*I won’t be able to discuss this book with dropping spoilers, so reader beware!
Far from the Madding Crowd was my latest #CCspin book. I thought I had never read it before, but once I got started, I felt less sure. It seemed so very familiar, I knew what was going to happen, yet none of the details sparked any memory. It was only towards the end that I realised what was happening. The love triangle story may have been an unusual theme (outside of Shakespeare) when Hardy first wrote this in 1874 but since then, the love triangle has become such a regular device used by story tellers and movie makers everywhere. For me there were no surprises about who ended up together or the fate of the various failed suitors.
It was so obvious from almost the first page that Bathsheba Everdene was going to end up with the wholesome, trustworthy Farmer Gabriel Oak, that I found her dalliances with the aloof Boldwood, then the flighty Sergeant Troy frustrating to the extreme. I understand that Bathsheba had to experience these unsatisfactory relationships to appreciate Gabriel all the more, but I found myself getting bored.
The only thing that saved me was Hardy’s beautiful language and the funny, funny dialogue between the farm hands. As an ode to rural life and customs, it’s hard to surpass Hardy, but even I, who love a good descriptive passage found myself sighing when yet another long passage waxing lyrical about the countryside opened up in front of me!
Having read Tess of the D’Urbervilles a couple of times, I know that Hardy can write a book that moves me, even if that emotion is anger. Provoking an emotional response is a good thing in a book, but I’m not sure that boredom is one that most authors would be pleased to claim.
I did love, compared to Tess, that Bathsheba was a strong, independent woman who was capable and sexy and hard working. She may have made some poor choices along the way, but she owned them and maintained control of her destiny in the end. As a women with property and means she was able to ride rough-shod over some of the local customs and expectations in a way that the much poorer Tess could not.
The Weatherbury bees were late in their swarming this year….Bathsheba was standing in her garden, watching a swarm in the air, and guessing their probable settling place. Not only were they late this year, but unruly….
Bathsheba resolved to hive the bees herself if possible….She had dressed the hive with herbs and honey, fetched a ladder, brush and crook, made herslef impregnable with an armour of leather gloves, srtraw hat, and large gauze viel -once green but faded to snuff colour – and ascended a dozen rungs of the ladder. At once she heard not ten yards off a voice that was beginning to have a strange power in agitating her.
‘Miss Everdene, let me assist you. You should not attempt such a feat alone!‘
Hardy’s title came from Thomas Gray’s poem Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751):
Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.