Friday, November 27, 2015

Book Review: Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Bathsheba Everdene is a head strong woman caught in a time when men ran the world. She meets Gabriel Oak, a small farmer, while she is living with her aunt to help on their own farm. Farmer Oak quickly falls in love with her and proposes marriage only to be refused. Bathsheba tells him that she doesn't want to belong to someone. The two part and Bathsheba leaves town, shortly afterward Gabriel loses his entire flock of sheep and is incredibly grateful to not have a wife to care for. Gabriel heads to the next town in search of work and is sent in the direction of a large farm. As he comes upon the farm at night, he can see a large fire in the farm and runs to give aid. Gabriel has the forethought to protect the barn and the fire is extinguished with his direction. He is called to the farmer to be thanked for his service only to discover that Bathsheba is the owner of the farm. She inherited the farm from her uncle and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to be her own boss. She gives Gabriel a job as a shepherd and they rekindle their respectful friendship. Gabriel then watches as Bathsheba lives life on her own terms. Bathsheba's neighbor, farmer Boldwood, is an older bachelor with a large estate. One day Bathsheba decides to play a trick and send farmer Boldwood an anonymous Valentine with the seal "Marry Me" on the envelope. It takes no time at all to find out that Bathsheba is the sender and only then does farmer Boldwood start to think about her. He quickly falls in love both with Bathsheba and the idea of having a wife at long last. When he talks with Bathsheba thinking that she already wants to marry him, she rebuffs his offer of marriage and tells him it was an insensitive prank and she wishes to make amends. He convinces her that it is only fair that she allow him to spend time with her so she can truly see if she could marry him in the future. Then comes Sergeant Troy onto the scene. Troy is an officer in a regiment that is staying in town. He's handsome and charming and very forward with women. At first Bathsheba thinks he's conceited and too forward, but soon she grows to love him passionately. She meets with Troy very openly and in the eyes of Boldwood and Oak, causing a very uncomfortable love triangle.

Far From the Madding Crowd is a beautiful story. I had never heard of this book until they made a movie of it (though for the record I did not see the film until after I read the book). I loved how tastefully this whole situation is portrayed. This is one of those books that makes me with for a time with more social graces even when the people's lives were simpler. Bathsheba certainly sticks her foot in things over and over again, and Oak is always there to lovingly call her out on her mistakes. Bathsheba falls for Troy pretty much because he's the only man who doesn't want to marry her (which brings up all kinds of psychological issues, but whatever). It has to be said - I just loved the constant presence and consistency of Oak. He's definitely the Mr. Darcy of the story and another literary dream boat to add to the list. Any man that can save your entire flock of sheep and still look handsome is worth keeping around. The story overall is about how one person's mistakes can affect so many others, a lesson we can all still benefit from today. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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