Archive for May 2008
This is very much a romantic novel. The story is set around Bathsheba who has 3 suitors, Boldwood, Sergeant Troy and of course, Gabriel Oak. It is set in the imaginary Wessex and the book is rich in description of this beautiful English countryside. After Gabriel, a farmer, proposes marriage to Bathsheba and she turns him down, she moves away to Weatherfield where she inherits her uncle’s farm and becomes a farmer herself. Oak on the other hand looses his farm after tragically his sheep are killed and so he ends up working for Bathsheba. Of the other two suitors, Mr Boldwood is a self-declared bachelor until he encounters Bathsheba and Sergeant Troy is the would-be husband of Fanny Robin, a maid who also worked for Bathsheba.
Among the characters there is also Caine Ball who becomes an assistant shepherd to Oak on Bathsheba’s farm. The book is written with some good humours which adds to its appeal. For example, I particularly liked the story of how Caine got his name. Apparently his mother was not very religious and got confused with the story of Caine and Abel, thinking it was Abel who had killed Caine, so she named her newborn Caine, as the good son. I found this rather amusing. There is also more humour in Fanny Robin going to the wrong church for her wedding. William Boldwood is the repressed farmer who becomes obsessed with Bathsheba after she sends him a Valentine card in jest. Our heroine Bathsheba is a strong, unconventional woman, especially for her time. She is intelligent though poorly educated and beautiful. Gabriel is very protective over Bathsheba, even though she has marries Troy and he remains her loyal friend. The twists and turns with Fanny Robin, Troy and Bathsheba keep the story going and the end is satisfying, as a true love story should be.
There are a number of interesting themes that run through this book. We experience social mobility through the characters. Gabriel moves downwards after he looses his farm while Bathsheba becomes upwardly mobile through her inheritance of the farm and Troy also moves upwards but through marriage. Class differences are very apparent throughout and the the novel depicts very real imagery of England in the 1800’s. There are some very descriptive scenes too including the tragic death of the sheep and the big fire.
The readers are left wondering if Bathsheba would be happy in her final choices, given her drive and passion for life. In our book club discussion we questioned whether or not she would be truly happy or if she had ‘settled’. I found this to be a truly satisfying read.