The power of books
A significant moment in history or even a familiar smell. These things have the power to trigger powerful memories. What we were doing at the time, or where we were, flash before us as clearly as if we were back in the moment.
Books, too, have that power. The power to transport us to another place and time.
As I turn the pages of Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd, I am suddenly surrounded by a riot of tile work and the sonorous sound of prayer. The sounds of the souk and the bustle of the Djemaa el-Fna envelope me. I am back in Marrakesh, where Hardy’s words first drew me in.
About the author
Born in 1840, Thomas Hardy is one of the most renowned poets and novelists in English literary history. The county of Dorset heavily influenced his material, with his rustic characters often a testament to the rural, unchanging nature of his hometown.
Whilst Hardy regarded himself a poet, his accolades were received for his fictional works. Namely, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Jude the Obscure and, of course, Far From The Madding Crowd.
Often noted for his portrayals of tragic characters battling against social circumstance, Hardy has nonetheless captured the hearts of many, with two of his acclaimed novels making it into the BBC Big Read.
So, with Hardy’s classic looming large on my bucket list, I forged on in my literary endeavour.
Far From The Madding Crowd
Bathsheba Everdene is a protagonist ahead of her time. Fiery and independent, she arrives in Weatherbury to assume her role as farmer of her inherited estate. In an industry dominated by men, Bathsheba battles to establish herself as an authority.
Despite being published in the late 1800s, Hardy’s novel is rife with themes reminiscent of today’s society. Women fighting for their place in society; fighting for equal rights. Bathsheba Everdene began this fight many years ago.
In spite of herself, Bathsheba attracts the attention of three starkly different suitors: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, the smooth-tongued Sergeant Troy and the devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak.
Thomas Hardy’s rich prose and evocative language places readers atop the rolling hills, watching the drama unfolding below at Weatherbury.
Whilst we may fancy ourselves unflappable and unwavering in the face of a challenge, remaining steadfast is not always so easy. Much like the women to follow more than a century later, Bathsheba Everdene would learn of the battle that often ensues between heart and head.
As each suitor disturbs Bathsheba’s course, and tragedy ensues, she is forced to re-examine her every decision.
Far From The Madding Crowd is a novel of constant contrast. The seducer and the gentleman. The honest and the deceitful. Swift passion and slow courtship.
Whilst Hardy’s novel offers an unflinchingly honest account of male/female dynamics, with prose and tasteful passion often lost in today’s world, it is not what makes this story so ahead of its time.
What sets this story apart lies in Bathsheba’s understanding of herself. An independent woman who confidently eschews men? Now that’s something I can support.
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