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Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Far from the Madding Crowd (edition 1874)

by Thomas Hardy

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6,837107538 (3.96)409
Thomas Hardy makes his characters work for their rewards, as is apparent from my reading of his books. Far from the Madding Crowd is no exception.

In Far from the Madding Crowd, we meet Gabriel Oak, a successful farmer, a knowledgeable shepherd, and an unrequited lover of his next door neighbor. Tragedy strikes his herd, and he finds himself destitute, until he gains employment under the owner of some large farm with sheep. This owner, turns out, is the woman he once loved.

In this state, he watches the farmer next door and a handsome soldier vie for her attention, and nothing really goes well for anybody. Typical Hardy. In the end, some people get what they wanted, but perhaps not what they still want.

While Hardy’s writing can, at times, be dismally depressing, his characters seem real, and there’s plenty of humor in the stories to give them an overall bittersweet flavor to a discerning reader. For that reason, as well as for the fact that his writing can stand the test of time, and be completely readable nowadays as it probably was when it was originally written, I recommend this to readers of classic literature, as well as fine literature.

While it has no sparkly vampires, no wizarding teens, and no extraterrestrial visitors, it has real, honest people, and that gets the job done. ( )
  aethercowboy | Jun 8, 2012 |
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If I had known I'd enjoy this novel so much, I'd have read it sooner! It's a wonderful story of life in agricultural England, seemingly untouched by the Industrial Revolution. Bathsheba is young, alone, and very confident of her abilities. When she inherits her uncle's farm, her social position abruptly changes for the better. Over the next few months, three different men, each with unique combinations of virtues, enter into her life. Despite her earlier convictions to make it on her own, she chooses one to marry, with consequences for her little community.
Hardy has developed a set of characters that, while maybe not entirely believable, are attractive and interesting. The novel moves right along, never bogging down. His descriptions of the farming community are charming and invite the reader into a world that was fast disappearing. His reflections on the social mores and their influence on people's choices are fun to read as well as thought-provoking. ( )
  TerriBooks | Nov 7, 2015 |
A story of independent Bathsheba and the three very different men who loved her set in Thomas Hardy's Wessex. Tragic and passionate. ( )
1 vote trile1000 | Oct 23, 2015 |
Bathsheba Everdene is beautiful and willful and when she inherits her uncle's farm in Westbury she makes the controversial decision to run it herself without the aid of a bailiff. In the midst of her independence, however, Bathsheba finds herself the object of desire of three very different men. As Bathsheba contemplates the concept of marriage, the power of her attractions will alter the lives of each of the men as well as her own, in ways no one could predict.

I enjoyed the majority of this classic novel with its largely quiet and pastoral feel and it's sudden dramatic turn in the latter half of the book. The language is beautiful and each of the characters are drawn wonderfully and distinctly. My only gripe is a relic of the period in which the novel was written, as Hardy frequently includes sentences about the common weakness of women in general that left me rolling my eyes. I found it particularly irritating as the main character of his novel is such a strong and independent woman. That being said, it was a solid read that I don't regret. ( )
  MickyFine | Oct 19, 2015 |
My classic read for the summer, begun in early June and finally finished here at the end of August. My thoughts? A yes. A strong yes, really. A compelling heroine. A strong hero. Lots of difficulties. And a trip through nineteenth century rural England. What more could you want? ( )
  debnance | Sep 27, 2015 |
This is the second Hardy novel I have read and is very much like the first, Tess of D'Urbervilles. This novel tells the story of Bathsheba Everdeen and her trials and tribulations trying to live her life as a headstrong and ambitious woman in a Victorian man's world. However, unlike Tess of D'Urbervilles, this book has a few smiles and a positive ending. This book has little action, but is mostly about relationships. ( )
  tess_schoolmarm | Sep 19, 2015 |
This book has it all. Wonderful language - so many new words to savour, short chapters that kept the plot moving and a satisfying ending. ( )
  HelenBaker | Sep 15, 2015 |
I have no idea why this book did not impress me quite as much as Hardy's "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" or "Mayor of Casterbridge". After all, all the elements of a solid drama were there: a vulnerability of a beautiful woman precariously balanced against her stoicism, the unrequited love, sudden passion sprung as a result of a silly whim, tragic denouement for some and happy ending for others, intriguing insights into the human nature by the author...

