Not Far From the Maddening Crowd as I have been calling it for a long time whoops.
Anyway. Now I know Hardy has this miserable reputation so I wasn’t exactly skipping at the prospect of reading this novel but the ebook was free so I started it on a train journey. Let me tell you something it wasn’t so bad. Does it make you feel warm and fuzzy inside? No. Better than Dickens? Most definitely.
So Bathsheba (pronounce Bahth-she-bah I know what a name) Everdene (no relation to Katniss) is this independent, strong willed, very beautiful women and everybody falls in love with her. But proud Bathsheba won’t settle for just anybody and holds out for true love. Although, when she finds it, things don’t quite work out as planned.
The book is set in Victorian Wessex and focuses on the farming community of Weatherby a fictional village. Now I am from Wessex and I consider myself to be quite knowledgeable in areas of pastoral country scenes but I wouldn’t have had a clue what was happening a lot of the time if it wasn’t for the footnotes in my edition. Quite a lot of dialect is used and there are a lot of farming terms used which I had never heard before. Hardy uses these elements to create a really atmospheric story. He beautiful captures the simple nature of life in the countryside from the hedge rows to the farm houses.
His characters are…. frustrating. The only one I like is Gabriel Oak, the laid back farmer. Every one else is difficult to get on with. They all have there flaws. Bathsebha’s pride, Boldwood’s possessiveness, Sargent Troy’s arrogance, they make for exasperating reading. But Hardy shows us just enough of their good qualities to stop them being unbearable. As I was reading it part of me hoped they would get what they deserved. Sometimes I thought that was happiness, sometimes I thought is was punishment for their sins and in a way that’s what happens in the end.
The novel is quite slow in pace. This isn’t unpleasant, it feels like a gentle stroll along country roads. But then the ending was a huge shock. I really couldn’t believe it. Scandal! Drama! In this tiny fictional town! I read the last few chapters or so in a complete rush because I had to know what happened. Who would have expected that from a provincial story from the 1870s?
I think this is probably one of Hardy’s more accessible works. I know a little about a few others and think I shall struggle with those more. Still I really enjoyed it. It took me back to my part of the world in a way that was very different from Jane Austen. The people were so much more real for their struggles and as a result more alive. This was one of those classics where I am sure the literary worth was great but I didn’t noticed because I could only think about the story.
Would recommend to: ease you into slightly heavier classics.