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Far From the Madding Crowd
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Far From the Madding Crowd > May 2014 Group Book Discussion

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message 1: by Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition (last edited May 01, 2014 09:40AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments Thomas Hardy lived from June 2, 1840, to January 11, 1928.
He grew up in Higherbockhampton, Dorset, the eldest son of a stonemason. He had one brother and two sisters. Sickly from an early age, he was educated at home until he was sixteen. He then began an apprenticeship, and then a career, as an architect. He started writing poetry in the 1860s but did not publish his first novel until 1871. He married Emma Lavinia Gifford in 1874.

It was not until the publication of Far from the Madding Crowd, Hardy's fourth novel, that Hardy won widespread popularity as a writer, and he was able to give up architecture. The book was published serially in 1874, in Corn Hill Magazine, a journal edited by Leslie Stephens, the father of Virginia Woolf. The novel was published in short sections, and as you read it, you can see that they intentionally leave the reader in suspense; this was a device to motivate readers to buy the next issue of the magazine. Early reviewers compared Hardy's writing to that of George Eliot and recognized him as an important new voice in English fiction.

Hardy went on to write novels at an extraordinary rate for more than 20 years, writing one every one or two years. His most famous novels written during these years include The Return of the Native, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and The Mayor of Casterbridge. After the publication of Jude the Obscure caused a major scandal in 1895, Hardy stopped writing novels and devoted the rest of his life (more than 30 years) to poetry. His last great project was an epic poem titled "The Dynasts," a versed chronicle of the Napoleonic Wars. After some time in London he built himself a house in his native Dorsetshire and lived there for the rest of his life. He was widowed in 1912 and married Florence Dugdale in 1914.

Hardy was a devoted reader of philosophy, scientific texts, the Bible, and Greek literature, and he incorporated much of his knowledge into his own works. One of the most profound influences on his thinking was Charles Darwin, particularly Darwin's emphasis on chance and luck in evolution. Though brought up to believe in God, Hardy struggled with a loss of faith suffered by many of his contemporaries; he increasingly turned to science for answers about man's place in the universe.

One of Hardy's central concerns in all of his writing was the problem of modernity in a society that was rapidly becoming more and more industrial. One of his projects as a writer was to create an account of life in the swiftly changing Dorsetshire as it had once been. He was particularly interested in the rituals and histories of that part of England, as well as the dialect of its locals. The title Far From the Madding Crowd suggests avoidance of the life of a city, modernized government, crowds and industry; in it, Hardy tries to fashion a portrait of what he saw as an endangered way of life and to create a snapshot for future generations.

http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/madding...


message 2: by Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition (last edited May 01, 2014 09:41AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments Independent and spirited Bathsheba Everdene has come to Weatherbury to take up her position as a farmer on the largest estate in the area.
Her bold presence draws three very different suitors: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, soldier-seducer Sergeant Troy and the devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak. Each, in contrasting ways, unsettles her decisions and complicates her life, and tragedy ensues, threatening the stability of the whole community.
The first of his works set in Wessex, Hardy's novel of swiftpassion and slow courtship is imbued with his evocative descriptions of rural life and landscapes, and with unflinching honesty about sexual relationships


Elsbeth (elsbethgm) I've started reading this, yesterday. So far I like it! The way he describes the peace and quite of the country-side with shepherd Gabriel Oak is beautiful - and harsh sometimes... Right now I'm at the Casterbridge fair - nice to read, after reading The Mayor of Casterbridge only just last month - I just imagine it all taking place at the market-square where one of the main characters of that book lived (in a house overlooking the market-square - maybe she is looking out at Gabriel Oaks ;)...).


message 4: by Judith (new) - added it

Judith Conk | 32 comments I just started it as well. I am really enjoying it. I need a dose of country. Looking forward to it.


Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments Yay! I just got a notice from my library that a copy of this book is available and also a DVD starring Colin Firth!


Elsbeth (elsbethgm) Terry wrote: "Yay! I just got a notice from my library that a copy of this book is available and also a DVD starring Colin Firth!"

Great! I remembered buying a dvd once too - I still own it (but never got around to watching it - maybe now is a good time!). Mine is with Nathaniel Parker and Paloma Baeza.
I love the 'peace and quiet' of this book: lots of country-scenes, not too many main-characters and just enough action to keep the story going and interesting!


Elsbeth (elsbethgm) Anja wrote: "Hi, sorry if this is dumb question but can anyone tell me how the book discussion works? I've read this book a couple of times and Hardy is one of my favorite authors. I'd like to participate. I di..."

