Far from the Madding Crowd – By Thomas Hardy

Classic Literature, Romance

This book is about how the lives of four people – Gabriel Oak, Bathsheba Everdene, William Boldwood and Frank Troy – with different backgrounds and aspirations intertwine, charting their relationships through different circumstances.

I have never felt so relieved to have finished a book – Far from the Madding Crowd is ‘thick’ and heavy, despite its short length. Although it isn’t too slow-paced, or wordy, I struggled to maintain an interest in it. The cause of its insipidity is its topic: despite the beautiful romantic story suggested by the blurb, this book is about everyday life, and love, in rural England. Bathsheba Everdene, the centre of so much attention, has ordinary thoughts and feelings, most of which are self-absorbed. Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer – and my favourite of Bathsheba’s ‘suitors’ (or hopeful admirers) – is humble and understated in the way he lives his life. The only characters that seem somewhat fantastical come to their tragic ends through the course of the story. Perhaps this suggests the underrated value in living an ordinary, honourable life – sometimes, the most safe, boring option is the one that will make you happiest.

I felt compelled to read this book, knowing it to be a largely beloved classic; there is something distinctly rewarding in reading a ‘respected’ book, despite this being a poor reason for reading one. Nevertheless, I started it, determined not only to read it, but enjoy it. But frankly, I was disappointed: I tried to like it, but as I wasn’t gripped, I found it hard to pick up. I forced myself to read a couple pages every day, ploughing through it slowly and reluctantly. It wasn’t until the end that I finally began to enjoy it, when the plot gained momentum and exciting events occurred in succession. If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t recommend the book at all: more than once, I came close to putting it down.

Far from the Madding Crowd is Marmite: some rave about it, whilst others think it tedious. I’m not sure which I fit under – I found a lot of it hard-going, but by the end wished I had savoured it. Overall, it’s a great, well-written book, but must be read with patience: eventually, it is rewarding. It’s good for people who like old classics for their language and history, but don’t want too long a book (and don’t mind a drawn-out, sometimes monotonous plot).

My Ratings (out of 10 As):

Plot/Story: AAAAAAA


Pace: Slow

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6 thoughts on “Far from the Madding Crowd – By Thomas Hardy

  1. I understand your reluctance.
    Hardy often digresses because he is not just telling a story but putting across his philosophy.
    He often gets the accusation pessimist thrown at him to which he replies ; no realist.
    ‘ The north star was directly in the winds eye , and since evening the bear had swung round it outwardly to the east , till he was at a right angle to the meridian.’
    Gabriel was an unusual man he could tell the time from the stars, but Hardy pushes on with enthusiasm.
    ‘The sovereign brilliancy of Siruis pieced the eye with a steely glitter, the star called Capella was yellow , Aldebaran and Beldgueux shone firey red. To persons standing alone on a hill during a clear midnight such as this the roll of the world eastward is almost a palpable movement.’
    What a digression! I’m sure as eggs is eggs Hardy had stood just as he discribes. Lovely the world turns under the sky every second , not the sky moving around the world.


  2. The Victorians did it a lot shortened versions of Trollopes books abound.
    Dickens was constantly side-stepping for reels of fantasy. I suppose it was a more leisurely time for the middle classes most suffering was bourne by the working class. Don’t read what you can’t get along with because its on the classics list.


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