Bathsheba Everdeen and Gabriel Oak are the two co-protagonists, while Boldwood and Troy seem to be secondary characters that, to me, appear on the scene only to offset Bathsheba's weaknesses. Though Bathsheba is at the center of it all and, for a woman of that era, is certainly a redoubtable personality, Gabriel Oak seems to be the most positive and appealing character out of the four. Hardy dwells on the village life of the area, going into detailed description of nature and the colorful local characters - whose life, though "far from the madding crowd", gets suddenly disrupted by the unpredictable and volatile events. And yet, somehow, for me, neither the plot nor the deliverance of the narrative were at the level of Hardy's two aforementioned novels. ( )
1 vote Clara53 | Sep 4, 2015 |
‘Its very title – a quotation from Gray’s “Elegy written in a Country Churchyard” – is an ironic literary joke. Gray idealises the “noiseless” and “sequestered” calm of country life, where “sober wishes never learned to stray”; Hardy disrupts the idyll, and not just by introducing the sound and fury of an extreme plot into the pastoral world. Like Braddon and Collins, he was out to subvert his readers’ complacency’ (Lucasta Miller)

Bathsheba Everdene is the heroine and heart of this story but - as it often happens with Jane Austen’s Emma - not a character easy to love. She's flawed and vain, prone to make the wrong decisions and mar her life. She is a complicated young woman, almost paradoxical: she provokes and confuses the reader as she does her suitors. She is inconstant, unsure, impulsive, inconsiderate and, in my opinion, not very smart and very, very lucky. She’s lucky in her misfortunes, I mean, since, in the end, she chooses safely and ends up safe. Fate is good to Bathsheba, so much more than to Tess, for instance. It is clear she has not my sympathy, isn't it? Moreover, for me it’s difficult to recognize in her the feminist icon many have in all these years. I can’t hate her though and she is extremely well-written. (go on reading at http://flyhigh-by-learnonline.blogspot.it/2015/08/how-romantic-is-far-from-maddi...)
  learnonline | Aug 28, 2015 |
Tadhg Hynes did a good job narrating this Victorian classic, especially with the voices of the farm workers & villagers. I was a bit put off in the beginning but was glad that I persevered; I think the difficulty was with Hardy's writing rather than the narration. ( )
  leslie.98 | Aug 24, 2015 |
I am downgrading my previous rating which had been based on an extremely hazy recollection of this book from high school. This early Hardy novel remains one of my favorites of his books but rereading this reminded me why I never loved Hardy the way I do Dickens, Trollope and Thackeray. His writing style, his word choices in particular, is not really what I like and I find too many passages to be either a struggle or a bore.

The plot and the characters, on the other hand, I think are excellent. I suspect that is why he shone in my memory -- these were the things I remembered. I guess that this is also why his books make good film adaptations. While it is true that no adaptation can convey all the nuances that the book contains, it is a pretty good way to experience the plot without the writing. ( )
  leslie.98 | Aug 24, 2015 |
Always trying to catch up on those books being sourced for movies/TV (there are dozens on that list right now... that I WANT to read. sigh.)

