Review: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

2015 promises to be a big year for books into movies, one of which that caught my eye was Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.

The trailer looked beautiful and intriguing, not to mention the description of the book itself.

A love….square I guess….three men one woman….a tale of love and unrequited desire? Plus cute little sheep? I’m in!

I haven’t read anything by Thomas Hardy before so getting used to his prose was difficult. Very descriptive and flowery, and thick at times but after getting used to it, it wasn’t too bad.

Bathsheba Everdene is everything a bad-ass heroine should be….strong willed, bold, and independent. She has come into possession of her own lands and farm where she plans on being her own mistress and running her own estate.

Hailed as a great beauty, her beauty and spirit attract three very different suitors: her shepherd Gabriel Oak, a wealthy neighboring landowner William Boldwood, and a dashing officer Sergeant Troy.

Bathsheba doesn’t intend on marrying anyone that she doesn’t love but when she mistakenly plays a trick on Boldwood. She sends Boldwood a Valentine that says ‘marry me’, which he takes quite literally.

She might indeed have to marry him….he feels that she gave him hope and more or less gave him her word that she would marry him but Bathsheba claims to love another.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Bathsheba must make a decision about her lovers and what transpires from that decision will have long term, tragic consequences.

This was a difficult book for me to get into. As I mentioned earlier, it took me a while to become accustomed to the language and figure out what was going on. Hardy spent a little bit of time talking about farming and the sheep and then general ‘town’ population which was distracting. It could be useful to orientate the reader with what was happening in the countrysides of Victorian England.

The characters were interesting. Tory was obviously charming and dashing and I could see why Bathsheba was attracted to him. If I were her, I would totally have fallen for his tactics. He could easily sweep a girl off her feet.

Oak was more of what I would call a friend. He was honorable and always did the right thing. He was the perfect hero and I did find myself rooting for him in the end. It was so clear that he loved Bathsheba from the beginning and I did want him to end up with the girl.

Boldwood was positively boring. I never enjoyed him nor did I feel like he should ever get the girl. I just felt like he was whiny and just stuffy. He was not the villain, but he was just flat out boring for me and I had a difficult time identifying with his ‘suffering’.

The story has staying power and a classic vibe to me….love. There are many ways to interpret love and this story captures that. I think what I liked best about this novel is it would clearly have challenged some social standards of the day.

A wild, head strong heroine who plays with men’s hearts? How could she not be seen as a brazen woman in the Victorian era? Even by modern standards, Bathsheba’s character embodies what even the modern woman wants…..independence.

When she finally gets it, society often pressures women to marry, and then to be labeled a tease…..poor Bathsheba. I think many women will still find her struggle and story relevant with this classic.

So, why the three star rating then? Like many Victorian novels….they move slowly and can be dense. While I enjoy Victorian novels, I think this one was overly bogged down with details and I didn’t feel the characters passion as strongly as I have in other Victorian novels.

For me, I just felt like their ‘passion’ was implied but never demonstrated. I felt like Hardy told us that the men were in love with Bathsheba but we never actually saw it, at least in my opinion. It was a good read but not overly encapsulating for me.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

  • Kindle Edition, 512 pages
    Published May 17th 2012 (first published 1874)
    ASIN B0084B0DOK
  • Review copy provided by: Personal collection

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 3 out of 5

Genre: Classic, British lit, Victorian era

Memorable lines/quotes: 

I want somebody to tame me; I am too independent and you would never be able to, I know.

You have never been a man looking upon a woman and that woman yourself.

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10 Comments

  1. Yes! I saw this advert and thought, there’s a film I want to see in 2015. I was forced to read Hardy at school but I feel like he’s an author you probably don’t appreciate as much when you’re 14. I think I’m going to read this, if not only because I love that word ‘madding’!

    Reply
  2. Nice read! Wrote a review on Albert Camus’s The Sea Close By. You may want to check it out : )

    Reply
  3. Chris Payton

     /  January 8, 2015

    This has been on my TBR list for a good while. Hardy is indeed very floral in his descriptive distractions, as evident too in his Tess Of The Durbervilles, which was one of the few novels I have ever read that was able to stop me in my tracks to marvel at the prose of beauty and tragedy. It’s a heavy story, but I certainly wouldn’t mind reading a Lit Bitch review of it too many moons from now.
    Best wishes!

    Reply
    • I have had Tess Of The Durbervilles on my TBR list for a while as well. It always intimidated me because of the length and I’ve heard about Hardy’s floral language. However after reading this Hardy novel I am accustom to the style and might give Tess Of The Durbervilles a shot in the future :). One of my reading goals this year is to read more classics so that might be a good place to start next!

      Reply
  4. I just picked this one up yesterday. I’m quite looking forward to it.

    Reply
  5. Matthew (Bibliofreak.net)

     /  June 24, 2015

    This is a tough Hardy to start with, I think – full of digressions and descriptions (although neither is uncommon with Hardy). I would definitely say try Tess of the D’Urbervilles if you get the chance. It’s a lot stronger than Far From the Madding Crowd and you get a great female lead.

    My review: Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

    Reply

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