marble. What the lady did not anticipate was that the note would cause Mr Boldwood to fall utterly and irrevocably in love with her. When Boldwood originally entered the story, he seemed to me to resemble the character of Mr. John Thornton from North and South. Mr. Boldwood is a wealthy gentleman overseeing a farm of considerable size, and seems rather cold and distant. Like Mr. Thornton, his life has been too much involved with work to notice women for a considerable time, though the fact that he was jilted as a young man also contributes to his cold and un-romantic heart. However, as the novel progressed his resemblance to Mr. Thornton becomes less and less pronounced, as he falls in love with the lovely Miss Everdene based on a Valentine’s note that was intended as a silly prank. Furthermore he is determined and insistent to the point of foolishness, and eventually I felt ashamed of myself for ever having compared the man to Mr. Thornton.Though Boldwood had his good qualities, Mr. Thornton would never be so foolish as to fall in love for such a silly reason. Thornton possesses a depth of love that is incomparable to Boldwood’s feelings, and he knows how to express his feelings with much more beauty and sincerity than Boldwood could ever achieve. Thornton’s proposal was a thousand times more romantic, and he knows how to back down with far more grace and honour, knows how to love from a distance when there seems to be no hope. Boldwood’s love, on the other hand, was dangerous, self-centred and all consuming; he pursues Bathsheba relentlessly, until by the end of the novel Bathsheba accepts his proposal. (I’m going to call it his twenty-seventh, but I unfortunately didn’t count) I might also add that Bathsheba is literally weeping when she accepts his proposal – out of a sense of obligation, seeing as she started it all with that stupid note – and she adds the caveat that she will only marry him after seven years has passed, assuming her missing-and-presumed-dead-from-drowning husband has not returned during that time. And in case you were wondering, Boldwood was actually happy with the acceptance of a woman who began to cry upon realising she was beaten down enough by obligation to accept his proposal. I would have done better to compare John Thornton’s love to that of Gabriel Oak; Gabriel is prepared to hide his heart and step aside, compromising his own happiness in the hope that Bathsheba may be happy, and furthermore entering her confidence as an honest and valued friend. "Thoroughly convinced of the impossibility of his own suit, a high resolve constrained him not to injure that of another. This is a lover's most stoical virtue, as the lack of it is a lover's most venial sin."But if you can believe it, Miss Everdene’s first choice of husband was far, far worse than Boldwood. I do not wish to spoil the plot, so I will not speak overly of Sergeant Francis Troy, but to say that he is everything I find despicable in a man. His surface charms, good looks and brilliant compliments appealed to Bathsheba’s vanity. I have previously mentioned that her vanity was her worst fault, and here she pays for that fault dearly. The attraction between them is little more than lust, but unfortunately Bathsheba does not realise this until after she marries him, and discovers what a truly terrible man he is. Again without spoiling the plot, I shall simply say that some of the things Troy does literally made me want to throw the book at a wall, they made me so angry. How could Bathsheba be so intelligent, yet have such terrible taste as to turn down Gabriel Oak and accept the monster that was Sergeant Troy?I cannot say any more without giving away too much of the plot, but rest assured; though Far From the Madding Crowd can sometimes be a little depressing, it ends well and so beautifully that I had tears in my eyes.Aside from his very well drawn plot and characters, Thomas Hardy has a certain way of writing that simply astounded me. The way he constructs his sentences, the words he chooses, his description and insight… all these things combine to make an unbelievably beautiful novel. The story is full of very quotable quotes, and contains observations of nature that simply take ones breath away:”To persons standing alone on a hill during a clear midnight such as this, the roll of the world eastward is almost a palpable movement. The sensation may be caused by the panoramic glide of the stars past earthly objects, which is perceptible in a few minutes of stillness, or by the better outlook upon space that a hill affords, or by the wind, or by the solitude; but whatever be it’s origin the impression of riding along is vivid and abiding. The poetry of motion is a phrase much in use, and to enjoy the epic form of that gratification it is necessary to stand on a hill at a small hour of the night, and, having first expanded with a sense of difference from the mass of civilized mankind, who are dream-wrapt and disregardful of all such proceedings at this time, long and quietly watch your stately progress through the stars. After such a nocturnal reconnoitre it is hard to get back to earth, and to believe that the consciousness of such majestic speeding is derived from a tiny human frame.”