An affinity with the natural world
As with all of Hardy’s Wessex books, the location is pivotal, the narrative intertwined with evocative descriptions of the landscapes, wildlife and local tradespeople throughout.
The hill was covered on its northern side by an ancient and decaying plantation of beeches, whose upper verge formed a line over the crest, fringing its arched curve against the sky, like a mane.
Even the location of Weatherbury has a suitably nature-related name and this is where Miss Everdene travels to begin work as a farmer on the land she has inherited from her uncle. Independent and feisty, it isn’t long before she attracts the attention of a disparate collection of local suitors – each with his own appealing qualities. She must choose between down-to-earth shepherd Gabriel Oak, dashing military man Sergeant Troy and affluent gentleman farmer Boldwood. However, the course of true love never did run smooth and the presence of multiple suitors aggravates the challenges of domestic harmony.
The plot twists and turns from romance to heartache and ultimately great sorrow, all portrayed with Hardy’s characteristic narrative skill, poetic style and highly descriptive prose. It also sets the style and nature-imbued themes for the following Wessex novels: a lost rural idyll of rolling hills, meandering paths, birds in migration and seasonal farming.