Friday, February 5, 2016

Far From the Madding Crowd {Book and Film}

{Note: this post probably contains spoilers!}

I'm so excited to have finally read Far From the Madding Crowd and to have seen the newest film adaptation of the story. Of course I had to write about them. :)

I'm always wanting to read more classics, but I have to admit that I usually find them intimidating. And Thomas Hardy was especially intimidating, because of the things I'd heard about Tess of the d'Urbervilles and how depressing his books tend to be. Now I feel silly for waiting so long to read Far From the Madding Crowd, because I loved this book!

It took me a while to adjust to the wordiness of his writing style. Every once in a while I was tempted to skim, and sometimes I would reread a sentence over and over and still have no idea of what he was trying to say. :) But a lot of his descriptive passages were really beautiful, especially the nature ones. Two of my favorites were when Gabriel was out at night under the stars, and later on when the thunderstorm was coming.

I knew that the book revolved around one woman, Bathsheba Everdene, and the three men who fall for her. (Because that's entirely realistic, right?) But it turned out to be a lot different from what I expected. It started off rather sweet, though I was amazed by the stupid decisions that certain characters made. (Proposing to a girl you've just met simply because she's beautiful, sending a valentine to a farmer you have no interest in, etc.) But things definitely took a dramatic turn later on! Don't go into this book expecting Jane Austen...if anything, it's like Austen meets Lark Rise to Candleford meets Wuthering Heights. Basically: idyllic countryside setting (with lots of sheep) and people falling in love, combined with obsession and dead former fiancĂ©es and eventually murder. (I didn't see that one coming.)

{By the way, Thomas Hardy did an amazing job of capturing the daily life of farmers. Everything seems to be going fine, and then something crazy and unexpected happens. Once, several years ago, my parents and I were out in a thunderstorm, trying to save broilers (chickens) in the rain because the wind had picked up and moved their shelter. So when Gabriel Oak was trying to save the crops during the storm, I was like, yes, Mr. Hardy, you know what you're writing about. Also, because I'm into fiber, I really enjoyed all of the sheep stuff in the book, ha.}

Let's talk about the characters. First of all, best character names ever! I have very mixed feelings about Bathsheba Everdene. I disliked her for most of the book, for being so snobbish and flighty and for making really stupid decisions without ever considering other people's feelings. Her bad choices didn't just affect her...they affected a lot of people. But somehow Thomas Hardy managed to make me feel sympathetic towards her at certain times, even though she'd brought all of it on herself. I did feel like she'd grown and come to her senses by the end, though. I loved Gabriel Oak from the beginning. He was silly for proposing to Bathsheba so soon, and honestly, she did nothing to deserve his devotion throughout the entire book. But besides that, Gabriel proved himself to be the best sort of person: kind, dependable, selfless, loyal, and a darn good farmer/shepherd at that. :) I fully expected to dislike Farmer Boldwood (because he's not Gabriel!), but he was actually a pretty good guy to start off. He did get obsessive and stalkerish later on, but I blame Bathsheba for that. Sergeant Troy: I have nothing to say about that jerk. He was trouble from the beginning. But...Hardy even made me feel sorry for him. Apparently he really did love Fanny.

Far From the Madding Crowd was unlike anything I've ever read. I was drawn in from the beginning and though it took me almost two weeks to read, I didn't want to put it down. None of the characters were perfect, but they were so human. Even the worst of them still had tiny bits of goodness. I also really liked all of the Biblical was interesting how they were incorporated into the writing. This book was slightly depressing and dramatic, but also beautiful and funny (the gang of farm workers cracked me up) and profound at times. I'm so glad I finally read it, and it's a new favorite.

The biggest thing that drove me to read the book was that I really wanted to watch the newest film adaptation, which came out last year, but I wanted to read the book first. (I ended up winning a copy of the DVD the week after I finished the book. Thanks, Rissi!)

To me, this film is like the Thomas Hardy version of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice (which happens to be my favorite movie). In other words, it's a really beautifully done, condensed version of the book. Emphasis on beautiful, because everything about this film is just that: the soundtrack, the cinematography, the settings where they filmed, the costumes, everything. It's such a pretty movie.

Overall, it's a decent adaptation of the book. Of course, they had to cut out a lot (it only lasts 2 hours), and they also rearranged certain things. Things happen very quickly in the film, and there were a few parts that I thought would be confusing or rushed if you hadn't read the book first. But sometimes I'd be surprised by little parts they left in, like Bathsheba lying backwards on her horse to go underneath the low branches, or the toad that Gabriel sees before the storm.

I love the cast...everyone was basically as I'd pictured them. I do feel like they made Bathsheba a little more likable in the film. And it seems that they tried to make Troy a more sympathetic character, because they left out the part where he's a jerk to Fanny after the church misunderstanding (and made him hurt then rather than angry), and implied he was trying to commit suicide when he went swimming. Oddly, though, they left out the scene when Troy is tending to the grave, which is the part of the book that made me feel sorry for him. (And that's all so dramatic that I would have thought they'd leave it in.)

I loved the book, and I really liked this adaptation. The book is much better, of course, but I still enjoyed the film and I'm sure it will grow on me even more.

