Far From the Madding Crowd is my first foray in to Hardy, and I definitely will be reading more from him. However, I really didn’t enjoy this much.
Now, Hardy can write. There were periods of description in this book which I actually read twice over because it was just so beautiful. Passages about the night sky and the English countryside really set an amazing tone throughout the book and where really what kept me reading. It was the characters, and the plot, which I didn’t like.
Everyone says Bathsheba Everdene is one of the best characters in literature. She’s a strong, independent, feisty woman in a mans world. I found her to be a male interpretation of a ‘strong woman’. But then she can’t just be that, she can’t be this independent woman, instead she has to be portrayed as cruel. Then she goes gaga at the sight of a man in uniform. All of this build up of her being this independent woman who doesn’t need a man turns in to her just needing the right man. She had the potential to be incredible, but for me she was just a caricature. As for the men, they were very much a victim of the same fate – they were bland and literally were created to fit in to the right slot. The primary problem with every character is that I felt I’d read about all of them before.
The plot was predictable, and was very much driven by the predictable characters. From the outset I think it’s obvious where this was going to end up, it just went around the houses a bit to get there. There were elements which did surprise me and were unique and I really enjoyed those parts. At the beginning I found myself really heartbroken for Gabriel when he lost everything. Most of the positive parts of this book come from Gabriel. However, come the end of this book, in spite of predictable plot and characters, I found myself rooting for a happy outcome.
While it was frustrating, I couldn’t actually put it down. Hardy’s writing is so readable and I enjoyed that, and actually for all it’s faults this book it was still good. I still enjoyed it. It’s by far and away not the best book I’ve ever read, but it has me interested in Hardy and I really want to explore his writing more. I just found that if he applied even a little bit of the time and effort he put in to the scenery in to the characters and plot to give three-dimensional, fleshed out individuals and a more well rounded story this could have easily been a 5* book. Unfortunately, for me it was just OK and that means 3*.