This is the seventh novel by Thomas Hardy that I've read. If you've seen the movie, then you know that the two main characters are Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oaks. Of the two, I thought Gabriel was the easiest to like. He's a simple, hardworking, unpretentious farmer when he first meets and proposes marriage to Bathsheba. But then his fortunes change, as do hers, and she ends up owning her uncle's large farm while Gabriel ends up working for her as her shepherd. There is no guile in Gabriel. He's solid and and steady and honest, though not exciting or handsome enough to tempt Bathsheba.
As for Bathsheba, she's a more complicated character. She's young and pretty and a little vain. She's also independent, spirited, and determined to hold her own in what is essentially a man's world. I admired her daring in deciding to run her uncle's farm on her own, but her youthful vanity made her do things at times that I didn't love, like when she sends an anonymous valentine to the handsome bachelor Farmer Boldwood to tease him just because he had the temerity not to notice her at the market-house. I guess there's nothing that draws a woman's attention like a man's indifference, at least in Thomas Hardy's world. Of course, when Boldwood then falls feverishly in love with her and asks her to marry him, Bathsheba finds she must refuse him because she does not love him back.
Sergeant Troy finishes the triangle of suitors encircling Bathsheba. He's handsome and charming and full of flattery. "He was perfectly truthful towards men, but to women lied like a Cretan." He also has another girl he's in love with, but he can't seem to stay away from beautiful Bathsheba. And Bathsheba, unable to resist his attentions, finds herself foolishly falling in love for the very first time. More drama then ensues.
Almost all of the Thomas Hardy novels I've read seem to have a tragic ending, but while many tragic events do occur in this novel, there's actually a happy ending for both Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oaks. Which made me like this one even more. Hardy's descriptive powers are also on full display in this novel. I like the way he writes, but sometimes his descriptions do slow down the narrative. Still, I'm very glad I finally read this one. Far From the Madding Crowd was first published in 1874 and counts as my 19th Century Classic for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge.
Other Hardy novels I've reviewed on my blog:
My three favorite Hardy novels: