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Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

 

First up in my new series of book reviews and attempts to broaden my horizons: Far From The Madding Crowd!

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Far From the Madding Crowd (or Ffmc, pronounceffmcd Faffumk, for short), I’d never actually heard anything about it, other than that it’s one of those books you simply must read old chap, so i was quite surprised to find that it was primarily about sheep. Seriously, warn a girl. So many sheep. Not sure what I was expecting from a book titled Far From the Madding Crowd, but it wasn’t whole chapters devoted to descriptions of sheep. Once I got over the sheep shock I actually quite enjoyed it. At it’s heart it’s a love story, exploring the difference between a crush and the real thing. I really liked Gabriel Oak, although at several points I did wonder why he didn’t just get a job somewhere else, instead of sticking around to watch the woman he loved gallivant around with all the other men in the village. Mr Boldwood genuinely had me fearing for Bathsheba at points, one of the most interesting characters I’ve read from the 1800’s, obviously I haven’t read many but the ones I have all tend to be the same, Mr Darcy types or Wickham types. Sergeant Troy obviously falls into the later category and I am starting to wander why 19th century novelists hate soldiers so much?

Bathsheba is clearly supposed to be a strong woman, she doesn’t need no man to help her run the farm, she doesn’t want to marry Oak just because he happened to ask first. By the standards of the time it was written, she was a strong female protagonist. There seem to be a lot of people complaining that Hardy claims she is strong willed then writes her to be a weak and feeble woman,  to them I say; you can’t compare Bathsheba and Katniss Everdene/Everdeen, they are products of very different times. I really hope Katniss was named after Bathsheba though, that would amuse me. My favourite strong woman has to be Susan Tall, purely because Hardy introduces us to her husband as ‘Susan Tall’s Husband’ and she obviously runs that household. Made me giggle.

There are some passages which have not aged well, things which I still have no idea what they meant, something about a ‘cucumber stand’, I genuinely don’t know if it was
supposed to be sexual or actually about cucumbers (if you know, please tell me) and I’m not a fan of having whole chapters that were purely about describing characters but actually it’s quite funny once you get into it and I was shocked and appalled by the turns of events and didn’t see any of it coming. (OK, I saw a bit of it coming. But only a bit.) Overall I rather enjoyed my foray into 19th century agriculture and I’d definitely recommend it to a friend. Bravo, old chum.

*Update* According to wikipedia, Katniss is indeed named after Miss Everdene and I am amused.

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