Decisions, decisions. Normally when I can't decide which book to start next, I start more than one--I've got a bad habit that way. But with classics, the stories are often more demanding so I do better concentrating on one at a time. Many thanks for the input on yesterday's post. They all look good and I will certainly get to all of them in turn (at the moment am thinking Edith Wharton next and then John O'Hara to follow, but first things first). In the end I felt like Hardy was calling out to me just a little bit louder at the moment. Far from the Madding Crowd is a book I have wanted to read for ages, and it has made its way onto more than one list of books I've been planning to read.
So now it is time to meet the beautiful Bathsheba Everdene. Apparently Virginia Woolf approved. She is quoted as saying "The subject was right; the method was right; the poet and the countryman, the sensual man, the sombre reflective man of learning, all enlisted to produce a book which . . . must hold its place among the great English novels." I only hope that Bathsheba gets a better ending than Tess did, but I am keeping an open mind.
I've just barely started reading and right off the bat have had to re-orient myself to Hardy's style. Slow down, as this is not something that can be gulped. His writing style demands thoughtful attention, and I hope to give it to him. The story opens with the description of farmer Gabriel Oak, 28, who I am sure will be one of Bathsheba's suitors. He actually began as a shepherd (and various other sundry jobs) but only recently have people taken to calling him "farmer" Oak. Since it is through his eyes that the reader is first introduced to Bathsheba I thought I should share his first impressions of her.
"The handsome girl waited for some time idly in her place, and the only sound heard in the stillness was the hopping of the canary up and down the perches of its prison. Then she looked attentively downwards. It was not at the bird, nor at the cat, it was at an oblong package tied in paper, and lying between them. She turned her head to learn if the waggoner were coming. He was not yet in sight; and her eyes crept back to the package, her thoughts seeming to run upon what was inside it. At length she drew the article into her lap, and untied the paper covering; a small swing looking-glass was disclosed, in which she proceeded to survey herself attentively. She parted her lips and smiled."
Bathsheba had been waiting for the man driving her in his waggon to go pick up something that had fallen off the back end thought she was alone. Later, when trying to pass the turnpike gate she refused to pay the full charge for the toll, feeling the price asked too steep, so Gabriel made up the difference without a look or thank you from Bathsheba. When the gate keeper remarks on her handsome looks after she's passed, Gabriel says she does have her faults. When asked what, then? He replies:
This of course has me hugely curious now. I can't wait to pick up the book and read more.