Far From The Madding Crowd, 1874
Having loved one half and detested the other of the books I have read by Thomas Hardy I was really unsure as what to expect. The buzz surrounding the film renewed my interest in his work and I was willing to give Far from the Madding Crowd its due. I was so pleasantly surprised when within the first few paragraphs I was chuckling with joy at the unbridled irony and self-consciousness of Hardy’s writing. The first exchange between Bathsheba and Gabriel was incredibly refreshing and I thought myself very far from the crowded and confusing lines of The Return of the Native and in a much better moral scenario than that of Tess d’Urbervilles. Bathsheba is a wonderful character, flawed in the most natural and endearing fashion and we really can’t fault her anything with gentle reminders to her very young age and lack of emotional support in the face of what would appear as a very charming character. I loved how she was willing to win her love at any cost, forgoing any fears of possible pain to her character and embracing at a whim a life of suffering and possession so typical to the life of a married woman of her time. The ending was slightly patronising on the part of Hardy, especially since I spent the whole book rooting for Gabriel to be appreciated for his comfortable strength and intelligence. Nothing can wipe out the memory of the first few chapters of surprise and freshness of perspective, even if Hardy does leave us to swallow a bitter pill of realism.