Thursday, July 2, 2015

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy



It's tough to "review" a classic. I worry that I'm not using the proper vocabulary (should have taken a few more English classes in college), plus it seems like there isn't much fresh or new to say. So instead, I have chosen to focus on my reading experience.

When it comes to Hardy, my experience is limited. The Mayor of Casterbridge  was assigned at some point in college, but I have no recollection of actually reading it... I was probably studying organic chemistry.

Two years ago The Classics Club Spin dealt me Tess of the d'Urbervilles , a novel which redefined my idea of a tragedy. I loved it and knew there would be more Hardy in my future.

Far From the Madding Crowd was next, primarily because of the impending film release. I watched the trailer, but went into the book not knowing anything else about it. Not the way I usually approach a novel, but that turned out to be a plus in this case.

The story was engaging and I delighted in a couple of unexpected plot twists. The characters were well-drawn... independent and determined Bathsheba Everdene and her multiple suitors. My favorite, of course, was the quietly suffering, honorable Gabriel Oak.

Hardy does get a little long-winded in some of his descriptions, but I felt I could see the countryside and characters. A very visual author, indeed.

This book was another a read/listen combination for me - my preferred approach for classics these days. I enjoyed Jamie Parker's narration, but it did seem strange listening to someone other than Simon Vance read a classic. Thank you, Care for "OneBooking" this title to me. I would be happy to pay it forward if anyone else would like to listen. (Read about audible's OneBook program here.)

I finally saw the new film version over the weekend and loved it... the perfect way to spend a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon, in my opinion. My husband, unfortunately, wasn't quite as enthusiastic and had a hard time staying awake.

Which Hardy novel should I read next?

My rating:

61 comments:

  1. I have been reading a lot of Victorian era literature lately. I have actually never read Hardy but I plan to do so soon.

    This sounds like a book I would really like.

    Your post is articulate and engaging. If there is a special vocabulary one should use when talking about a book like this no one has let me in on the secret :)

    I think that out blogs should just be about expressing our thoughts on a book anyway.

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    1. Brian Joseph - This was a wonderful book, but I really needed the audio to pull me along at the beginning (same was true for Tess). Thanks for your kind words. I love to read classics but often feel inadequately equipped to discuss them.

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  2. I was drawn to this because of the movie as well, but I think I should read it first, right?

    (PS I agree with Brian Joseph!)

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    1. Audrey - I always prefer to read the book before seeing the movie, but this movie was very well done and may even help you get through the book.

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  3. I wanted to see the movie but it came and went before I had a chance.

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    1. Kathy - It's definitely worth watching... bet it won;t be too long before Netflix has it.

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  4. I haven't read this one but I loved Tess when I read it despite the fact that it was traumatizing. I'm so glad you enjoyed the movie! I really want to see it!

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    1. Katherine - This was nowhere near as tragic as Tess! The movie was beautiful.

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  5. I've never read Hardy. I sometimes think I will dedicate an entire year to classics but it never happens.

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    1. Ti - I really need variety - classics, literary fiction, nonfiction - but tend to read in streaks. This years seems to be classics and series.

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  6. My mother and I just saw the film at the "dollar" theater last weekend. Usually I love the novel, but not so much the film, but when I downloaded the sample on my nook I could certainly see why you'd call him long-winded! Goodness, I didn't have the patience to persevere, but that's probably more because of my second failed tooth implant (this Tuesday) than because of Harding. I did enjoy the film Tess of D'Ubervilles very much, but that doesn't help you with another book.

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    1. Bellezza - That is exactly why I love read/listen combos for classics. Audios help me get into the story and get used to the authors voice. I can understand having a problem with Hardy's narrative even without a failed implant. Hope you are feeling better soon!

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  7. I can't help you with which Hardy to read next as this is the only one I've ever read. But that was back in high school (yep, decades ago) and I remember little about it other than the vague recollection of enjoying it. I think you've inspired me to give it a reread. (And I just popped over to Scribd and found they have the audio, so Yay!)

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    1. Debi - Audio definitely made this a little easier and more enjoyable for me. I highly recommend the film, too. I'm sure it will be out on Netflix before too much longer.

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  8. I read Tess several years ago, and loved the writing, but it was so sad! This one doesn't seem as heartbreaking; maybe I'll have to give it a try.

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    1. Carrie - You should give this a try! It is nowhere near as sad and it's a very good story. Tess was absolutely devastating.

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  9. Great review! With the new movie out, this book has been on my radar. I've read Tess a couple of times in my life and love it. I enjoyed Return of the Native as a teenager, but it has been a long time since I've read it!

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    1. Laura's Reviews - This story is so very different from Tess... not quite the impact, but nowhere near as sad either. I'm off to see what Return go the Native is all about. Thanks for the recommendation :)

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  10. I read Tess in college, but I haven't read anything else by Hardy. Your review makes me want to try more Hardy. Far from the Madding Crowd looks like a novel I'd enjoy. Thanks for your review!

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    1. Monica - The story is excellent and it is nowhere near as tragic as Tess... highly recommended!

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  11. I am a big fan of Hardy but haven't read this. I will one day no doubt but they take a lot out of you. Very emotional.

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    1. Emma - You are so right. Hardy's books can be emotionally draining!

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  12. Have yet to read Hardy, JoAnn. I have a couple on the shelf and will get to it someday. I feel the same way as you about classic. Some how they seem 'above' me as I don't get as over thrilled as everyone else seems to get about them. I didn't care for Jane Eyre, a sacrilege I think!

