The first of Thomas Hardy's great novels, Far From the Madding Crowd established the author as one of Britain's foremost writers. It also introduced readers to Wessex, an imaginary county in southwestern England that served as the pastoral setting for many of the author's later works. Far From the Madding Crowd tells the story of beautiful Bathsheba Everdene, a fiercely independent woman who inherits a farm and decides to run it herself. She rejects a marriage proposal from Gabriel Oak, a loyal man who takes a job on her farm after losing his own in an unfortunate accident. He is forced to watch as Bathsheba mischievously flirts with her neighbor, Mr. Boldwood, unleashing a passionate obsession deep within the reserved man. But both suitors are soon eclipsed by the arrival of the dashing soldier, Frank Troy, who falls in love with Bathsheba even though he's still smitten with another woman. His reckless presence at the farm drives Boldwood mad with jealousy, and sets off a dramatic chain of events that leads to both murder and marriage. A delicately woven tale of unrequited love and regret, Far from the Madding Crowd is also an unforgettable portrait of a rural culture that, by Hardy's lifetime, had become threatened with extinction at the hands of ruthless industrialization.