Friday, September 28, 2012

Far From the Madding Crowd - by Thomas Hardy

Free US/UK Kindle Classic

Far From the Madding Crowd is a novel from 1895 by English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy.  It was initially a serial, as many books were at that time.(US Edition)  (UK Edition)  

The book has had a number of adaptations.  The 1967 film with Julie Christie and a uniformly great cast stands out.  Although the book was never forgotten, this did help popularize it for a new generation.

Hardy is not the easiest novelist to read.  This novel is where he first introduces "Wessex," his fictionalized area of Southwest England.  The name has now come into usage for that part of the country.

Mr. Oak carried about him, by way of watch, what may be called a small silver clock; in other words, it was a watch as to shape and intention, and a small clock as to size. This instrument being several years older than Oak's grandfather, had the peculiarity of going either too fast or not at all. The smaller of its hands, too, occasionally slipped round on the pivot, and thus, though the minutes were told with precision, nobody could be quite certain of the hour they belonged to. The stopping peculiarity of his watch Oak remedied by thumps and shakes, and he escaped any evil consequences from the other two defects by constant comparisons with and observations of the sun and stars, and by pressing his face close to the glass of his neighbours' windows, till he could discern the hour marked by the green-faced timekeepers within.

Mr. Oak and his watch could have stepped out of Dickens, but this is not a Dickensian novel.

I liked this description too:

A rather hard couch, formed of a few corn sacks thrown carelessly down, covered half the floor of this little habitation, and here the young man stretched himself along, loosened his woollen cravat, and closed his eyes. In about the time a person unaccustomed to bodily labour would have decided upon which side to lie, Farmer Oak was asleep.

You can see perhaps why his novels are not set completely aside, although I believe his poetry is superior and he is one of the great English poets.  I would like to mention that the excellent author, Claire Tomalin, has done a biography of Hardy, Thomas Hardy: The Time-torn Man

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