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    1. Peggy Ann - Hardy's language takes some getting used to, but the audio helped me get into the story. I read Jane Eyre ages ago and didn't love is as I felt I was supposed to...feel like I should reread it now to see if anything has changed ;-)

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  13. I think I read this a while ago when I was on a Hardy kick but my memory is foggy. Sounds like the movie is worth seeing. I'd like to revisit The Return of the Native which I also read in high school.

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    1. Lory - The Return of the Native is one that I'm considering. Not sure that I'll ever go on a Hardy kick... may only be able to read him every year or so.

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  14. I can't remember if I've read this or not. I am excited about the movie. Isn't there an older movie made from this book?

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    1. Patience_Crabstick - Yes, there was a film made back in the late 60s. Just looked it up and found Julie Christie start as Bathsheba... may just have to see if I can find it somewhere.

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  15. I like reading classics too but yes, they are sometimes hard to review.. how do you review the great ones? This is one I have not read.

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    1. Sheila - Even if you don't ever read this, the movie is definitely worth seeing!

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  16. Wow...I admire you for this quest!

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  17. I read Tess eons ago, but haven't read any of Hardy since. I will give this one a try due to your great post. Right after I finish Great Expectations. Never erad much Dickens either

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    1. Jenny Girl - This is very different from Tess. There are sad parts, but not the devastating tragedy.

      I seem to have lost interest in Dickens when I discovered Trollope. Many people compare them, but Trollope seems more to my taste. Great Expectations is my favorite Dickens so far though.

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    2. That's ok I enjoy all kinds of ups and downs.
      Have heard of Trollope and would like to give him a try to. Pip just found out he has "great expectations", so I have a ways to go. enjoying it so far!

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    3. Jenny Girl - I hope you will try Trollope one day. Enjoy the rest of Great Expectations!

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  18. I've read Tess.. and this one, that's it by him, and it was as required reading for high school or college, that long ago. I did like them, don't remember loving them but then again, my tastes have changed over the years. Glad it was a hit for you.

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    1. Rita - Isn't it funny how our tastes change over the years? I've been thinking about a 'rereading high school' project... possibly this fall.

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  19. Tess is one of my favorite novels. Eventually I will read Madding...

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    1. Diana - When you do read Madding, be sure to watch the film, too!

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  20. I've read about a third of Hardy's 15 novels. I suggest reading The Mayor of Casterbridge next. ;-) Or go with Return of the Native.

    And I believe the language we should use to review classics is the same language we use when we review any book. Just because a book is old and 'great' doesn't mean you need advanced knowledge to talk about it.

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    1. I agree with your comment about reviewing classics -- just write what you feel!

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    2. Thanks James and Karen... guess that's all I really do anyway ;-)

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  21. I used to have one of Hardy's books on my shelves but I don't remember what came of it (it's probably back in India). I haven't read anything by this author and like you, always struggle to review one.

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    1. Athira - I'm guessing you'll be far too busy very soon to be reading much Hardy ;-)

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  22. I heard the movie adaptation was very good. Will have to get to it and now read the book as well.

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    1. Lisa - The movie was excellent... despite what my husband would say ;-)

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  23. I loved this movie and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the book -- my first two forays into Hardy were underwhelming. I think my next Hardy will be A Pair of Blue Eyes or The Return of the Native, which I've heard is wonderful. I also own Under the Greenwood Tree.

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    1. Karen K. - Have you read Tess? That is such an emotionally devastating book. Both A Pair of Blue Eyes and The Return of the Native appeal to me. Think I'll wait until next year for my next Hardy novel.

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    2. I read Tess several years ago and was underwhelmed. Maybe it just wasn't the right time and place. I was just starting my journey into Victorian lit and since then I've read most of Dickens and an awful lot of Trollope. I want to explore more Hardy so I may give it a re-read eventually, after I finish some of his other books first, I have about 4 on the TBR list.

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    3. Karen K. - I'm sure Simon Vance's narration added to my enjoyment of Tess, but also think it was a matter of finding the right book at the right time.

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  24. When you say read/listen combo, you mean you listened to an audio and read the book at the same time? I'm impressed. I'm sure it's time consuming but interesting. I want to read Hardy in the future. Sounds terrific.

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    1. Thecuecard - I should probably do a post on this because I know it's not clear. What I do is read the book as usual, but download the audiobook to listen in the car, on my walks, when I clean the house, etc. There is a feature on audible/amazon called whispersync which allows you to read on a kindle and then pick up the audio version (for me, on my iPhone) wherever you left off. Very convenient and it allows me to get through books much faster than reading alone.

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    2. Whenever possible, I get an audio version as well, though I mostly read print copies instead of Kindle. Of course you can't sync a print book and I spend time in the car trying to catch up! I've heard Alan Rickman narrated Return of the Native so I really want to get hold of that.

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    3. Karen K. - I'll bet Alan Rickman is wonderful! Off to check audible...

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  25. I read several Hardy novels while in school and did like them. I believe Jude the Obscure is another of his, and I remember liking it as well. Great idea to listen to them--I'll have to give this a try.

    My Tuesday post: http://www.bookclublibrarian.com/2015/07/first-chapter-first-paragraph-111.html

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    1. Catherine - Listening to classics helps me get into the story faster.

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  26. Did Hardy really know a Gabriel Oak? I luv the name.

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    1. Topazshell - I do, too... and love Hardy's opening paragraphs about him!

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  27. I can recommend Return of the Native--I don't like either main character as much as Gabriel and Bathsheba, but the story is interesting, and the opening chapter sublime!

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    1. JaneGS - I just loved Gabriel... right from the description of him in the opening chapter! My next Hardy with probably be either A Pair of Blue Eyes or Return of the Native. Your recommendation and Karen K's mention of an Alan Rickman audio narration make Return of the Native seem like the way to go!

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