By Thomas Hardy
“She was of the stuff of which great men’s mothers were made. She was indispensable to high generation, hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises.”
Bathsheba is a strong, independent woman, and she wants you to know it. She proclaims she has no interest in marriage despite her jaw-dropping beauty (and the resulting marriage proposals), and she manages quite well. After an uncle passes away, a farm falls to her name, and she takes over the administrative role—an unprecedented move for a young, single woman. She works hard and wins the respect of the men and women who live and work on the farm. But she still can’t get rid of those pesky marriage proposals.
For being a romance novel from the early 1900s, Hardy has an interesting take on gender roles—Bathsheba being the indifferent love interest and Oak, Boldwood, and Troy being the three ridiculous, heart-broken lovers fighting tooth and nail for her. There are a few missteps that made me squint my eyes and ask “Really? You think THAT about women?” But given the overall tone of the book, I feel it can be forgiven.
Far From the Madding Crowd is fun, light-hearted, and a fairly easy read. It is the type of book that feels entirely predictable while still succeeding at drawing gasps from the reader at every plot twist. In fact while reading the book, I was compelled to relate the story’s entire string of events in painstaking detail to two good friends on two separate occasions. Think Jane Eyre minus the melodrama or Pride and Prejudice plus some scandal. Well done, Thomas Hardy. Well done, indeed.