Confession: I only checked out this audiobook from the library because I liked the movie trailer (and it kills me to see the movie first. With very few exceptions, I am a read-the-book-first girl). I have a very loaded history with Thomas Hardy, namely with Tess of the D’Ubervilles. Okay, my beef is really with one Angel effing Clare, the worst human being to ever exist. I never finished Tess, but I did stop about the point when Angel said something horrible and douchey to Tess (I can’t remember where that was, because there were SO MANY TIMES). I then skipped to the end, at which point I threw the book across the room and swore very loudly. That was twelve or thirteen years ago, and any mention of Angel makes my blood boil. So…I was unwilling to give Thomas Hardy any more emotional baggage, but I have to say, Far From the Madding Crowd exceeded all my expectations immensely.
Bathsheba Everdene is a young woman of modest connections, when her uncle’s sudden death brings her the inheritance of a successful farm. Flush with land ownership, Bathsheba now has time to focus on the different marriage prospects that have come her way or that she seeks out. Bachelor #1 is Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer with a modest income and big dreams. He is skillful and frugal, but unglamorous. Bachelor #2 is William Boldwood, her neighboring farmer and a man of about 40. He is successful and assertive, but overbearing. Bachelor #3 is Frank Troy, a sergeant seeking discharge from his militia and a native to the village. He is charismatic and lively, but without property. The novel twists and turns, as Bathsheba discovers both the limitations and power of woman in provincial village life, as well as the large consequences to simple actions.
This novel is gorgeous. The writing is evocative and draws pastoral life in a way that is both harsh and inviting, the characters are so well-drawn, and the plot clips along at a decent pace–neither breathtaking nor glacial. I am really excited about going to see the film, since I thought the novel was incredible. If I am called upon to teach a 19th-century British course, I believe this novel would go into the rotation pretty quickly.
And I may just find the emotional energy yet to finally finish Tess of the D’Ubervilles (and I promise, a post laden with cursing and gifs if I do).