Just say anything you want about the writer or book (or anything related) or react to something we've said. And avoid spoilers.

This is just my 2nd book by Thomas Hardy. I liked the first (The Mayor of Casterbridge) and love this one! I'm in a challenge for the '2014 Reading Challenge' book group, in which you have to read a book which was published in the year you were born and another book written by a writer who's birthday is the same day as your own. I'm using this one, because Thomas Hardy's birthday is, like mine, on the 2nd of june (which feels me, strange but true, a bit connected with him ;)...)!


message 8: by Wanda (last edited May 08, 2014 01:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Wanda (wandae) | 65 comments Yes about the spoilers - although sometimes it's hard to avoid them. I wish the discussions had html pointers like the ones to the side for reviews. For example, spoilers can be bracketed this way <*spoiler> hidden <*/spoiler> - just don't type the * or leave a blank space in its place and it should work.


message 9: by Elsbeth (last edited May 08, 2014 01:33PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Elsbeth (elsbethgm) Oh, I didn't know how that worked. I'll try it:
(view spoiler)


Elsbeth (elsbethgm) It works! Thanks for explaining!


Wanda (wandae) | 65 comments Hi back at ya and glad it worked!


Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments Sorry, it's not Colin Firth. It was Jonathan Firth who played Frank Troy in the DVD made in 1998.


Elsbeth (elsbethgm) Ah, Terry, than we must have the same dvd! Mine is also with Jonathan Firth and made in 1998.


Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments Hi Elsbeth, I watched part one last night and it was pretty good!


Elsbeth (elsbethgm) Terry wrote: "Hi Elsbeth, I watched part one last night and it was pretty good!"

I didn't get around to it, but I'll definitely watch it soon! I've almost finished the book. Too bad, I really, really like it!


message 16: by Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition (last edited May 09, 2014 06:57PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments In these two books we have discussed, the female protagonists seem to be the opposite of what is usually considered in a 19th century romance: a plot based on a young woman who falls in love and her family who try to arrange a good marriage. Both Emma and Bathsheba seem to enjoy their freedom and independence more than finding a suitable man.


Renee M Chapter 5: Oh, the poor sheep and the poor dumb dog, and poor Gabriel. :(

Chapter 6: What a surprise ending! And, again, poor Gabriel. :o


Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments (I love Gabriel - there would be no contest to me with the other two if I were her)


message 19: by Elsbeth (last edited May 10, 2014 10:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Elsbeth (elsbethgm) Terry wrote: "(I love Gabriel - there would be no contest to me with the other two if I were her)"

I agree! He is so loyal, loving in a non-demanding way, faithful etc. (and on the dvd I have, he is also handsome ;)!).

Well I can understand why Bathsheba falls for Troy. He is handsome, adventurous and exiting. And he likes being admired by her.
I feel sorry for Bathsheba and Boldwood: she feels guilty towards him for her Valentine-joke and for stirring feelings in him, he never thought he had. And he doesn't know how to handle those feelings, especially when she lets him know she doesn't share them.
I admire Gabriel for sticking by Bathsheba through all that. That he loves her so much to can stand all her passions for other men (or a man, since she not really loves Boldwood). And see how they love her (or he, since Troy doesn't really love her).
And poor Fanny, for being abandoned by her love, just for being late at their wedding and having to cope all by herself without knowing that in fact he does love her (and that with a young baby)!


message 20: by Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition (last edited May 24, 2014 02:12PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments I think Hardy's writing brings out how a person's life may be affected by chance encounters and little things that don't seem significant at the time:

Bathsheba sending an ironic valentine to Boldwood, who all but ignored her in church and at the market.
And Bathsheba bumping into Troy at night when checking her property.

Or, how sometimes it is so easy to fall madly in love with someone you barely know:

Boldwood is shocked and intriqued by the valentine (does not see the joke in it at all!) and after he finds out who sent it, he becomes totally obsessed with Bathsheba.
Bathsheba looks into Troy's eyes and for no reason, other than he is really good looking and compliments her, falls completely in love with him, after all the wooing by Boldwood (which I found desperate and creepy)and after Gabriel has been so honest with his feelings for her and constant and supportive for ages...


message 21: by Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition (last edited May 24, 2014 02:13PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments Elsbeth wrote: "Terry wrote: "(I love Gabriel - there would be no contest to me with the other two if I were her)"

I agree! He is so loyal, loving in a non-demanding way, faithful etc. (and on the dvd I have, he ..."


