Did it truly take me four years to get around to reading Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd? For a movie I enjoyed so greatly (click here for my post on it), that does seem like a while, and yet perhaps it isn't so long in the grand scheme of things.
Victorian novels vary in their readability to the modern reader. I always like to pick on Charles Dickens because even though he's one of the most household names, he tends to go off on long tangents about random scenes or characters that fill in space more than add to the story. Or depending on who it is, sometimes instead of beautiful, descriptive imagery, you can feel like you're just reading really long passages of description. (And I say this as someone who highly enjoys the Victorian novel and finds many exceptions to these "complaints.") But Far From the Madding Crowd is greatly readable.
The descriptions in here always feel relevant and vivid and emotional. There is that passionate vein to the storytelling that of course was borderline inappropriate to the prim Victorians and is just enough to make it exciting to read. The story is simple and the setting is intentionally commonplace (to readers at the time, since of course 19th century English rural farmland is not commonplace to a modern, American reader, but you get my meaning). That's what makes it feel real.
Hardy uses such stirring descriptions of character and the way that different people respond to circumstances and to love. I still consider Jane Eyre one of my favorite books, but I remember picking up my copy one day excited to look at it with a new perspective and feeling disappointed, thinking to myself, this isn't love (which is okay because Jane Eyre isn't really a love story--the love story happy ending is just the fantasy element of it, but I digress again). But this. Thomas Hardy described all of our confusing thoughts and emotions (and even actions) towards the concept of love.
Love, according to this story, is something that grows. One can mistake sudden and passionate feelings for love. One may be able to build love out of respect and attraction. But the best love comes from growing alongside someone. Love is not just feeling; love is action. Love is not naivety; love is understanding. Bathsheba goes on quite a journey to understand all this. While you could write piles of scholarly papers on this book, I am simply writing a blog post. So I'll leave it at that for now. Far From the Madding Crowd is a greatly enjoyable love story to read. I do love vivid emotions and nature imagery; they are what make Victorian novels my favorites.
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