Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy is a writer that has already won me over. The first two of his books were amain and I went into this with high expectations. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as Jude the Obscure or Tess of the d’Urbervilles, it was still a fantastic book that captured that same charm.

The storyline follows a character called Gabriel Oak. Oak is a farmer who ends up working for a woman named Bathsheba Everdene, who had previously declined his hand in marriage. We then get to see a rough love triangle form between Bathsheba and a toxic and creepy guy named Sergeant Troy, and a man named William Boldwood, who becomes kind of obsessed with her – both are attracted to Bathsheba, but her feelings towards them are complicated. Meanwhile, Oak stands on the sidelines and watches it unfold as she confides it all in him.

One of the best things about this novel is its setting. Aside from a brief bit that’s kind of about Bath (and as a resident of Bath, this delights me), it’s almost entirely set in a very isolated rural community. The introduction even makes reference to it being so cut off that going there was almost like going back in time. The feel of the countryside runs through the entire thing, and the author does a fantastic job of making it feel like a beautiful, if unforgiving, location. If you love novels to have a strong sense of place, this is something that you’re sure to really appreciate.

Of course, this being Thomas Hardy, he also does a brilliant job of highlighting the plight of women in his time. Stuck between Oak, Boldwood, and Troy, Bathsheba essentially has the option of choosing the lesser of three evils. There’s the attractive, but manipulative scumbag, the pathetic guy who is endlessly loyal, but can’t get over her rejection and feels entitled to her love, then there’s the “nice guy” who’s actually quite an unsympathetic jerk to her too.

The characters are all well fleshed out and it’s a drama I enjoyed seeing play out. It isn’t shy about showing the very severe consequences of women being used by men, and things come to a really shocking head towards the end. Because everyone was so well written, I even cared about the characters I actively disliked.

While the very final end wasn’t quite as good as it could have been, ultimately, this was an amazing piece of human drama against a beautiful countryside backdrop. If you’re a lover of classics, this is one to try.

Rating: 8/10

Buy it here.

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