Hardy also brings out how rarely it happens that love is returned equally, with the same amount of feeling from both people:

Unequal Couples
who loves more = + / who loves less = -

Bathsheba - / Gabriel +
Fate keeps bringing them together

Bathsheba - / Boldwood +
Started with an insincere valentine

Fanny + / Troy -
They were separated by a silly misunderstanding

Bathsheba + / Troy -
She falls madly in love, he gets tired of her


Glenna | 109 comments I just finished reading the part with the Valentine incident. It really bothered her that Boldwood hadn't noticed her that she played such a trick on him. Now that he has fallen in love I can't wait to see where this is going to lead. Also I am enjoying the scenes at the malthouse with all farmhands banter.


Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments I read somewhere that Thomas Hardy used the farm laborers, giving detailed accounts of how they spent their free time, for comic relief, similar to the way Shakespeare used antics of "the lower class" to break up intense scenes.


Renee M Terri-
That was certainly true in The Mayor of Casterbridge. But, then usually something in the midst of those laborer scenes often ends up being the catalyst for something more intense later on. Those scenes can be deceptive.


message 25: by Renee (last edited May 11, 2014 05:09AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Renee M I find Boldwood to be a difficult character. Much less believable than Is usual for Hardy. Why does he fall for Bathsheba after one Valentine? Is he so shy that he needs the woman to throw herself at him? Is he so arrogant that only someone of Bathsheba's beauty and financial standing can tempt him? He certainly becomes pretty demanding, pretty quickly. Is this obsession? I want to think there's complexity there, but Hardy doesn't really indicate that. Consequently, Boldwood just annoys me.

I may not like Troy any better, but, at least, he's believable in his selfishness, arrogance, and greed.

Gabriel, of course, is just yummy.


message 26: by Trudy (last edited May 10, 2014 01:45PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Trudy Brasure | 95 comments Gabriel Oak is one of the finest heroes I've come across in literature. Really, does he have any faults? He seems so completely opposite from the self-centered alpha male type that seems the worshipped model these days. What a foil to Troy he is: dedicated, patient, self-sacrificing and forward-thinking. Troy is the nightmare boyfriend every mother or daughter should be afraid of: all splash and dash but no solid substance underneath.


Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments Trudy, I knew you would love Gabriel Oak! He is right up there with John Thornton!


Trudy Brasure | 95 comments Yes. I read Madding Crowd this summer and loved it. I adore the hero who patiently waits and does his best to serve the girl he really wants with little or no hope of ever winning her. Gabriel ranks up there with Thornton and Col. Brandon.


Elsbeth (elsbethgm) Renee wrote: "I find Boldwood to be a difficult character. Much less believable than Is usual for Hardy. Why does he fall for Bathsheba after one Valentine? Is he so shy that he needs the woman to throw herself ..."

I think Boldwood never imagined that a woman might find anything attractive about him. And the combination of a valentine card (which he can't imagine anyone would write in jest) with taking a good look at Bathsheba made him think that maybe it would be something to get married to someone like her. I think Hardy did a great job with Boldwood by portraying him first as a silent and timid man who
all of a sudden gets trigged into showing his deeper and until then hidden emotions. We have a saying about that: 'Stille wateren hebben diepe gronden' - which means, literally: 'silent waters have deep grounds'. You don't think Boldwood capable of such deep and violent emotions, because he always hid them.


message 30: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisainnortheast) | 7 comments I just couldn't get into this book. The dead sheep and dead dog part really solidified my disinterest in it. Maybe I just needed a break from Hardy after the Mayor of Casterbridge. I'll jump back in to group next month.


Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments Hi Lisa, I know what you mean - I often have to read a light hearted "chick lit" type of book or a fast paced spy/espionage novel to take a break in between reading the classics.


Elsbeth (elsbethgm) Terry wrote: "Hi Lisa, I know what you mean - I often have to read a light hearted "chick lit" type of book or a fast paced spy/espionage novel to take a break in between reading the classics."

I agree, but since I already had a few of those after the Mayor, I was ready for this one. And really loved it! Now I'm reading a few other 'lighter' books before starting on Jude the Obscure, for another group-read!


message 33: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda (lindy-lou) | 12 comments I thought I loved the Mayor's book, but then I read about life Far From the Madding Crowd and now I know what love really is! I was so ready to be let down by the end of the book, but tra la tra la, I'm happy as a May reader can be!

Give the book a chance to work its magic on you; I seldom recommend anything not Wilke Collins, but I'd tell anyone to read ths one.


