What is your favourite book? This is definitely one of the hardest questions to answer. Choosing one book out of the many that hold a place in your heart is an almost impossible task. However, one of my all-time favourites has had something of a cultural rebirth in recent months, and therefore will be the focus of this piece.
Far From the Madding Crowd was first published in 1874 and is still widely read and adored today, proving its unwavering position in the group of timeless literary classics. Originally appearing anonymously as a monthly serial in Cornhill Magazine, Far From the Madding Crowd became Thomas Hardy’s first major literary success. Its popularity has endured, with film versions being produced as recently as 2015. What makes this novel stand out, not just from all other great literary compositions, but from Hardy’s many other successes? Once you begin the novel, you know: Hardy’s way of crafting meticulous descriptions, manoeuvring seamlessly between tragedy and comedy, leaves the reader saddened at the prospect of returning to reality after having explored the rolling hills of Wessex, from Bath to Weatherbury.
Far From the Madding Crowd centres around Bathsheba Everdene, a woman trying to hold her own in a man’s world. Throughout, she struggles to cope with maintaining her reputation while trying her best not to fall in love with her many suitors, and manage the farm left to her by her late uncle. Far From the Madding Crowd is characterised by Hardy’s attention to detail, rendering it nearly impossible to capture on film, and quite tedious to read at times, but ultimately fulfilling. Bathsheba is a strong female lead, and with Hardy’s genius behind her words, also incredibly quotable: “She was of the stuff of which great men’s mothers are made. She was indispensable to high generation, feared at tea-parties, hated in shops, and loved at crises.”
In this novel the themes of love, wealth, feminism, madness and friendship are all explored through the interactions between the many characters. Hardy has not only created a novel, but also a world which engulfs the reader until they feel part and parcel of the Weatherbury clan. It is exactly this talent of turning fiction into reality for the reader