Confession: I had never read any Thomas Hardy before a couple of weeks ago. Although 19th century literature is probably my strongest area, and includes some of my most favourite writing, I'd mostly approached it through my studies, which were focused on French and German literature. Any other reading was done in my spare time and Thomas Hardy always seemed, in all honesty, incredibly dreary. I imagined him as a mixture of the worst parts of Dickens and Flaubert, interspersing depictions of tragic, oppressed women with slightly preachy social commentary. Although I've yet to read most of his oeuvre, and I remain a little wary of his most famously tragic works like Tess of the D'Ubervilles, I finished Far From the Madding Crowd a few days ago and found my impressions entirely changed.
Briefly, I am entirely and completely obsessed. So obsessed, in fact, that I couldn't bring myself to do anything else for hours afterwards, because all I wanted was still to be in the middle of reading it. Everything about it is perfection, from the stunning portrayal of 19th century rural life, to the wild passions and romances which the plot revolves around. Central to it all is Bathsheba Everdene, one of the most vivid literary heroines to grace a novel's pages. Why Bathsheba isn't as popular as Lizzie Bennet or Jane Eyre is entirely beyond me: bold, vivacious, charming and flawed, Bathsheba captures the reader's attention from her very first appearance to the very last page. I can't remember the last time I was as enthralled by a character's journey, or as desperate to read about their fate, as I was for Bathsheba and the three men she becomes entangled with: the reserved Farmer Boldwood, the dashing Sergeant Troy or the quietly passionate (and oh-so-beautiful) Gabriel Oak. My finally getting around to reading some Hardy is rather perfectly timed, as a film adaptation is set to come out in a couple of months. Starring Carey Mulligan, who has the perfect amount of spirit and charm for the part, as well as Matthias Schoenarts, Michael Sheen and Tom Sturridge, it looks absolutely perfect. I can hardly (Hard(l)y? Geddit? No?) wait to be immersed in this world again.
"It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language chiefly made by men to express theirs."