Far from the Madding Crowd. Thomas Hardy. 1874. 433 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.
Premise/plot: Poor Bathsheba! She can't leave the house without some man falling in love with her. Far From the Madding Crowd is the story of three such men whose lives are forever changed--for better or worse--by knowing and subsequently loving (or "loving") Bathsheba.
Readers first meet Gabriel Oak. He loves her at first sight--even though he isn't quite sure what to make of her. Next, readers meet William Boldwood and Francis Troy. Boldwood loves her madly--emphasis on mad. Bathsheba loves Sergeant Troy madly. In both cases, the love seems something not entirely in anyone's control. It is a love without reason or even against reason. (Though I suppose there are reasons for and against in each case.) In at least two of the three cases to fall into love is to fall into a sort of madness.
My thoughts: I am not a big Thomas Hardy fan in general. But perhaps I just hadn't found the right Hardy to read. I didn't hate Far From the Madding Crowd. And though it has its tragic, melodramatic moments, it is not as DARK and BLEAK as some of his other novels which I have read.
What I liked best about the novel was the dialogue. In particular the dialogue between Gabriel and Bathsheba.
This is their first meeting:
“My name is Gabriel Oak.” “And mine isn’t. You seem fond of yours in speaking it so decisively, Gabriel Oak.” “You see, it is the only one I shall ever have, and I must make the most of it.”
“I always think mine sounds odd and disagreeable.” “I should think you might soon get a new one.” “Mercy!—how many opinions you keep about you concerning other people, Gabriel Oak.”
And soon after he makes his interest known:
Bathsheba went on. “I haven’t a sweetheart at all—and I never had one, and I thought that, as times go with women, it was such a pity to send you away thinking that I had several.”
“Well—that is a tale!” said Oak, with dismay. “To run after anybody like this, and then say you don’t want him!” “What I meant to tell you was only this,” she said eagerly, and yet half conscious of the absurdity of the position she had made for herself—“that nobody has got me yet as a sweetheart, instead of my having a dozen, as my aunt said; I hate to be thought men’s property in that way, though possibly I shall be had some day. Why, if I’d wanted you I shouldn’t have run after you like this; ‘twould have been the forwardest thing! But there was no harm in hurrying to correct a piece of false news that had been told you.” “Well, what I mean is that I shouldn’t mind being a bride at a wedding, if I could be one without having a husband. But since a woman can’t show off in that way by herself, I shan’t marry—at least yet.”
But there is also something about the narrative itself that works for me.
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 been known to fail.
But a resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible.
© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews