Gabriel Oak: a former farmer and shepherd that fell onto hard times after Bathsheba rejects him, and who strikes out to find good work, only to end up working under Bathsheba on her new farm. He’s constant, steady, and once rejected, refuses to proclaim is love again. Bathsheba is under the unhappy conclusion that he’s lost all love for her.
Farmer Boldwood: a prosperous farmer neighboring Bathsheba’s farm, who doesn’t even notice her until she sends him a frivolous and silly Valentine. Boldwood then becomes obsessed to the point of insanity, and all hell breaks loose. Bathsheba feels indebted to him because it was “her fault” that he’s obsessed.
Sergeant Troy: a rascal, rake, and good-looking soldier who has been stringing along a girl named Fanny, who believes he will marry her. Fanny worked for Bathsheba’s uncle and was helped in life by Boldwood, so her proximity to the other players puts Troy into Bathsheba’s past, where he throws Fanny over by his temporary crush. Bathsheba is drawn to him even as she hates him.
Now, who will Bathsheba ultimately end up with? That’s the question, and one Bathsheba isn’t entirely sure of herself. Hell, she’s not even sure she wants to be married! She kinda likes being on her own, and under her own direction. But pressure is coming from all sides, and Bathsheba undergoes several radical transformations of spirit throughout this book, which is filled with the sort of gossipy twists and turns that I’ve come to expect from Thomas Hardy. In other words, it was great fun.
Two thoughts struck me as I listened to this audiobook:
1. Of the five Hardy novels I’ve read, the two on audio have been by far the best, and I wonder if perhaps Hardy is just better on audio. Also, the two I’ve listened to have been far less tragic than the others. There are certainly Tragedies and Bad Things Happening, but there’s Good Stuff, too, and I’m always a bit cheered at the end. Plus, the audio makes the books more accessible for me – especially with regards to all that pastoral writing and the huge casts of minor townsfolk characters. I’m not sure if I just got lucky in listening to the two best, or if perhaps I would have enjoyed the ones I read in print better on audio also. But I think I’ve come to the conclusion that Hardy is meant to be performed instead of read, at least for me.
2. I’m astounded by how long it’s been since I read a Hardy novel. I was adding up my book stats for this year and going back to see if I’d read any other Hardy this year. I thought I’d read something in the last year and wasn’t sure if it was in 2015. But as it turns out, I haven’t read anything in four years. !!! It does feel like it was within the last year, but apparently all three other Hardy novels that I’ve read post-blogging were from 2010-2011. (Tess of the D’Urbervilles, on the other hand, was way back in 2006 I believe.) It’s no surprise to me that it’s been a long time since I’ve read classics on a regular basis, but it feels like I’ve read Hardy recently and I’m not sure exactly why that is. Obviously, it’s been way too long.
Other than those two thoughts, I’ll just say that Far From the Madding Crowd was awesome. Just plain awesome. It wasn’t quite as good as my very favorite, Return of the Native (read by Alan Rickman!!!), but it was very close. Who knows? It might have been a favorite if Mr. Rickman had been reading it. Though I still think I loved Eustacia Vye too much to let Bathsheba Everdene dethrone her.
Spoilery paragraph (highlight to read): Boldwood was super creepy, and the scene where he reduces Bathsheba to agreement and completely mows down her soul was one of the most horrible things I’ve ever read. Hardy writes it so well, and despite the sympathy that later comes to Boldwood re: his mental illness, I have no pity for the asshole. Troy was a rake and a horrible guy, but he was what he was. Boldwood, on the other hand, was supposed to be a good person. And Bathsheba should know that if a frivolous Valentine can cause someone to form an immediate, obsessed bond, she should run as far as possible, not consider it her responsibility. Oak, of course, was the obvious choice for real love, but at the same time, I love that he’s rejected when he’s formed his own instantaneous infatuation, and then later he lets that infatuation grow into true love over time and experience and knowledge of Bathsheba’s character. That made me smile. End spoiler.
Performance: This audiobook was not read by Alan Rickman. Boo. It was read by Nicholas Guy Smith, who is not Alan Rickman, but who admittedly did a fabulous job with this performance. Hardy has so many characters in his books, many of whom are minor side-players who turn up again and again. Each of those characters had their own distinct voice, which is quite impressive. Solid performance. Even if it wasn’t from Rickman. Heehee.