It makes me a little nervous to say: I first read this book over 20 years ago. Ouch. I’m pretty sure it was a GCSE text and, after devouring it and loving the curious language, I went on to read as many Thomas Hardy books as I could find. Does anyone else remember those ‘Classics’ you could buy for £1 in The Works? I lived off them as a teenager.
‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ doesn’t fail to excite and amuse as it did on the first read (perhaps one of the perks of a terrible memory). I do wonder, however, how much of it I could have really understood as a 15 year old. The story, sure, but some of the comments about men, women, and the torture of unrequited love I probably only imagined I had experienced.
I highlighted a whole bunch of quotes this time round, with the intention of producing them at dinner parties when an appropriate time arose. This is the sort of thing a good book does: makes you imagine you go to dinner parties where someone might appreciate you quoting classic literature (when you know you’d be better off learning lines for Anchorman). So I’ll reproduce a couple here… they’d make good Marriage Advice, perhaps.
“Perhaps in no minor point does a woman astonish her helpmate more than in the strange power she possesses of believing cajoleries that she knows to be false – except, indeed, in that of being utterly sceptical on strictures that she knows to be true” (p.149)
“It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs” (p.276)
And this (which I like to think is a description of why The Husband and I have such a good relationship, after being housemates first): “Theirs was that substantial affection which arises (if any arises at all) when the two who are thrown together begin first by knowing the rougher sides of each other’s character, and not the best until further on, the romance growing up in the interstices of a mass of hard prosaic reality… Where… the compound feeling proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death” (p.310)