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Far from the Madding Crowd (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 29, 2003
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From Library Journal
Random's Modern Library is reproducing this Hardy standard as a tie-in to a Masterpiece Theater presentation and offering a quality hardcover for a reasonable price.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“Far from the Madding Crowd is the first of Thomas Hardy’s great novels, and the first to sound the tragic note
for which his fiction is best remembered.”
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Inhabiting this landscape are characters who are both particular and universal. Bathsheba Everdene is the main character here and her ambiguities and contradictions are brilliantly brought to life, from her staunch impulse towards independence, allowed to express itself when she becomes the proprietor of the farm she inherits from her uncle, to her more meek and conventional needs which she expresses through her comment that she wants “somebody to tame me” and her deference to a number of men, from the practical Farmer Oak, her employee, to the romantic Sergeant Troy, an impulsive suitor. Both her independent streak and her conventional are on display in her relations with Mr. Boldwood, a neighboring farmer whom she carelessly flirts with, rejects, then accepts. Bathsheba’s actions and motives are not neatly organized for she is a truly complicated human actor.
Other pleasing aspects of this novel are the witty repartee (there is some excellent dialogue, though you have to make an effort at times to understand the style which is archaic and dense) and the plot, which is quite exciting. But ultimately what makes this novel so great is the way in which Hardy mines his neighbourhood with its distinct rural way of life, unique and varied folk, its farmers and farmhands, and derives from it the raw material for brilliant psychological insight and universal truths. It’s a beautiful, pastoral story with memorable characters who, though humble, are made great and worthy of interest through Hardy’s probing, literary depiction of their universal characteristics which display the full range of their humanity.
Bathsheeba Everdeen is a beautiful young woman with an independent spirit. She attracts the love of three men during the course of the story. She marries the least worthy of the three, and through her trials you get to see the real person underneath all of her pride. I didn't like her at the beginning, but by the end, I thought her a rather noble creature. I chuckled a little at Hardy's attempt at a happy ending. He just couldn't resist adding one more little sad note.
I love this quote, which gives us an insight into Bathsheeba's character at the beginning of the novel:
"There was no necessity whatever for her looking the glass. She did not adjust her hat, or pat her hair, or press a dimple into shape, or do one thing to signify that any such intention had been her motive in taking up the glass. She simply observed herself as a fair product of Nature in the feminine kind, her thoughts seeming to glide into far-off though likely dramas in which men would play a part - vistas of probable triumphs- the smiles being of a phase suggesting hearts were imagined as lost and won."
This was also a great description of a love-sick man:
"His dog waited for his meals in a way so like that in which Oak waited for the girl's presence, that the farmer was quite struck with the resemblance, felt it lowering, and would not look at the dog."