By: Thomas Hardy
Publication Date: 1874
I should begin by saying that I watched the most recent film adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd and really enjoyed it. However, I had some issues with the book. Let’s start with the positives: for a story that was written in the 19th century by a man, I love Bathsheba’s independent spirit and attitude. She’s young and the wrong gender for farming, but that doesn’t stop her from taking charge of her uncle’s farm and being successful. Even though I didn’t like that so much of the story was focused on her romantic life and her suitors, I found it to be realistic for the time and I couldn’t entirely fault Bathsheba from making the wrong choices. She’s obviously imperfect and human, and I appreciated that any failures in her love life were explicitly due to the moral inequities of the men involved and her failure was merely that she followed her heart. While I enjoyed the basic plot of the book and the characters, I found the prose to be, at times, very dry. Every once in a while I would stop and highlight a particularly beautiful or eloquent passage – fog is described as “atmospheric fungi”…how breathtakingly strange and wonderful is that? – but much of the book was a bit too descriptive for my taste. I see it as the literary version of how I view a small town or the country in general: I love getting away and vacationing from the civilization, but the more time I spend there, the more I get itchy for something else. Too much of a good thing eventually becomes boring. The explosive ending almost made me change my mind, but when only 5% of a book is grabbing my attention, I can’t be swayed. I also thought, due to the movie, that the book would be from Bathsheba’s perspective, and while we got a small taste of her point of view throughout the novel, I think it would benefit from her insight and brain. The majority of the book focuses on the men, specifically Farmer Oak, and though he’s a very nice man, he’s one-dimensional and flat. Again, Bathsheba’s a flawed character, but she’s the most interesting and the most complex. I hem and haw about my feelings for this novel, but I think the main issues lie in the time period Hardy wrote, so I am a bit more forgiving. Perhaps a rewatch of the movie is in order.