Independent and spirited Bathsheba Everdene has come to Weatherbury to take up her position as a farmer on the largest estate in the area. Her bold presence draws three very different suitors: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, soldier-seducer Sergeant Troy and the devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak. Each, in contrasting ways, unsettles her decisions and complicates her life, and tragedy ensues, threatening the stability of the whole community. The first of his works set in Wessex, Hardy’s novel of swiftpassion and slow courtship is imbued with his evocative descriptions of rural life and landscapes, and with unflinching honesty about sexual relationships
It is about Bathesheba and the 3 men who love her – Gabriel Oak, Mr Boldwood and Sergeant Troy. each have their own qualities but it is Gabriel who loves her first and always. She rejects his initial marriage proposal because she does not love him.
She comes to the attention of Boldwood, who has the farm next to her, after she sends him a Valentine’s card partly in jest. Boldwood has difficulty accepting that she does not love him either, but gives her up when she becomes fascinated by Sergeant Troy, the educated soldier – fey in attachment, apart from drink, gambling and women as a whole – who is more in love with another woman but marries Bathsheba more for her money than anything. She soon learns her mistake and learns to hate him, especially when he keeps asking for money to go gambling.
His possible death by drowning opens her up to be courted by Boldwood again, who continues to pressure her into committing to marry him, even when he knows she doesn’t love him. A party at Christmas has a detrimental effect on all concerned.
Finally, Gabriel, her one true love, gets his girl.
This is the fourth of his books and the one I’ve enjoyed the most so far. It has a more consistent narrative, with fewer breaks, even though I believe this was also released in serial form.
The descriptions of nature get better with this book. I believe the description of salvaging the crops during the storm is considered to be a classic scene of the genre.
Boldwood is a disconcerting and not very nice character, poor of social graces, who falls in love with a woman he’s never talked to and virtually bullies her into committing to an engagement that she doesnt want. (Everyone agrees in the end that he’s more than a little mad).
Troy is a glittering distraction, who can also manipulate women (but in a different way), playing on Bathesheba’s insecurities in order to make her marry him immediately (she goes to Bath to talk to him and he “suggests” that he’ll have to give in to chasing after some other pretty girl if she doesnt marry him immediately, so she does).
Gabriel is solid and steady, watching her make mistakes but never letting her down, even though he still loves her.
As for Bathesheba? I dont know about her. I think she grows up during this book, finally marrying the man we all know she should have in the first place. She manages to take care of her uncle’s farm, even though some people think she wont and does realise her mistake in marrying Troy, especially the way she did it.