Such a contrast to Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Wouldn't Tess wish she were Bathsheba Everdene? Other than some undisclosed things that happened before the book started, it seems as though Bath has had a pretty easy life compared to the misery that Tess suffers at every turn. Having three guys vying for your attention doesn't seem like such a bad problem compared to Tess. And other than that, some corn possibly getting ruined from the rain. And sheep drama. I can appreciate Hardy's layered prose in this one, but I think I'm on Tess's team. Bathsheba is a great heroine but which of three suitors she ends up with isn't the best premise for a book that suits me. It's sad to lose the Bathsheba in the first few pages, seeing her improperly for the time she was in, lean back on her horse to avoid low branches (let alone not riding side saddle.) This Bathsheba turns into a suitor juggler and then wishes for the time when she didn't have to deal with all of it. I think reading about Bathsheba's backstory would have helped relate to her. Maybe I would have liked this one better if I read it before meeting Tess. You can't beat Thomas Hardy when it comes to great pastoral prose though. ( )
1 vote booklove2 | Aug 12, 2015 |
I loved this book and am amazed that I hadn't read it before now. It is charming, delightful and poignant all at the same time!
Gabriel loves Bathsheba, pure and simple and when she turns him down he accepts it, but carries on looking out for her.
She doesn't know what she wants and gets herself into a right pickle by doing the wrong thing, but Gabriel is there! She nearly loses all but Gabriel is there.
Things take a dreadful turn and I won't give away any more of the story! Except to say it is well worth the read, even trying to understand the local dialect of the characters. ( )
  Glorybe1 | Jul 26, 2015 |
A surprisingly modern tale. ( )
  laverack | Jul 25, 2015 |
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
1874 Wessex
I had seen this movie in the late 60's with my grandparents. Had no idea what it was about but it's a classic. I also ordered the paperback a few months ago and haven't gtten to it. But now I have it on audio so I hope I enjoy it.
Quite a different type of book subject from what I'm used to reading. Love all the descriptive details, makes me feel as if I am there.
Sexual scenes. Basheba Everdeen entices 3 men in her village.
A farmer Gabriel Oak falls in love with her but she is not in love with him. Liked hearing of the sheep and their routines and when Gabriel realizes something is amiss.
Love hearing of the bartering to get a shepherd's hook. He finds her in a nearby town where she's become a farm owner via her uncle. She's so head strong.
Soldier Frank Troy needs to have the marriage bands announced....
Landowner William Baldwill-it's rumored he was jilted at the alter and that's effected him in later years...
Baldwill wants to marry her but again she's not in love with him. Love the chat about molting and shearing of the wool from the sheep.
Like legacy of pocket watch!
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device). ( )
  jbarr5 | Jul 9, 2015 |
Hardy, Thomas
Far From the Madding Crowd

This classic starts off in the usual ho-hum way of introducing a main character through a description of his lineage, how he came to be where we find him, and the background of his present occupation. Don't get complacent. Both the fate of the main character in Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust and the devastating beginning of Ian McEwan's Enduring Love could have been inspired by what befalls Gabriel Oak in these first few pages. While Hardy's work is dense with tragedy, it is the tragedy of being human, not of being a victim. Devastations are unleashed by moments of pique. All of the drama takes place without props outside on English lanes evoking a universality to the pain of being human and the realization that we can all be victimized by our own emotions. Hardy's prose captures landscapes, weather, and the emotional palettes of his characters with equal aplomb. Sharply pin-pointed prose reaches and awakens places in the psyche possibly rendered dormant by exposure to much duller fare. Two chapters appropriately named "Storm" and "Rain" stand out as examples of Hardy's incredible ability to describe weather. If you like weather to be part of your reading experience, M. C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series provides that, along with great characters and cozy mysteries to be solved. If you like unrelenting suffering, you will like Joyce Carol Oates' We Were the Mulvaneys, or the classic by A. J. Cronin, Hatter's Castle. Available on dvd: A Handful of Dust, Enduring Love, Hamish Macbeth, We Were the Mulvaneys, Far From the Madding Crowd (classic), and the Masterpiece Classic remake of Far From the Madding Crowd.
Recommended March 2014
1 vote dawsong | Jun 15, 2015 |
Another classic I have finally got around to reading. I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Bathsheba Everdene and her trilogy of suitors Gabriel Oak, Sgt. Francis Troy and Boldwood. Bathsheba inherits her Uncle's farm near Weatherbury which is in the Casterbridge vicinity. Her first suitor is Gabriel, a shepherd who although rejected, becomes her mentor and friend. Boldwood is a wealthy neighbouring bachelor and land owner who becomes besotted with Bathsheba. She ends up marrying the dashing Sgt Troy who, unknown to her is a philanderer and dishonest. Of course within months she is disappointed in her decision and finds out about Troy's former lover Fanny. Troy chooses to "drown" for a period of time before returning to town at Christmas.
Very good story with beautiful descriptions of the landscape, the characters, relationships and dialogue. Hardy inserts comic relief with a cast of town folk. ( )
  MaggieFlo | May 22, 2015 |
When Bathsheba Everdene inherits her uncle's farm, she becomes a prominent citizen of Weatherbury, a village in 19th century England. Her status as an independent woman attracts a lot of attention, but she is confident and capable, managing the farm and her employees with relative ease.
Bathsheba's was an impulsive nature under a deliberative aspect. An Elizabeth in brain and a Mary Stuart in spirit, she often performed actions of the greatest temerity with a manner of extreme discretion.

