Far from the Madding Crowd is Thomas Hardy's fourth novel and his first major literary success. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 48 on the BBC's survey The Big Read and in 2007, the book finished 10th on the Guardian's list of greatest love stories of all time. Gabriel Oak is a young shepherd. With the savings of a frugal life, and a loan, he has leased and stocked a sheep farm. He falls in love with a newcomer six years his junior, Bathsheba Everdene, a proud beauty who arrives to live with her aunt, Mrs Hurst. Over time, Bathsheba and Gabriel grow to like each other well enough, and Bathsheba even saves his life once. However, when he makes her an unadorned offer of marriage, she refuses; she values her independence too much, and him too little. Feeling betrayed and embarrassed, Gabriel's blunt protestations only foster her haughtiness. When next they meet, their circumstances have changed drastically. An inexperienced new sheepdog drives Gabriel's flock over a cliff, ruining him. After selling off everything of value, he manages to settle all his debts but emerges penniless. Looking for employment, he happens upon a dangerous fire on a farm and leads the bystanders in putting it out. When the veiled owner comes to thank him, he asks if she needs a shepherd. She uncovers her face and reveals herself to be none other than Bathsheba. She has recently inherited her uncle's estate and is now wealthy. Though somewhat uncomfortable, she employs him. But when she falls in love with the manipulative Sergeant Troy and her new wealthy neighbour, Mr. Boldwood, declares his affection for her, the plot thickens into a triangular love drama. The novel has been adapted for the screen several times, most recently with the much acclaimed 2015-film by Thomas Vinterberg.
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