Have you read Far From the Madding Crowd or seen any of the adaptations? What did you think?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

What I Read: January

January was a pretty good reading month, though I only read four books: two extremely quick reads and two that took me a while to finish. :) As always, click on the title to read my Goodreads review.

Steps in Time, by Fred Astaire. Honestly, this book was a little disappointing. I don't particularly want one of those tell-all memoirs, but when I'm reading an autobiography, I like to feel that I know the person a little better after finishing the book. Not so with this one. The writing didn't feel very emotional or seemed like he glazed over a lot. And most of the book was about his time in vaudeville and the theater, not his time making classic movies. It was kind of boring! It did make me want to rewatch a lot of his musicals with Ginger Rogers, though.

The Case of the Missing Marquess, by Nancy Springer. This is the first in a series about Enola Holmes, the younger sister of Sherlock (and Mycroft). Enola is a great character...she reminds me a bit of an older, less eccentric version of Flavia de Luce. I loved the portrayals of her older brothers in this book and the family dynamics. I thought it was a middle grade novel, but really it's somewhere between that and YA. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, and hopefully I can read more of the series this year.

Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy. Definitely a new favorite. I loved this book! I don't know why I was so scared of reading it takes a while to get used to Thomas Hardy's wordy writing style, but for a classic, it was a lot easier to read than I expected. The story and characters sucked me in right from the beginning, and even though it took me almost two weeks to read, I didn't want to put it down. The book started off rather sweet, but it took some unexpectedly dramatic turns, and I've never read anything like it. I'm going to see the new film adaptation soon, and I might do a whole post about the book and film then, so I won't say any more now.

84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff. This tiny little book was a pleasant surprise. It features the correspondence between Helene, a writer living in New York, and a man working in a bookshop in London that she orders books from. It sounds odd and dull, but it was so good. Their letters are so lovely that it almost seems impossible that they're was interesting to see two such different people strike up a friendship.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Knitting: stripe study shawl.

Why is it that shawls seem to take an incredibly long time to knit? (Especially ones knit from fingering weight yarn!) It feels like I worked on this shawl forever, but really it only took a month, off and on.

I didn't plan on using these two yarns together. The variegated yarn was a skein that I purchased from a local dyer at the fiber festival last spring. I planned on using it for socks. The brown yarn is some US Merino yarn from Jill Draper Makes Stuff, and I was planning on using it for a shawl. But when I saw these two skeins next to each other, they looked so nice that I decided to use them together in a project.

The pattern is the Stripe Study Shawl. It's a simple garter stitch shawl that incorporates short rows. It was pretty easy to memorize the pattern after a while, so it was good TV knitting. Because my yarns matched a little too well, the stripes are subtle. There are twelve sections between stripes, but I ran out of yarn in the last section, so that one isn't as wide as it's supposed to be.

I'm really happy with how this shawl turned out! It's a lot bigger than I expected...I guess the yarn being superwash really helped it stretch when I blocked it. Because the shawl is asymmetrical and one end is shorter, it's trickier to wear, but since it's a larger shawl, I don't have to worry about it shifting around too much.

Project page.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Yarn Along

Reading: I'm still reading Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. I'm glad to say that I'm still enjoying it just as much as I was last week! There has been a lot of drama and while I was sucked into the story from the start, I'm especially curious to see how things will turn out now. I should finish it within the next day or so, and then I'll watch the new adaptation as soon as possible. :)

Knitting: Since I usually find myself knitting heavy sweaters during the summer, I just cast on a new one, hoping that I'll actually be able to wear it this winter. It's In Stillness, a basic pullover with a bit of texture near the neckline. Even though I went down a needle size, my gauge is still loose so I'm hoping that knitting a smaller size will result in this sweater not being huge. (That was a problem I had with the sweater I previously knit in the round.)

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Monday, January 25, 2016

Knitting: honey mittens.

These mittens had been in my Ravelry queue for over two years, but I've never really had any reason to knit mittens. (Besides a couple pairs of baby and toddler sized ones.) Lately, though, fingerless gloves haven't been warm enough when I'm driving on cold mornings. I'm planning on making a pair of full gloves sometime this year, but I didn't want to make them now so I decided on mittens.

The pattern is Emma's Mittens. It's one of those patterns that looks complicated and busy but is actually pretty simple to follow. Things did get a little off with the last couple of rows of decreases before you graft the top of the mittens closed...the instructions aren't very clear and I didn't have the correct stitch count, but it worked out fine. The only thing I changed about the pattern was to do one less repeat of the chart before the thumb. I always knit longer gloves and mittens, but these were plenty long enough with only four repeats.

I love all of the texture on these mittens: cables and bobbles on the front and seed stitch on the back. It makes them feel even thicker and warmer.

I used some Quince & Co. yarn: Lark in the honey colorway. When I ordered this yarn, I thought it was going to be a mustard yellow. (That's how it looked on the website, and that's what "honey" implies, right?) It turned out to be a rather unusual shade of greenish brown, so it sat in my stash for about a year before I finally decided it would work well for mittens. As usual, Quince & Co.'s yarn is wonderful to knit with, plus it's American wool.

{The snowy background seemed fitting since I knitted the second mitten while being snowed in over the weekend.}

Project page.