There are number of very good reviews of this `classic' novel. I believe the other reviewers have given a good plot overview. So here goes on my thoughts of this unabridged edition, for what they're worth. For my part I was introduced to this novel in my English Literature class and even then I enjoyed the narrative, I found out early on that Hardy had original produced his narrative as part of monthly serial for a publication called the Cornhill Magazine. I think that this monthly serialization shows in the narrative. As the author had to keep his monthly readership enthralled and eager, so they would get the next `episode'.
As the serial progressed the story gained a broader audience. Eventually it gained mainly positive reviews and was ultimately compiled into a novel. What I didn't know, at the time, and only realised until quite recently is that Thomas Hardy revised/tweaked the narrative on number of occasions. So I guess what we read today has changed from the early manuscripts.
For me this is a story that can be seen on many levels - yes it is a romance, a comment woman in society of the time, the stoical nature people have about their lives - but for me it is the rural background of England and agrarian culture that prevailed - before the impact of industrialization that changed the face of the British countryside. For this had a profound effect on the people who worked and the managed the land - this then gives this tale that extra dimension that I find so interesting and enjoyable.
on 13 July 2003
I thought that Far From the Madding Crowd was a really good book. It was the first novel by Thomas Hardy that I had read and it encouraged me to read some more of his works.
It is my favourite novel at the moment. I liked it so much because of the fantastic way in which characters are created and established. They are given such strong personalities, like Bathsheba Everdene, that it helps you become swept up in the action.
Far From the Madding Crowd is a novel about a country romance. A beautiful and interesting young woman is caught in a love triangle with three very different men. The first is the honourable and steady Gabriel Oak, who loves Bathsheba and is obviously fated to be with her, even though he seems quite her opposite. There is Farmer Bolwood who becomes obsessed with Bathsheba after she sends him a valentine, he is upstanding yet passive and we watch him drive painfully on to his undeserved end. Then there is the debonare Sargent Troy, who wins womans hearts and breaks them without thought.
This is a novel about life in the country, and how maddening it can be. It follows a magnificent set of characters, set in the beautiful place of Wessex, Hardy's imaginative countryside of England.
My favourite thing about this novel is how it centres on a woman. (A rare thing in the 19th century.) And a woman who is given the power to make her own descisions, be in charge of her money, and given sexual power. Bathsheba Everdene is a wonderful creation, up there with the best of 19th century fictions heroines. As complex as Madame Bouvary, innocent like Tess and tragic like Anna Karenia.
I reccomend this novel to anyone who is a fan of Thomas Hardy, enjoys romance novels or wants to gain a fresh view of England in the 19th century.
on 7 August 2004
Hardy's first major success starts out with a plethora of rich, evocative description of the landscape the shepherd, Gabriel Oak, inhabits, such as "the dry leaves simmered and boiled in the desolate winds, a tongue of air sending them spinning across the grass", the trees "wailing and chaunting to each other in the regular antiphonies of a cathedral choir". Hardy is an excellent (and in my opinion unsurpassed) creator of atmosphere.
Hardy evokes sympathy for Oak in his initial rejection by Bathsheba, giving the reader a sense of his vulnerability, with his initial description also describing how his face "had some relics of the boy", further suggesting vulnerability. However, Oak seems after this rejection to transform into a hero, becoming a character one does not so much relate to as idolize and respect. Hardy writes at the beginning that Oak's "hues and curves of youth" were "tarrying on to manhood", and we get a sense through his patience and humility, his helping Bathsheba with her dying sheep even after she had ousted him in a paroxysm of fury just before, he has achieved manhood, and that the abovementioned qualities are those of ideal masculinity, not the flashy extravagance of Troy or the wealth of Boldwood.
Due to the construction of the plot, however, with Oak at the beginning thus being portrayed as the principal character, the end is rather predictable to the cynical reader. Towards the end, the beautiful description is completely dropped to allow pure action to ensue, with the idea that the pace is quickened thus exciting the reader, yet the ending, though dramatic, feels overly rushed nevertheless.
But all in all, it was a very enjoyable read, with the atmospheric description of the landscape demonstrative of Hardy's poetic ability (which he was later to excercize fully, abandoning the novel form and progressing with verse in his last years) being the strong point of 'Far from the Madding Crowd'.
on 14 August 2009
Please be aware that this audio is a CONDENSED/ABRIDGED version of the book. My daughter needed it for school and I would have loved to return it, but she removed the shrink wrap before discovering this most crucial fact.
There are notes & quotes and a full and abridged text included in the Bonus CD-ROM.... but I would not have purchased this item if it had been fully described by Amazon!
on 19 August 2006
When I was at school I was forced to read several Thomas Hardy novels and was bored to tears by them but now that I'm older and, hopefully, wiser I've embarked on a Hardy revival and am loving every second of it.
The description of people and places and the intricate ways in which the characters interact with each other in 'Far From the Madding Crowd' all fit together to produce a piece of fiction which builds to a dramatic climax that will shock. This novel will leave you frustrated, annoyed, shocked and pleased all at the same time!
