Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What I Read in July 2015 Part VII

What I Read in July 2015 Part VII ...

Far From the Madding Crowd by  Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy's classic story of love and tragedy set against the backdrop of the Wessex countryside. Gabriel Oak is a humble shepherd turned humble farmer when he meets Bathsheba Everdene. Bathsheba is the beautiful, headstrong niece of a neighbor and Gabriel falls head over heels in love. Circumstances part them and when they next meet, their fortunes have changed and she now owns and runs her late uncle's farm. She is determined to run the farm without a bailiff but agrees to allow Oak to be her shepherd. Mr. Boldwood is a gentleman farmer whose farm borders Bathsheba's. He isn't a ladies' man and his head isn't turned by the beautiful Bathsheba. At least not at first. Fanny Robin has run away from service in Bathsheba's house to join her lover Frank Troy, a soldier. Everyone is worried about Fanny and her future but her faith in Troy leaves no room for doubt. All their lives intersect by fate and by the end of the novel, none of the characters will be the same as they were in the beginning. 

I found this book slow to get into at first. I got more into it after Fanny Robin ran away. I felt that the plot was very cliched but elements of it were unique and the characters really bring the story to life. The novel is also filled with beautiful descriptions of the country and the weather. You will learn a lot about farming, and sheep. I loved the sheep but warning! sheep deaths occur! The descriptive writing really shines and makes this story stand out. 

Bathsheba, our heroine, is annoying, infuriating and exasperating. She is vain, selfish and oftentimes cruel. She's headstrong, stubborn and sometimes rude. She is not very likeable. She acts like a typical teenager, actually. She's of legal age, so presumably she's over 18 but she doesn't have a guardian to keep her in check and she dismisses the only voice of reason in her life. Her only companion is a silly, superstitious young woman who doesn't help in the slightest. She's Bathsheba's "yes" woman. There's only one person who is willing to tell Bathsheba she's wrong and it's not Liddy. This is really the great tragedy of the novel, that Bathsheba doesn't really have any friends who are not her employees. She doesn't have another woman of her class to talk things over with.  She desperately needs one. 

The three men who vie for Bathsheba's hand in marriage could not be more different. One is an angel but an angel with a head planted firmly in reality.  One is a classic bad boy (really, Bathsheba, haven't you read any of Miss Austen's novels?!) and one is the most unique of the three. His story is very different from what I expected because he seems like the perfect suitor. The love triangle is very melodramatic and all the characters will be changed by it. Yet, the one who changes least is our heroine!

Besides the sheep, my favorite characters were the farm workers and the old Maltster. They infuse the plot with subtle humor showing Hardy's witty side. They're typical inhabitants of an English village novel but they're colorful and some are so unique they made me laugh in spots. 

This is a complex novel and difficult to review without spoiling the plot. 

Movie review coming as soon as I can watch it. 

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