The last novel I read of Thomas Hardy's was Jude the Obscure. It wasn't until I was half way through it that I discovered 'how' to read it. I had been reading it as a straight narrative, not picking up its quirkiness and outright strangeness. Even queerness.
The same goes for Far from the Madding Crowd. Why does everyone see Thomas Hardy as so dark and gloomy. I don't think he is. Sure, there's lots of negative and tragic aspects to the story, but so much that is also rich and strange.
Some aspects of the novel I don't know how to read. Like, when the tragic Fanny Robin, who ends up pregnant to the amoral Sergeant Troy, turns up to the wrong church and so misses out on marrying Troy, how are we supposed to take it? It reads as funny.
Indeed, there are so many artificial aspects to the novel that it's almost like a pantomime. Or a fairytale at least.
I loved the portrait of Farmer Boldwood, who falls in love with Bathsheba Everdene and can't get her out of his head (as the Kylie song goes). An brilliant study of a crazy love that causes endless pain.
I wondered how much of this sort of extreme love Hardy had experienced himself. His portrait of Farmer Boldwood had the ring of experience about it.
A ten out of ten novel. I will try to read more of his books this year.