… I’m speechless. And that is but one of many, many examples of such beautiful and insightful writing. Even if a classic romance set in the rural countryside would not appeal to you, it is worth reading Far From the Madding Crowd just to experience this extraordinary writing. I rarely ever go back to read a line again – only if it is extremely funny or seems to require contemplation – but a spellbound sense of wonder often sent me back over Hardy’s words, in order to truly appreciate these brilliant descriptions.Overall then, despite my original reason for picking up the book (thanks Richard Armitage, I’m sure they’ll be laughing at me for a week now, but seeing as I enjoyed the book so much I forgive you) I discovered much, much more than I ever expected to find. I discovered interesting and well-drawn characters, beautiful writing that required much thought, and the story of a romance that was undoubtedly strange, but a story that needed to be told all the same.

This was just so good."Sheep are such unfortunate animals! - there's always something happening to them! I never knew a flock pass a year without getting into some scrape or other." Sheep!Sheeeeeep!!More sheep!!!I love sheep :) They are so cute! But sheep are actually not the reason why I love this book so much. That would be silly. But I do love the fact that Gabriel Oak was a shepherd, and not say, a pig farmer. Anyways! Even though this story takes place in rural Wessex and is filled with sheep and fields and moonlit nights and beautiful descriptions, there is a lot more to it than just animals and landscapes. Far From the Madding Crowd is the poignant, moving and brilliant story of Bathsheba Everdene and her three suitors. "Love is a possible strength in an actual weakness."Bathsheba Everdene; strong, wilful, independent and, above all, beautiful, Bathsheba is a woman ahead of her time. She doesn't shy away from work, she is courageous, intrepid and cannot be tamed. I read a lot of romances in which the heroines do nothing more than sip afternoon tea while entertaining callers, and attend balls and soirees and drink the waters in Bath. But here, we have a heroine who can do it, who is a farmer and takes on a lot of duties. She starts out as her own bailiff, superintends and manages everything, and boldly enters the world of market, a world of men. Bathsheba is unique and attractive, and she turned every man's head. "She was of the stuff of which great men's mothers are made. She was indispensable to high generation, hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises."Enter Suitor #1!Gabriel Oak. What a man. I'm completely head over heels in love with him! "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 is the kind of man you feel completely safe and secure around. He's the type who cherishes and protects those he loves (sheep or otherwise :P)and he's always there to save the day (I lost count of how many times he did it during the course of the novel), counsel, or simply to lend a should to cry on. He is so reliable, honest and trustful that one can tell him anything, and confide any secret to him; he's sure to keep it and give you good advice. Oak has moreover incredible self-control. He's not a man you need to fear. If you tell him you don't want to marry him, he sucks it up and humbly accepts it even though he may be hopelessly in love with you, and will never bother you with advances and declarations again, unless you hint that you are ready to welcome them. Gabriel is also the kind of employee that every employer wants. He is serious, hard-working, always alert, and extremely helpful. He's constantly going the extra length to make sure that everything is running smoothly on the farm, and that all is well and working. He falls in love with Bathsheba early on, so early in fact that it is difficult to figure out what he sees in her to make him love her so. Being poor, he has nothing to offer her save his love and all his wonderful qualities, but unfortunately that is not enough for Miss-Stubborn-Bathsheba-Everdene. So, enter Suitor #2!William Boldwood. Possesses most of the qualities listed above, plus money and property! Should be good enough for you this time, Bathsheba, eh? "'My life is a burden without you', he exclaimed, in a low voice. 