For much of the day-to-day management she relies on Gabriel Oak, a shepherd who until recently had his own farm. Gabriel is quiet, reliable, and in love with Bathsheba, but she quickly dispenses with any notion of romance between the two of them. Enter two more suitors: Boldwood, an older well-established landowner & farmer, and Troy, a rakish soldier with bags of sex appeal. Boldwood makes his intentions known, and Bathsheba toys with him. With Troy, she is unable to keep the upper hand. Matters escalate on both fronts, and I will stop there so as not to spoil the story.

Hardy feared the English countryside was in decline. The rural idyll is front and center in this novel, of equal importance to the characters. The natural setting and the village inhabitants add considerably to the plot, and make up for certain elements that seemed a bit contrived. I also liked Hardy's depiction of a strong woman, unusual for the time period, and his ability to communicate so much about a character in a single, concise sentence, such as "Troy was never more clever than when absolutely at his wits' end."

I felt ambivalent about this book for the first half or so, but by the time I turned the last page I had found much to appreciate. ( )
  lauralkeet | May 10, 2015 |
I and the others in my Book Group enjoyed Far From the Madding Crowd. It's a story of a young woman who inherits a prosperous farm in the mid-19th century in England and who isn't particularly interested in marriage, though she has three suitors. Eventually she does marry one of them, but it is a disaster because she falls for the one who is a sweet talker but doesn't have much else of value to add to the union.
We were impressed with how much of a feminist theme was in this since it was first published in 1874. Not only did she eschew marriage, but the men admired her independence (and her great beauty). ( )
  creynolds | Apr 29, 2015 |
Story of Bathesheba who inherits a sheep farm in the 1800's in England. Bathsheba is a willful and independent woman determined to remain on her own. With her first meeting of Farmer Gabriel Oak, he becomes infatuated by her beauty. At this time he is on his way to prosperity and she is not much more than a hired hand. Later after the inheritance, he has lost much and she has gained the sheep farm. Upon a whim, she writes a strange note to her neighbor, Boldwood, a man who keeps to himself and seems to have no pleasures in life. The note expresses the desire for marriage but was sent anonymously. Boldwood figures out who the note comes from and he too becomes infatuated with Bathsheba. The rest of the story follows Bathesheba as she deals with both men but eventually marries a young dashing, but unfaithful, soldier Sergeant Troy. Troy has been in love with Fanny, a poor girl once in the service at the farm that Bathsheba inherits.

The language is beautiful with a Shakespearean sentence structure. Not particularly as easy read, but an enjoyable one. (Read due to upcoming movie staring Carey Mulligan) ( )
  maryreinert | Apr 28, 2015 |
I actually enjoyed this classic. I'll give the cliff notes review. Basically a beautiful woman comes into a town and a young man falls for her and proposes to her. She declines and moves to her uncle's farm in his passing. What happens is Gabriel goes to the town to find a job, winds up working for her. Bathsheba also catches the eyes of two other men. Boldwood, who is insanely in love with her and Troy, who manipulated her in marrying him.

