Sunday, 8 December 2013

'Far from the Madding Crowd' by Thomas Hardy (1874)

Synopsis: Bathsheba Everdene is a beautiful, self-confident, and independent young woman. She moves to a quiet, rural area in the West Country so she can run her own farm. Bathsheba creates quite a stir amongst the locals and soon three very different men find themselves competing for her affections. The three suitors are a kind-hearted and humble shepherd called Gabriel Oak, a handsome and dashing soldier called Sergeant Troy, and a wealthy and respectable farmer called Mr Boldwood. Each of these men, in their own different ways, unsettles Bathsheba and complicates her life. Dangerous passions and jealousies are then unleashed and tragedy threatens.

Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Ubervilles is one of my favourite books but this particular book was a huge disappointment for two reasons. Firstly, it's just so mind-numbingly slow-paced and boring! Barely anything happens apart from a bizarre sheep accident and the consequences of some of Bathsheba's decisions!

Secondly, the book's title is completely misleading. It's called Far from the Madding Crowd and yet almost all of its characters are actually veeery maddening! Sergeant Troy is an arrogant, emotionally abusive, womanising asshole. Mr Boldwood is creepy and weird: he becomes completely obsessed with Bathsheba all because of her sending him a silly Valentine's Card. Bathsheba is vain, conceited, self-obsessed, clueless, stupid and annoying. She's constantly making stupid decisions and didn't even seem very independent to me. She just came across as a silly little girl. I could find absolutely nothing to like about her. It wasn't until the very end of the book that Bathsheba finally saw sense and married the man that she should have obviously chosen from the very beginning, but by then I despised her so much that I was actually quite disappointed that she got a happy ending. I was hoping that Gabriel Oak would develop enough pride and self-respect to realise that he could do so much better. In fact even the book's characters that weren't involved in the boring love square were unlikeable and uninteresting. The side-characters were all farm workers that did nothing apart from moaning about the toils and banalities of country life.

It's really not very often that I'll come across a classic novel and not like it but I disliked Far from the Madding Crowd. If this book is your first Thomas Hardy novel and you disliked it then I would beg you not to dismiss all of his works because Tess of the D'Ubervilles is vastly superior. It's a far more gripping and emotional read. However, I didn't hate Far from the Madding Crowd. The descriptions partly redeemed the book for me. Although I wouldn't say that Far from the Madding Crowd is as well-written as Tess of the D'Ubervilles it still features some beautifully-written descriptions in places. I might give the upcoming film adaptation a watch as well but only because it's starring Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen.

Rating: 2/5

P.S. If you're a fan of The Hunger Games then you might be interested to know that Katniss Everdeen was partly named after Bathsheba.


Hamlette said...

Interesting! I haven't read any Hardy at all yet, so I'll take your advice and read Tess first whenever I get around to him.

Hannah said...

Excellent! :D Tess is a very sad novel - quite possibly the saddest that I've ever read - but the writing is absolutely gorgeous and it has a very sympathetic heroine. It's beautifully tragic or tragically beautiful. I'm planning on giving it a re-read next year.

Hamlette said...

I've added Tess to my to-read list. Which I'm thinking about posting on my blog, as it's really long, and parts are in one place, others in another... I should centralize it.

Hannah said...

I've just put up a reading list on my blog! It will be interesting to see what you're planning on reading!