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Still Going Strong

Our feature for 22 August may have new twists, but it’s an enduringly popular story. It is 141 years since Thomas Hardy published Far From the Madding Crowd, the novel that made his name. This turbulent tale of an independent and spirited woman pursued by three very different men has been irresistible to film-makers. It first appeared on screen in 1915. John Schlesinger’s 1967 version with Julie Christie, Terence Stamp, Alan Bates and Peter Finch was followed by a TV film in 1998. And now a new one. It was first published in serial form in a magazine and the need to end each episode on a ‘cliff-hanger’ perhaps helped produce a strong story. What also helped was Hardy’s intimate knowledge of rural life in his beloved south-west England. The title is ironic: the words are from Gray’s Elegy in a Country Churchyard where the frenzy of urban life is contrasted with the quiet and ordinary lives of rural people. But there’s nothing ordinary about these four lives.

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