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7 Jun 2011

Far From the Madding Crowd

A love triangle!!!
+ 1...so, er, a love square really.

The rarest offerings of the purest loves are but a self-indulgence, and no generosity at all.

I've had this novel in my possession for at least 10 years. I was convinced that I'd read it - even ticking it off my 1001 list. As my not-yet-read pile is almost nought..... I took another look at the summary, because I'm always happy to re-read a good classic. And, well, nothing sounded even remotely familiar.

My other confession is that in my head I often say Far from the Maddening Crowd. I'm an Introvert, I guess it makes sense....

The very first page of Far From the Madding Crowd made me groan a little. It was ponderous. It took me a couple of chapters to sink into Hardy's style. Once I did he reeled me in. If I thought of glazing over he proved me wrong, over and over again. I mean, I read about sheep and got emotional for Pete's sakes!

So there's this chick, who is loved by a farmer, whom she rejects. She turns out to be quite the modern woman - strong, independent, business-running - rejects the decent and wealthy (albeit creepily obsessive) neighbour, and falls for the good-looking rogue. Farmer is stoic and remains loyal, wealthy neighbour is heartbroken and a stalker, and the rogue marries her whilst his heart is elsewhere. Couple of corpses, much angst and crop harvesting later..... and just how does it end for our heroine?

I can't tell you how many times I've heard bloggers' anger over a heroine that makes stupid choices. I never understand why because I believe that it's perfectly aligned with what happens all the time - smart, strong woman makes stupid romantic choice. I'll openly put myself in that group.

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.

It's what made me, not like her as such, but deeply sympathise with her. And you know, this isn't Sex and the City, this is early 1900's. She's put in a position of authority, alone, deals with grain and sheep all day.... how good it must have been to be made to feel like a woman. The fact that he's a bit of a dish and exciting, well, I get it.

I've got to hand it to Hardy, although he revels in detail and really wants us to understand that Nature and agriculture are things of Beauty and necessary for the soul, I never felt it was dull or preachy. Every time he goes off on a description or a subject seemingly unrelated to the main plot, you quickly discover that he told you all that for a good reason. This work fell short for me because I didn't care for any character enough, it was really plot-driven for me. It won't sit at the top of my favourite classics pile but I'm more than happy to read Hardy again.

"Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
Along the cool sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way."
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
Thomas Gray

My book review only feed.


  1. hm, that sounds intriguing definitely, i've never heard of this book! sometimes it takes me awhile to get in to books but then once i do i'm there for good and end up really liking it.

  2. Great review. I will now put it on my 1001 list of books!!! Used to read so much now it takes me two weeks to finish a book (or longer...)

  3. i'm not one for 'olde classics' preferring modern authors but think i'll give this one a go.

  4. oh Clare, if you're not one for classics then I wouldn't recommend this is the one you go for. I would try Austen, Eliot....

  5. I'm so glad you do book reviews too. You've reminded me that I should read some Hardy.

  6. I'm eager to read it now...I love books. Thank you for sharing your review! I'll add it to my summer to-read list :)

  7. thanks for stopping by & enjoyin the random (and not the broccoli!)!!

    enjoyed this book review (although, i'll be honest, i probably won't ever put it on a reading list, i'm a terrrrrible reader! i fall asleep almost immediately! and have to re-read over and over again! i prefer the audiobook ;D).

    also, i reaaaally like the photo from your last post. is that yours?! my oh my, it's beautiful. so is the wood that is the subject! i'd really like to decorate my home with that!

  8. hi and welcome. yes, my photo, thanks. :)

  9. I enjoyed this some years ago as a teenager. I went through a big Hardy phase actually ; )

    When I first read this, I had a crush on Gabriel Oak, and thought Bathsheba was insane and causing herself a load of headaches by choosing the other bloke. But of course, with maturity, I can completely sympathise with her. And yes, he did offer excitement and romance, even if he was a bad choice.
    It's pretty remarkable coming from the pen of a man who lived more than 100 years ago.

    Oh and I have to agree with your point about it being plot-driven. I felt similarly and as a result didn't care as much for the characters as I might have otherwise.

  10. Wonderful review, Monica! I haven't read 'Far from the Madding Crowd', but my sister did when she read it for her literature course in university. I remember trying to read the first page of the book then and I still remember the first line of the book 'When Farmer Oak smiled...' :) I loved your comment - "I mean, I read about sheep and got emotional for Pete's sakes!" :) I think Hardy was one of those great unconventional novelists who always had a strong heroine in his novels, which was very unusual for male novelists of his time. I have seen the movie version of one of Hardy's novels called 'The Woodlanders' and it has a theme which is similar in some ways to this book - strong educated woman is courted by a farm worker who is her childhood friend, the woman falls for a handsome doctor whose heart is elsewhere.

    Thanks for this wonderful review!

    Did I say I love your book reviews and they are wonderful? :)