Thomas Hardy was not someone I was looking forward to reading. I was picturing a grim story with lots of illness, desertion, suicide and sheep. Instead we only really got the sheep.
My first reaction after flicking open the front cover and gazing at the contents page was ‘What kind of name is Bathsheba?!’, my second was ‘Oh my days! What a lot of chapters!’ But it was an unexpectedly pleasant read; the one difficulty I had with it were the dialects. I hate reading dialogue written in a dialogue, I find it such a chore! It make it much more difficult to get into a book if the speech makes you slow down at every turn. My solution to this problem was to download the free audio recording from Librivox.org; I don’t think it’s really cheating as I read most of it, I switched to the headphones when I started to get a bit frustrated (or when travelling to and from work).
I thought the characters were marvellous- some of them heart wrenching, some of them dastardly but all superbly developed. There were moments when they made me laugh out loud, moments when they made me gasp with astonishment, and moments when they brought a tear to my eye. Hardy seems to have a way with description; there are sections of truly breathtaking prose peppered throughout FFTMC that exhibit a craft I wasn’t expecting… I’ve heard rumours of torturous exposition and general dryness…. but it was actually pretty good.
Having said that, it wasn’t my favourite of the set books so far. It was much less horrible than anticipated, but it didn’t grip me with such a strength that I had to stay up until stupid o’clock reading crazily… But I did have a reasonable experience with my first Hardy though so I can’t complain!