If you are romantic or a romanticist of enjoy a tumultuous romantic love triangle or quadrangle in this case, you will love this book. If you are a man who wonders about the structure within a woman’s mind, you may be mystified, bewildered and confused. But this book was written with a mystified, bewildered girl as the central character, written by a 19th century Brit and if there were a world populated by many such women there would be many more men willing to give up the heterosexual life forever!.
Bathesheba Everdene is her name and fickle is her game. On a foolish and cruel whim she sends an anonymous valentine to the local confirmed bachelor farmer, William Boltwood with only 2 words: Marry Me. Up until then Farmer Boltwood wouldn’t know a woman from a ewe and this card turns his life upside down as he turns into a lovesick maniac when he finds out who wrote the note, his next door neighbor, the aforementioned vixen Bathsheba, also a sheep farmer. Bathsheba is a hottie teenager with great managerial skills and diligence to succeed on her new inherited farm which of course only a man could handle but she proves to the serfs in the little Southwest England burg of Weatherbury that a sheep farm and haying 1000 acres is woman’s work. We are introduced to a salt of the earth shepherd Gabriel Oak, who falls for her hook, line and shepherd’s crook. He woos her and has his hopes dashed but he stays on as hired help carrying his secret flame burning in his breast.
Boltwood, our love sick puppy, begs Bathsheba to marry him and she is almost persuaded to do so if for no other reason than to shut him up when a red coated blue blooded soldier/lothario by the name of Frank Troy sweeps her off her feet with ridiculous flattery and amazing swordsmanship and the knot is quickly tied. But it turns out he has been bonking a blonde maid, Fanny Robin, who he loves better. So much better that she gets a swelled abdomen leading to complications. So Bathsheba’s marriage turns to sheep manure as he blows
her money on gambling and booze. I’ll stop now. Hardy now has to decide if true love will ever come to Bathsheba or anyone else. The strong points are Hardy’s floral descriptions of Wessex(SW England) with its farms and fens and moors and horrific weather. If you love nature, you know Hardy by now. The characterizations are at times clear and brilliant and at times not so brilliant. Bathsheba Everdene at times is presented as a self assured independent level headed woman in full command of her life and at times a whako teenager with poor impulse control and terrible judgment. I’d say the first half of the book is a solid 4 star read but Tom Hardy really ramps up the last half with crises and conflict enough to satisfy anyone who loves hopeless romantic entanglements. Five star for me. Disclosure: I am a sheep farmer which may have influenced my rating. Addendum: The title comes from a line in Thomas Grays poem “Elegy in a Country Churchyard” which is a 5 star poem. The term refers to a life far from the bustle of civilization, preferably in a calm, private and rural setting.