Read Harder #1: Romance

Far from the Maddening Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Merry Christmas everyone! I’ve finally decided which category to kick off #ReadHarder 2015 with Romance. 

Holidays are a fun, laid back time to spend with family and friends so I thought something light and uplifting would be a good fit for the season. I had originally been aiming to complete the ‘Prior to 1850’ category to get it out of the way but apparently this book is over 20 years too late. Oops! Besides, have you ever tried reading a heavy novel like War and Peace while babysitting your baby cousins? It just doesn’t work.

For this category I chose Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. Hardy is better known for his later novel Tess of the d’Ubervilles but this is another one of his popular works which takes place in fictional Wessex and was originally published in magazines as a series of short stories. Very short stories indeed–some chapters are only two to three pages long, making it easy to get through a few at a time and then put the book down as you go off to make some hot cocoa or play Yahtzee with your family.


I’m only 80 pages in (that’s already eleven chapters) and I’m enjoying it so far. Every now and again you hit some of the lovely gender stereotypes of the times which grace the page with delightful phrases like:

The throw was the idea of a man conjoined with the execution of a woman. No man who had ever seen bird, rabbit, or squirrel in his childhood could possibly have thrown with such utter imbecility as was shown here.

Ha ha ha, yes. She throws like a girl. Ha. So funny and well put.

Then the novel suddenly turns into Victorian porn…

Something in the exact arch of her upper unbroken row of teeth, and in the keenly pointed corners of her red mouth when, with parted lips, she somewhat defiantly turned up her face to argue a point with a tall man, suggested that there was potentiality enough in that lithe slip of humanity for alarming exploits of sex, and daring enough to carry them out. But her eyes had a softness – invariably a softness – which, had they not been dark, would have seemed mistiness.

Yowza. Mind you, Hardy is known for being a feminist writer for the times and offending delicate Victorian sensibilities everywhere with the sexually empowered Tess of the d’Ubervilles, so it’s not surprising that Far From the Madding Crowd does carry certain messages of female empowerment. Bathsheba, our female protagonist, (Yes, her name is Bathsheba) ends up acquiring her uncle’s farm after he dies and decides to run it herself. She might be vain, but she’s also on the path to becoming an entrepreneur in the late 1800’s so let’s cut her some slack.

I got my hands on a 2011 edition published by Arcturus which includes a preface to the 1895 edition written by Hardy and some neat little pictures as you can see in the pictures. Overall score so far: 7/10. I’m enjoying it.

What category are you starting with? If you’ve chosen Romance as well, what did you pick?