Victorian values have a lot to answer for!
on 1 September 2008
Reading this novel again in 36 degrees of heat in Tunisia was a delightful and slightly unusual experience! As I sat moderately baking in occasional shade, Bathsheba and Oak wrestled out their very pragmatic romance amidst the debris and lives of other characters whose impracticality and passion proves their undoing. The novel recommends survival through work and co-operation and this core value in the narrative far from being dull and tame compared to the heated, reckless drives of others,provides humour and finally healing. The scenes where Oak saves the gas ridden sheep and the stacks communicate Oak's consummate competence and care and Hardy 's sensory skills are marvellously suggestive and psychologically apt:
'He felt a zephyr curling about his cheek and turned.It was Bathsheba's breath - she had followed him, and was looking into the same chink.'
Far From The Madding Crowd is full of 'peeping tom' moments where characters watch each other through hedges,chinks and doors! This moment is beautifully laid out, the metaphor 'zephyr' registers the magic of Bathsheba's physicality...even more, her very breath, her life force enchants Oak. She is as special and magical to Oak as any legend from the Greeks. The simplicity of this shared watching explores their natural equality and the unconscious attraction of Bathsheba for Oak. How beautifully erotic is this scene and yet how it reveals their hesitancy and delay.
Hardy allows Bathsheba her eventual happiness which is rare indeed in the so-called 'great' novels, and he is also astute in granting Bathsheba autonomy in characterisation. She remains true to her perverse, challenging self and we do not see a shadowy, chastened figure at the end, though this Bathsheba has learnt about consequences!
' I have thought so much more of you since I fancied you did not want even to see me again.'
Human nature is perverse! This admission is fully in keeping Bathsheba's vanity and wilfulness. Yet is also reinforces the honesty and intimacy that has existed between them. Such intimacy elevates their relationship and makes their future marriage and happiness certain.
A final glimpse, simply because it is highly Impressionistic and tender and would not be out of keeping in a Katherine Mansfield story or a Monet painting:
'Ten minutes later, a large and smaller umbrella might have been seen moving from the same door, and through the mist along the road to the church.'
The tenderness of the ordinary here is palpable. Oak and Bathsheba are granted some privacy away from the speculative eye of reader and community and under their umbrelllas remains sanctuary and promise!
This is a fine edition of a remarkable book. Hardy set relatively little store by his novels in comparison to his poetry, but his achievement in both spheres is impressive. I can think of no other classic novel that packs so much vital incident into its pages, while at the same time driving ahead with a relentless plot that takes us to the inevitably tragic conclusion.
While in many ways the daily pattern of country life continues unchanged, the central characters enter into situations which have profound consequences for each of them. Amongst other concerns the novel is a powerful love story – or perhaps rather a series of interwoven love stories. All four of the central characters find themselves in the grip of false illusions; Bathsheba’s passion for Troy has more to do with the glamour of the dashing soldier than firm reality and he, in turn, is caught up in what is little more than shallow infatuation, while Boldwood’s love rests on little more than a valentine card. Even Gabriel Oak’s love begins in romantic idealisation, even if it transcends these flimsy foundations.
Behind all lays the natural world, often dangerous, even malignant, but Oak’s understanding of this world is constantly proven via the demands of specific events. Particularly vivid renderings of country life are seen in a series of scenes that are much more than mere background to the story. Favourites of mine are: the evening spent at Warren’s Malthouse, the escape of the sheep and the Greenhill Fair.
Lucy Hughes-Hallet provides a most interesting and accessible introduction to this wonderful book – a treat in waiting for those who have yet to encounter it, and to which many will return
on 19 April 2016
It's about twenty years since I first read this, and on that first reading I thought it was an enjoyable rural love story, but not as powerful as Hardy's later work. Having had to read it a second time for university, I am surprised by how much more I got out of it. Of course, studying a text is different to reading it for pleasure, and I've probably been influenced by the multiple critical perspectives offered in the study material; but this could just as easily have put me off rather than turned me on, so there must be something more to this novel than I originally perceived. Hardy's rural background, unconventional education and dissenting views led to frequent condescension from both contemporaneous and successive critics, their collective opinion being summed up as, "Nice try, son." Yet despite being one of his earliest, this remains one of Hardy's most enduringly popular novels, and its critical reputation has grown. Its apparent simplicity is belied by a multitude of styles and influences, literary and otherwise - Hardy trained as an architect, was interested in the visual arts, mixed literary styles with abandon, and never lost a feel for his agricultural roots - all of which make FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD a more varied, ambiguous account of the complexities of country life than is first apparent. In having a spirited woman and three contrasting suitors as its central characters, it raises interesting questions about sexual and class politics, and some of the franker, darker aspects of life were considered too strong for its original readership, hence its expurgation (happily reversed in this edition). It's not my favourite of Hardy's novels, but it turns out to be much better and more interesting than I thought.
on 21 March 2013
Looks like I've been the third victim. As with the others, I've paid for a folio edition and received the paperback. This is no indictment on the novel itself, but repeat problems, should amazon still be selling this under false pretences?
on 5 June 2012
This is my ultimate favourite book of all time. It was the first Hardy book I read and I absolutely loved his style of writing and his presentation of all the main characters. It is so finely written, and you can picture everything with Hardy's in-depth descriptions. The book was written in the latter half of the 19th century, but is still incredibly accessible. The emotions Hardy deals with and the way the characters interact is fantastic. All in all, the author's writing skills coupled with a very busy yet easy to follow story line make this novel truly brilliant and timeless.