Elsbeth (elsbethgm) Lindy-lou wrote: "I thought I loved the Mayor's book, but then I read about life Far From the Madding Crowd and now I know what love really is! I was so ready to be let down by the end of the book, but tra la tra l..."

I agree! And I too love Wilkie Collins! ;)


Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments "Pride & Prejudice" started me reading the classics, then "The Woman in White" by Wilkie Collins made me realize I loved 19th century novels.


Trudy Brasure | 95 comments Oh dear. Woman in White is on my shelf, unread. I guess I better get to it.
Yes, Far From the Madding Crowd is a satisfying read. Not as despairing as others. It's about as 'happily ever after' as a Hardy will ever get. Lol.


Renee M LOL, Trudy! It's positively a love-fest given what I've come to expect from Mr. Hardy. Rainbows and butterflies! (Just step over the pesky corpses, my dear.) :D


message 38: by Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition (last edited May 24, 2014 02:10PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments I just finished the book and I feel that it didn't work with Bathsheba and Troy or Bathsheba and Boldwood because neither Troy or Boldwood saw Bathsheba as a whole person.
Gabriel Oak truly loved Bathsheba, even while recognizing her faults.
Troy wanted a conquest and got bored as soon as she fell in love with him.
Boldwood was obsessed and only saw her as an object of great desire - he was the most crazy about her, yet knew her the least.


Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments Just copied the following from Sparknotes - I thought it was interesting:

"The title Far From the Madding Crowd comes from Thomas Gray's famous 18th-century poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard": "Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife, Their sober wishes never learned to stray; Along the cool sequestered vale of life They kept the noiseless tenor of their way." By alluding to Gray's poem, Hardy evokes the rural culture that, by Hardy's lifetime, had become threatened with extinction at the hands of ruthless industrialization. His novel thematizes the importance of man's connection to, and understanding of, the natural world. Gabriel Oak embodies Hardy's ideal of a life in harmony with the forces of the natural world.

The novel also contemplates the relationship between luck, or chance, and moral responsibility: Why should we live a morally upright life if tragedy strikes us all equally anyway? While some characters, like Gabriel, are always responsible and cautious, others, like Sergeant Troy, are careless and destructive. Hardy was very much influenced by the ideas of Charles Darwin, who maintained that the development of a biological species--and, by extension, of human society and history--is shaped by chance and not by the design of a god.

Another theme is the danger and destruction inherent in romantic love and marriage; Hardy exposes the inconsistencies, irrationalities, and betrayals that often plague romantic relationships. Bathsheba begins the novel an independent woman, but by falling in love with Troy, she nearly destroys her life. Similarly, Hardy presents us with many couples in which one partner is more in love than the other, and he shows what disastrous events result from this inequality."


message 40: by Donadee's Corner (last edited May 27, 2014 12:28PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Donadee's Corner (donade) | 51 comments Wow, this was one great book. Terry, I totally agree with you on Gabriel being the only one that saw her as a whole person. Just wish I could find a modern day version of him. Lol.... Boldwood was something of a shock, I thought I understood his shyness, his arrogance from his social standing and his uncertainties but I didn't expect his obsession. Now Troy, he turned out just as I expected! A total rogue!!! It was an excellent read. I really enjoyed all the discussions this month. I think we have a really good group.


Elsbeth (elsbethgm) I agree, Donna! I'm now reading Jude the Obscure for another groupread, wishing I had read that first and Far from the Madding Crowd second, because I loved that far more! After 'madding crowd' Jude is such a disappointment (but in itself it is okay)...

I also agree on your opinion of this group!


