I was certain Far from the Madding Crowd will be a ‘love or hate’ novel, but now I am swaying in the middle. The writing is brilliant but archaic; the story goes to daring extremes to bare the human soul but the pacing falters.
The novel tells the story of an independent young woman torn between the suits of three very different men. Bathsheba Everdeen is headstrong, ahead of her time and does not know her own heart; that she combines the weakness of women in love and the strength of a remarkable character helps little and, basically, gets her in one huge mess of hurt feelings.
Hardy employed every paradigm of the genre long before it got copy-pasted over to every single TV Drama. You will find the discarded suitor, the dedicated selfless man in love, the instant infatuation, the blind love and ensuing betrayal; and salvation in the love of a deserving heart. But you will not find the intense storytelling we 21st century kids are used to and you will wonder how to stay involved.
I did because of the writing. Archaic, maybe yes, but Hardy reigns supreme when it comes to to-the-point multi-layered eloquence. I will be copying some of my favorite lines in a Memorable Writing post for you to consider, before picking this up (or to comment on if you’ve already read it).
Of course there is one other, very simple reason, I stuck around. After watching the new movie adaptation, I enjoyed having the image of its Gabriel Oak conjured up while reading.
About that movie.
Thomas Vinterberg’s 2015 adaptation boasts an all-star cast. I found Carey Mulligan a bit mature to evoke the young and headstrong Bathsheba from the novel, but she is easy to like. I already mentioned I am obsessed with Matthias Schoenaerts’s Gabriel, and Michael Sheen does a moving Boldwood. Sergeant Troy, portrayed quite adeptly by Tom Sturridge, is just as easy to hate as the movie intends – Troy in this version is more villainous than in the book, an obvious opposite of both the trustworthy caring Oak and the pitiful generous Boldwood.
If you know the story, Vinterberg’s Far From the Madding Crowd feels like a collection of vignettes, a slideshow of moments and pieces of dialogue that capture the soul of the novel, but not its flesh and teeth. This is probably a good thing, because it leaves you with a good feeling, albeit confused. The ending is hurried and probably looks forced to many, but not to me – after all I didn’t care whom Bathsheba ends up with, as long as our Gabe here got a bit more screen time.
In conclusion – I am glad the novel was adapted for the big screen again and sent me looking for the book. I am glad I read it, although I had to push through at the end. And I am glad for the movie itself – in our skeptic times love doesn’t fare very well, so a dilemma of the heart, which does not include alimony, Tinder, commitment issues or any other self-absorbed bs is a very very good thing to watch on the big screen.
Have you seen the movie yet? Read the novel? Are you crushing on Gabe? Boldwood? Come on, I need to know, please share in the comments : )
Almost forgot! I am starting a Newsletter in September and I am super-determined to make it worth your while if you subscribe. Plus, there will be a little something for the very first subscribers, not that I am bribing or anything.