For the rest of the review, visit my blog at: http://angelofmine1974.livejournal.com/88167.html ( )
  booklover3258 | Apr 18, 2015 |
Tess of the D'Urbervilles will always be my favorite Hardy novel but Far From the Madding Crowd is a close second, most of all for the wonderful characterization of bad-guy Troy, who is sarcastic, witty, romantic, brash, nihilistic and more.

I read all the Hardy novels every few years and they are different every time for me--the sign of a great book. This time Boldwood seemed a scary misogynist, for example, bullying Bathsheba over and over again, verbally bludgeoning her until she agreed to get engaged. Last time I read this book he didn't seem quite so unhinged.

The only fixed point in character in this novel for me is Gabriel Oak, whom I love each time in exactly the same way, for his quiet competence, and for his rapt attention to beautiful things. It's through this character's eyes that I see the beauty of Wessex. He is the only character who takes time to see what is around him. I love the scene where he carefully places a toad out of harm's way.

I love Bathsheba as well. I love her for the way she grows up, for the way she takes chances, and for the way she muddles her way to becoming a highly moral person. I love her for falling in love with Troy when he practices swordsmanship on her--the sword exercise is easily one of the most sensual scenes ever written, a terrific example of the way cultural censorship gave rise to some highly creative lovemaking scenes in literature.

Well, wonderful. This is of the books I wish I could keep reading for the first time. Someone should let the Jane Austin book clubs know about Thomas Hardy. ( )
  poingu | Jan 29, 2015 |
This is the story of farmer Bathsheba Everdene and the three men who love her. There were lots of things I liked about the book: the good humour of the conversations between the farm labourers, the character of Gabriel Oak and the strong sense of seasons/harvest/reliance on the weather.

On the other hand, there was (and I think I always feel this with Thomas Hardy) a pervading sense of doom and gloom. Hardy has a very masculine narrative voice and often comments on things Bathsheba does as being typical for a woman (or not). Certain touches were excellent; the discovery of all the jewellery and clothes Boldwood had bought for Bathsheba, the fact that Boldwood's failure to secure his harvest from the rain is the surest evidence of his mental deterioration and the shocking revelation by Bathsheba that she married Troy because he told her he had seen a more beautiful woman than her and could not promise to be true.

But... I struggled a bit with Troy's supposed irresistibility (although the description of their not terribly happy subsequent married life was well done). I did not understand why Fanny failed to meet with Troy when she followed him to his barracks. In looking back, Troy makes it clear that she stood him up - why? [I have since discovered the chapter which explains this as an appendix to my version - very annoying as it helps the story make sense and casts light on Troy's character].

I could have done without all the references to Greek mythology and the obsession with the stars in the (rather slow) opening chapters. The romance at the end felt very natural and provided a satisfactory conclusion. ( )
  pgchuis | Nov 4, 2014 |
Having read the complete works of Hardy when I was seventeen and eighteen, I have been hesitant to open a single volume since then, remembering that what appealed to me then was all the emotional thrust of his novels, something I wasn’t sure I’d appreciate all these years later.

I was pleasantly surprised then when I selected this early novel and discovered the amount of gentle humour the young Hardy injected into his prose. Take his description of the maltster’s son – ‘a young man about sixty-five, with a semi-bald head and one tooth in the left centre of his upper jaw, which made much of itself by standing prominent, like a milestone in a bank’.

That ‘milestone in a bank’ is typical of the way this novel transports the reader back to a pre-industrial age, at least in Hardy’s Wessex, setting this novel, anyway, in the past and celebrating its slowness to change: ‘In London, twenty or thirty years are old times . . . in Weatherbury three or four score years were included in the mere present, and nothing less than a century set a mark on its face or tone’. I guess the old ways of rural England are represented most by Hardy’s clutch of the local agricultural workers from Coggan to Cain Ball. I can see how their lengthy, wandering conversations could irritate a modern reader and at times I felt that Hardy’s portrayal of such rural folk was close to patronising in the humour he derives from them, but in today’s age of environmental destruction I appreciated their closeness to the land and animals that sustained them. Gabriel saving the bloated sheep is a scene that remains in my mind as does the way he and Coggan were able to track Bathsheba’s horse and carriage with such insight from examining the ruts and footprints.

