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Far from the Madding Crowd (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 1961
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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 Paperback 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.”
-Margaret Drabble --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
One of the first things people often cite about Hardy's work is the beautiful pastoral setting of his fictional county of Wessex. Hardy does have a predilection for rural settings populated by farming communities. It is a well-worn cliché, nevertheless true, that the people in these settings are more connected to the land and the seasons than most urban dwellers. Their lives depend on a knowledge of its needs and the fluctuations of the weather. A spreading wildfire and a severe thunderstorm both play a role at key points in the story.
Bathsheba Everdene is as beautiful, vain and proud as one might expect a character possessing that name. Her one constant is Gabriel Oak, a shepherd that oversees her flocks and stays in her employment even after he has proposed marriage and been refused. William Boldwood is a middle-aged prosperous farmer in the area. A thoughtless prank of Bathsheba's, sending him a valentine asking him to marry her, inflames his passion and he becomes as monomaniacal as Ahab in a relentless campaign to make her his wife. She doesn't love Boldwood at all and is not in the least interested but she gives weak lip service to consent to considering a marriage to him. Meanwhile, she meets Sergeant Frank Troy, who has returned to his home village. Troy is a handsome, flirtatious charmer who woos her with somewhat more finesse than Boldwood until she is infatuated with him against her better judgment. Common sense flies out the window and she marries him secretly.
The primary difference between Boldwood and Troy on one hand, and Gabriel Oak on the other, is that she is merely a possession in both of their minds. Boldwood wants to crush her independence, put her on a pedestal and worship her as a prized possession, pampered and without any independent will. Troy woos her as a lark. He claims that he really loves a farm worker named Fanny, even though he has abandoned her and left her pregnant and fending for herself. He grows tired of married life with Bathsheba and merely wants to live off of her and drain her financial reserves to feed his gambling appetite.
Oak, on the other hand, is the only one who cares about Bathsheba but also cares about what she cares about—her farm. While Troy is drinking at his wedding party and forcing the farm hands to join his revels, Oak is frantically trying to protect the harvested crop from an approaching thunderstorm. For Gabriel, love is not expressed through words but by action. His focus and discipline result in advancement to the point where Boldwood wants him to oversee both Bathsheba's and his farms. Gabriel's common sense reliability enables him to prevail while Boldwood and Troy speed toward disaster.
Hardy is not the only 19th century novelist to depict women making bad decisions and learning from them. George Eliot and Henry James are both masters at depicting women making unwise choices and living with the consequences. Where 'Far from the Madding Crowd' falls short slightly is in the depth of characterization of Bathsheba. Granted, she's beautiful and headstrong but we've seen similar characters elsewhere whose depths and motives are explored much more thoroughly. She is ultimately not as interesting as Isabel Archer or Dorothea Brooke and I cared far more about the fate of Gabriel Oak than I did about hers. She is not necessarily shallow but she comes to realize the magnitude of her personal dilemma at a point when there is no graceful exit strategy possible. To her credit she does face up to living with the consequences of her actions and fulfilling her moral obligation.
I do not intend for these quibbles to discourage anyone from reading this very engaging early novel. After a few slow starts, Hardy builds up the momentum of his narrative. Only the fact that I remembered enough of the 1967 film version that I saw quite few years ago tipped me off about certain plot developments. Looking backwards from the conclusion of the novel one can see that, while there may have been certain contrivances of plot, the paths individual characters took were natural and inevitable.
Hardy's depiction of this remote farming life feels utterly authentic. These characters cannot be separated from the landscape they occupy. Hardy's knowledge of this life and his affection for the inhabitants of this world are undeniable. The abandoned young pregnant mother and the man whose talents are not recognized beyond what his class requires are character types he would explore more thoroughly and tragically in his later masterpieces. As an early work promising more fulfilling work to come, 'Far from the Madding Crowd' is certainly worthy and as good a place to start with Hardy as any for those who want to get a lay of the land and soak up the local color first before learning all the deep dark secrets of its residents.
Beautiful Bathsheba inherits a farm in Weatherbury and appears to be a strong, modern woman. She attracts three handsome suitors, and unfortunately, like many of today's women, she marries the "bad boy" Frank Troy and spurns the safe, wealthy William Boldwood and the loyal Gabriel Oak. But her world is upturned by Troy's drinking and gambling, and the discovery of his illegitimate child.
Hardy's landscapes are as rich as Romantic paintings, full of poetry and beauty. His knowledge of farming and country life is astonishing. Hardy is said to have preferred to write poetry, but wrote novels to pay the bills. This novel can be read at many levels and enjoyed by male and female readers.
1) Thomas Hardy: The Complete Novels (Centaur Classics) ASIN: B01EQPBOX6
2) Thomas Hardy: Five Novels - Far From The Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure ASIN: B010O1XV6E
3) The Complete Novels of Thomas Hardy ASIN: B016JPWOBM
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Most recent customer reviews
After a long time, I read an old time classic. The lasting impression this book left on me was the awesome floweriness of language used...Read more