'I want you - I want you to let me say I love you again and again!'"Mr. Boldwood starts out as the epitome of thriving bachelorhood. He presents the picture of a hard-working, serious and brooding man who is quite happy living and working alone, and who hasn't wasted a thought on women and marriage in years. No woman, no troubles, no drama. Everything is going really well for him, and he did sound like a very good man; poised, composed, upright principles, good ways of living, etc...In short, he's quite a catch, and any woman who married him would be assured protection, security, and a good position...and undying passion?With Boldwood, it's all or nothing. Either he doesn't give any woman a thought, or he will give one woman all his thoughts. And the lucky girl is...Bathsheba Everdene! Wee! Brace yourselves, because Boldwood is as stubborn as Bathsheba and about to make a complete cake of himself by not being able to take no for an answer. He probably proposes over fifty times during the course of the novel. Not a good sign."It was a fatal omission of Boldwood's that he had never once told her she was beautiful."Cue Suitor #3!Sergeant Francis Troy. No good qualities (okay, maybe a few), no money, no position, no house, BUT...GOOD LOOKS AND SENSUALITY! HELL YES!!!"'I've seen a good many women in my time, [..] but I've never seen a woman so beautiful as you.'"Sergeant Troy is the handsome, seductive rake who has no morals and no apparent life purpose. The past and the future mean nothing to him. He is careless, impulsive, rash and a complete asshole. But he is charming and tantalizing to a fault, and knows only too well how to infiltrate himself into women's lives. When the lovely Bathsheba catches his eye, he becomes caught in the moment and would give anything to win her...but does he love her? And, more importantly, does she love him? Alas, her vanity has at last been flattered! "When a strong woman recklessly throws away her strength she is worse than a weak woman who has never had any strength to throw away."Who doesn't love a good Victorian love-triangle?! ;) Caught in the web of their own self-inflicted actions and the resulting consequences, these characters will have to go through a series of trials and events, happy and sad, trying and uplifting, before we come to a satisfactory conclusion. The story is written in an incredibly beautiful, flowing and passionate way, full of quotable parts (as we can observe since I can't seem to stop quoting!) and extraordinary descriptions. I enjoyed every single minute I spent reading this novel. And I also learned a lot of things, too. Lessons to Remember From Far From the Madding Crowd:*When you live in a hut and make a fire, always keep one window open unless you want to suffocate to death.*Sheep, although very cute, are pretty dumb animals.*Cover your ricks when it rains!!!!*Sending a random Valentine to your elder bachelor neighbour is not exactly a good idea. *Especially if said Valentine says "Marry Me" on the seal (why the heck did she have a seal that said 'marry me' in the first place anyways?), and you have absolutely no intention of ever marrying that man for real. *Sheep can die from eating clover (and only a certain capable, skillful, heart-melting shepherd can save them).*Watch out when planting flowers around graves...*Don't keep anything in your hands or close by when you go to a fair and are sitting next to the canvas (stealers, ya know!).*Don't freaking trust bailiffs! Those guys are overrated. Be your own bailiff! Unless you can have Gabriel Oak. Always choose Gabriel if you can!*DON'T LEAD MEN ON WHEN YOU HAVE NO INTENTION OF GETTING INTIMATE WITH THEM!!!*Don't make promises/proposals or any other kind of rash demands on Christmas Eve/Christmas day, so as to not ruin your enjoyment of the holiday if it goes awry. *Don't buy things for your future significant other in preparation for your hypothetical wedding (effin' weird, seriously!).*Don't creep up during the night to ride your own horse if you weren't expected at home (stealers , ya know, again!).*When you feel overwhelmed and completely distressed, spend the night in a marsh! The dense, stifling air will help clear your head.