I’m not sure, though, that my sympathies were where Hardy meant them to be. He exposes if not some misogyny then some distrust of women quite overtly at times such as in ‘women are never tired of bewailing man’s fickleness in love, but they only seem to snub his constancy’ – (and he was writing this when he was just about to get married himself!). Despite this, I think he doesn’t want the reader to think too badly of Bathsheba, otherwise we’d have to revise downwards our feelings towards both Boldwood and Oak as these two men just fall head over heels in love with such a woman. As it stands, though, I felt Troy’s early treatment of Boldwood wasn’t unreasonable when Boldwood was trying to pay Troy to marry Bathsheba, and the way the two unsatisfied men fell in love with her without getting to know her (Boldwood, in particular, asking for her hand in marriage as almost his first words to her) reduced my opinion of them. Obviously Hardy wants us to be critical of Troy, giving him views which were opposed to his won such as Troy wanting to let more light into Bathsheba’s house and do some redecorating, something Oak disagrees with. A bright house, in my mind, though, is more uplifting than a dark one. Of course, later Troy is made the out and out villain, reclaiming Bathsheba only for the money she has and then Boldwood is conveniently dispatched at his Majesty’s leisure, leaving the ground clear for the gentle union of Oak and his mistress: a rather manufactured resolution. Still, I was glad still to find myself drawn into the novel despite having shed my more emotive embracing of it as a teenager. ( )
  evening | Jul 29, 2014 |
This was my third work by Thomas Hardy, following The Mayor of Casterbridge and Jude the Obscure, both of which I thought were outstanding.

Far from the Madding Crowd is very much in the same style. If you are a fan of Hardy, you will enjoy this book. As always, Hardy's story telling ability is top notch. His writing is fluid, descriptive and flows easily.

On the negative side, I thought this work started far too slowly, and could have been tighter. While there were sections that were true "page turners," other sections were simply too long and/or unnecessarily descriptive.

Not Hardy's best work, but still enjoyable. ( )
  la2bkk | Jun 7, 2014 |
It's been a few days since I finished Far From The Madding Crowd but life has been crazy so I haven't had the time to write this review, which is unlike me because I usually make time. Oh well, here we go anyway...

My first experience with Hardy came from Tess of the d'Urbervilles, which completely surprised me. I loved it. But it had been a while since then so I opened this one without a great deal of expectation despite the 'classic' status. After finding the first couple of chapters a little slow, general setting the scene type chapters, by the time we met Bathsheba again on her own farm I was really enjoying it.

Bathsheba Everdene is spirited and independent and fiercely determined to be able to run her uncle's farm after firing the stealing bailiff (manager). This was the part of her I most admired. She cared about the farm and her employees, she was resourceful and clever - I hadn't realised that female characters like her popped up in literature from the 1800s. What let me down was her stupidity when it came to men (although I realise without this there may have been no story!)

Gabriel Oak is our other main character in this story, and in him I can find few faults. His loyalty to Bathsheba may be considered a bit extreme but at least he wasn't crazy like Farmer Boldwood. No matter Gabriel's feelings, he put them aside to do his work and to build a friendship with Bathsheba that is perhaps one of my favourite literary friendships. He was the only one who would be completely honest with her and she respected his opinion even if she didn't always like it. What progressed seemed very natural, unlike her romances with Sergeant Troy and poor infatuated Farmer Boldwood, who I felt sorry for but really needed to just let go. He wanted her because he felt he deserved her, he loved her but without taking into account her feelings on the matter. There was no foundation for either of these romances like there was between her and Gabriel.

Hardy writes a great story although some of his description can get a bit tedious, I guess he just liked to set his scene. I really enjoyed the supporting characters in this novel as well as Bathsheba and Gabriel and I think it is a great addition to anyone's library.
( )
1 vote crashmyparty | May 5, 2014 |
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