Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0692424326

This Thomas Hardy novel was his first major literary success, even though he never saw it published. It is set in the semi-fictional region of Wessex and is enriched with his pleasant descriptions of rural life and landscapes.
In it Bathsheba Everdene, our independent and spirited heroine, moves into her position as a farmer on a large estate in Weatherbury. During the novel, she attracts three very different men: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, the soldier Sergeant Troy, and the shepherd Gabriel Oak. Each relationship complicates her life and tragedy threatens.

Thomas Hardy makes man an insignificant part of the world, struggling against powers greater than himself,–sometimes against systems which he cannot reach or influence, sometimes against a kind of grim world-spirit who delights in making human affairs go wrong. He is not a realist, but rather a man conflicted by pessimism; and his novels, are powerful and often fascinating. From the reader’s view point some of his earlier works, like the idyllic love story Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) and A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873), are the most interesting.

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