*Don't keep your husband's ex-girlfriend's coffin inside your house. May cause serious breakdowns. *And, last but not least, ALWAYS ASK ABOUT THEIR EXES!!!Honestly though, on a scale of 1 to Mr. Boldwood, I have definitely reached his level of obsession with this book, and have spent the whole day repeatedly stating that I finished it, and it was so good, and I can't wait to see the movie, and ahhh!!!!!I loved this. Every bit is delicious, from Gabriel's tender devotion to Boldwood's mad obsession and Troy's promising passion, along with Bathsheba's evolutions and strengths and weaknesses. Hardy was certainly one love expert. Wow.And Wessex! I want to go there!So beautiful :)"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."*Sigh* That too, is beautiful. And it perfectly sums up the whole book (minus Troy's shenanigans). And it is why I love Gabriel so much. Buddy read with Becca!! :D
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Reviews
Laura
This is my favorite Hardy novel, and the one with which he gained national acclaim. Although the characters suffer from the usual cruel twists of fate, our hero, the wonderfully name Gabriel Oak, is hardworking, careful, and responsible. Perhaps that’s why I like it so much — we see the effects of folly and carelessness, but everyone isn’t completely flattened by bad luck falling out of the clear blue. The lives and loves and losses of the characters are interwoven with a striking portrait of rural Dorsetshire, which Hardy saw threatened by encroaching industrialization. A beautiful examination of universal human experiences set in a vanished world.
Moonlight Reader
Hi! I'm Bathsheba Everdene! And I'm Poor Decision-Making Bathsheba Everdene. I sent a random Valentine to a guy on a neighboring farm asking him to marry me, even though I don't even like him! This turned him into an annoying semi-stalker who spent the next several years begging me to marry him for reals!And then, in a further display of my terrible judgment, I married a philandering asshole who only wanted my money and my luminescent beauty! The girl he really loved starved to death with his unwanted child, so he spent a bunch of my money to buy her a really great headstone, and then ran away to join the circus!And then, when he came back from the circus for no reason whatsoever, the semi-stalker shot him. AT CHRISTMAS! In front of the whole county.Don't be like this me! Marry Gabriel Oak on page 25, like you should have, you silly cow.
Fani
When my husband saw me with the dictionary in one hand and the book in the other, asked me why I was struggling with that book, if it was so difficult to read. "Because, it's so good, it's worth it!" was my answer.I read it decades ago and I admit I didn't like it; I found it gloomy and depressing. But this time, I thoroughly enjoyed it: I loved Hardy's subtle humor and oh, so acute observations on human nature, the landscape descriptions, the twists of the tale and of course Gabriel Oak.The scene where Oak asks for employment from the woman that he had asked to marry not a few weeks ago, when they were equals, was heartbreaking. So few words, no more than 4 or five lines stripped of sentimental frills, but you can feel Oak's feelings, loss of pride and despair as if you were him.But there were so many great scenes: Troy planting flowers in Fanny's grave at night, Boldwood's proof of obsession with Bathsheba coming to light, Gabriel and Bathsheba working together in the granary to save the corn from the rain while angry flashes rake the sky and many more. Through detailed descriptions of rural life in England during the late 1800s, the plot never loses its pace and there are enough twists and turns to keep the reader engrossed. The piquant remarks on human nature from Hardy, spice up the story and offer a touch of humor that saves it from being downright gloomy. Even when the greatest catastrophe occurs, Hardy's commendation on it, will usually have you ending the chapter with a slight smile on your face. I'm glad I gave this book another chance. Thanks BJ Rose for reminding me of it:)Quotes from this book:"It may have been observed that there is no regular path for getting out of love as there is for getting in. Some people look upon marriage as a short cut that way, but it has known to fail.""Mr Fray here drew up his features to the mild degree of melancholy required when the persons involved in the given misfortune do not belong to your own family.""Silence has sometimes a remarkable power of showing itself as the disembodied soul of feeling wandering without its carcase, and it is then more impressive than speech. In the same way, to say a little is often to tell more than to say a great deal."
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