message 42: by Gita (last edited May 28, 2014 04:00AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gita Reddy I joined the group to jump into this discussion, after seeing my friend Donna's remark.
I have read all of Hardy’s books. He is among my favourite writers but he often disappoints me, not with the writing, or the characters, or the plot but with the fly-in-the-ointment endings he is so fond of.
In Tess of the D’urbervilles he killed off Tess; he sent off The Trumpet-Major empty handed with Anne Garland unwisely choosing his less worthy bother; he saddled Jude (among his best characters) with mixed-up Sue Bridehead, and so on and so forth.
Except in Far from the Madding Crowd, which is a delight of a book, having a thread of subtle humour running through it.
I love Bathshebha’s entry:
The girl on the summit of the load sat motionless, surrounded by tables and chairs with their legs upwards, backed by an oak settle, and ornamented in front by pots of geraniums, myrtles, and cactuses, together with a caged canary—all probably from the windows of the house just vacated. There was also a cat in a willow basket, from the partly-opened lid of which she gazed with half-closed eyes, and affectionately surveyed the small birds around.
The handsome girl waited for some time idly in her place, and the only sound heard in the stillness was the hopping of the canary up and down the perches of its prison. Then she looked attentively downwards. It was not at the bird, nor at the cat; it was at an oblong package tied in paper, and lying between them. She turned her head to learn if the waggoner were coming. He was not yet in sight; and her eyes crept back to the package, her thoughts seeming to run upon what was inside it. At length she drew the article into her lap, and untied the paper covering; a small swing looking-glass was disclosed, in which she proceeded to survey herself attentively. She parted her lips and smiled.
It was a fine morning, and the sun lighted up to a scarlet glow the crimson jacket she wore, and painted a soft lustre upon her bright face and dark hair. The myrtles, geraniums, and cactuses packed around her were fresh and green, and at such a leafless season they invested the whole concern of horses, waggon, furniture, and girl with a peculiar vernal charm. What possessed her to indulge in such a performance in the sight of the sparrows, blackbirds, and unperceived farmer who were alone its spectators,—whether the smile began as a factitious one, to test her capacity in that art,—nobody knows; it ended certainly in a real smile. She blushed at herself, and seeing her reflection blush, blushed the more.
JUST IMAGINE THAT. What a speaking picture.
And THE END: no fly in this ointment and humour retained
"Thank ye; thank ye all," said Gabriel. "A bit and a drop shall be sent to Warren's for ye at once. I had a thought that we might very likely get a salute of some sort from our old friends, and I was saying so to my wife but now."
"Faith," said Coggan, in a critical tone, turning to his companions, "the man hev learnt to say 'my wife' in a wonderful naterel way, considering how very youthful he is in wedlock as yet—hey, neighbours all?"
"I never heerd a skilful old married feller of twenty years' standing pipe 'my wife' in a more used note than 'a did," said Jacob Smallbury. "It might have been a little more true to nater if't had been spoke a little chillier, but that wasn't to be expected just now."
"That improvement will come wi' time," said Jan, twirling his eye.
Then Oak laughed, and Bathsheba smiled (for she never laughed readily now), and their friends turned to go.
"Yes; I suppose that's the size o't," said Joseph Poorgrass with a cheerful sigh as they moved away; "and I wish him joy o' her; though I were once or twice upon saying to-day with holy Hosea, in my scripture manner, which is my second nature, 'Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.' But since 'tis as 'tis, why, it might have been worse, and I feel my thanks accordingly."


Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments Yes, his writing is beautiful, no wonder he became a poet later on.


message 44: by Judith (new) - added it

Judith Conk | 32 comments I loved the book. Could picture the guy that plays Bates on Downton Abbey playing Gabriel. I love to picture the characters in my mind as I read and Hardy'sl language made it so easy. Liked. It much more than Tess!


Glenna | 109 comments I enjoyed this book immensely! I was so glad that Gabriel got his girl in the end. I see now that Boldwood was ill and more obsessed with the idea of marrying Bathsheba than truly loving her. I recall tears streaming down her face at the Christmas Eve party and yet he still pushes for the promise from her. In that moment I knew it was more about claiming his prize possession and not love (even in his mind it was). The shocking ending of Troy was the best way for him to truly be written out of the story. And may I just say one last thing.....Very well played Gabriel Oak, very well played!!


Elsbeth (elsbethgm) Glenna wrote: "I enjoyed this book immensely! I was so glad that Gabriel got his girl in the end. I see now that Boldwood was ill and more obsessed with the idea of marrying Bathsheba than truly loving her. I ..."

Couldn't say it better!


Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition | 504 comments I love your review, Glenna!


Glenna | 109 comments Last week I caught the movie version on Turner Classic Movies. It stars Julie Christie and Peter Finch. As usual the book was better but the movie is good and worth watching. Just thought I would share for anyone interested in a movie version of the book.


message 49: by Stacey (new) - added it

Stacey (stacey_wt) | 5 comments Loved this book - listened on audio and it was gorgeous, sumptuous writing. Such good characters and am now just a chapter or so from the end. Thanks for your great reading group -- this book is how I found you. And now I've joined!


Trudy Brasure | 95 comments Welcome, Stacey. It is a wonderful read, isn't it? Is this your first Hardy?
I just recommended this book to a friend this weekend. It's a great Hardy to read if you want minimal tragedy, believe it or not.
Glad you enjoyed it. I must re-read someday, if only for all that beautiful prose.


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