Editor’s Note: Your plans may look different this year, but whether you’re vacationing or holed up at home, good books are equally necessary. We asked some well-read colleagues and contributors for their recommendations.
In my rural Elba I find it easiest to read old novels online. Stimulated by memories of the 1968 movie starring Julie Christie, I read Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. It does not disappoint. The four main characters — Bathsheba Everdene and her three lovers, shepherd Gabriel Oak, farmer William Boldwood, and Sergeant Francis Troy — are sharply drawn, time and place lyrically evoked. Maugham complained of Hardy’s rustics. They do run on, but that’s what people in small worlds do. Rare for Hardy, there is only one character, Fanny Robin, mother of Troy’s child, who is an authorial punching bag; and there is even a happy ending.
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