FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD // 3 Bachelors Chasing Down a Vain Farmer-ess

This unassuming novel was lying on the top shelf of my mom’s guest room for many years. It took moving to California for me to kidnap Hardy’s masterpiece and decide that maybe I would eventually read it. It took another year before I finally read the back cover and WHOA NELLY—it got me immediately.

A rugged farmer, a rich bachelor, and a dashing soldier ALL vying for the attention of one flirtatious Bathsheba Everdeen (mistress of her uncle’s farm)? How dramatic, how fascinating, how FORWARD THINKING of Hardy to write such a piece.

FUN FACT: I definitely called this book “Far from the Maddening Crowd” for a solid three years before I realized just the other day that it is MADDING. Huh. Why is Maddening so much better?

An entertaining one-sentence summary

A flirtatious, vain Bathsheba Everdeen enjoys the attention of three various men (a rugged farmer, a rich bachelor, and a dashing soldier) until one of her flirtations goes wrong and ends in a serious marriage proposal and the other in an ACTUAL marriage and why do women always go for the bad boy and oh no there is also a MURDERRRR!

More entertaining summaries

Farming

Cute sheep

Hay

Idyllic landscapes

Being flirty

Goofy farmhands

MURDER

Men who don’t understand what “no” means

Heartbreak

Widows

Overall summary

This book was NOT what I expected. It turned out to be a beautiful cautionary tale about the power of flattery and a warning against vanity.

THEME: FLATTERY

Words matter, whether we’re playing a Valentine’s Day joke and asking an old bachelor to marry us (Bathsheba) or we’re a soldier telling a young woman she’s the prettiest thing we’ve ever seen (Sergeant Troy). Flattery doesn’t have honorable intentions; it instead seeks to paint us in a more favorable light by using cheap, meaningless lies.

The person who hears the flattery believes we think more highly of them than we actually do. Who wants a relationship built on empty compliments?

THEME: THE CONSTANCY OF LOVE

Wow, I loved Gabriel so much. This farmer showed his quiet, steady love over all the pages of the book (and the years that passed as Bathsheba made a fool of herself). Gabriel showed true love by giving her advice that protected her best interest. He also took care of her farm, saving it from both a fire and a storm.

And when Bathsheba acted like a brat, he told her so . . . yet he was a perfect gentleman in how he approached the topic and shared his opinion.

The other two love interests (Troy and Mr. Boldwood) were clearly lusting rather than loving. Troy wanted Bathsheba immediately, inviting her into the woods for a show of swordmanship, then stealing a kiss. Mr. Boldwood, at first glance, may have seemed more constant: he was willing to wait six years to marry her. However, he demanded a promise of engagement from her, ignoring how obviously broken she had become. True love would have come alongside her as a companion in grief, allowing her to heal before proposing marriage again.

THEME: VANITY

If I had one overall complaint about classics, I feel they often start off too slow. This book, though, got to the point immediately! We see an example of Bathsheba’s vanity when she sneaks a long glance at herself in a mirror while passing by Gabriel. She also clearly understands the power she has over men, using her gift instead as a tool for entertainment. I love the character development we see by the end of the book!

THEME: HARD WORK

I feel that this book was very much ahead of its time, although it was written in the late 1800s. Bathsheba is a shepherdess and owns a large farm, and throughout the novel she is very active on the farm, not content to merely watch and reap the profits. Mr. Boldwood also owns a farm, but there is never any description of him working on the farm himself. And Sergeant Troy couldn’t care less about the success of Bathsheba’s farm, or taking care of a wife let alone family.

Conversely, Gabriel is constantly seen in the fields managing everyone. Throughout the book, he saves Bathsheba’s farm more than three times. I admire that he’s hardworking, when the other two love interests seem to be all talk and no action.

Movie vs. Book

I want to make it a new habit to watch the movie adaptation after reading the book. It’s so exciting to see the world come alive and compare the cinematography so how you imagined the story to be!

The 2015 Far from the Madding Crowd was beautiful cinematically. The whole movie had a warm, golden glow that made the farm seem so idyllic . . . it made me want a farm in the English countryside! Bathsheba’s costumes were also beautiful.

I was a little confused with the movie’s transitions; sometimes they seemed so abrupt. Because I had read the book, I understood what took place during the transitions. They just seemed so jarring, which was so sad because the movie was beautiful in aesthetic.

Of course, I’d always recommend the book over the movie. I only noticed a few changes in the movie version (for example, Bathsheba’s note to Boldwood has a silly Valentine’s poem—Roses are red, violets are blue—instead of the bold “Marry me” note in the book, which to me makes more sense why Boldwood then pursued her so aggressively), but it was pretty faithful to the original material. Mostly, side plots were left out since the movie only allows for ninety minutes of storytelling.

I also felt that the book makes Bathsheba out to be more of a flirt and less likeable than the movie portrayed her. Perhaps its because Carey Mulligan is so adorable and innocent-looking, but I feel the movie could’ve highlighted her faults more like the book did.

Ending

This is a FABULOUS novel, and I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before! Highly recommend to people who love romance, the English countryside, farming, drama, multiple suitors, and even mystery and murder!

The Story Behind Your Jewelry

Chick-fil-A taught me several things.

One was how to make people feel seen by starting simple conversations. One of those things was (honestly) complimenting people on their outfits. And through this, I found the most fascinating conversation starter: complimenting people on their jewelry and asking about the story behind it.

Here’s the thing: Jewelry takes time and thought, especially when it’s pieces like bracelets or rings. Necklaces and earrings, somehow, are less effort. People don’t generally throw bracelets and necklaces on without thought.

I mean, ask yourself if you don’t believe me—what piece of jewelry do you have that DOESNT have a story or even a feeling attached to it?

We have bracelets that we’ve worn to the funerals of loved ones. We have rings passed down from matriarchs. We wear best friend necklaces for long distance pals.

I complimented one girl on a handmade-looking anklet one time. We were in the same circles but she never really spoke to me. But in that moment, a barrier was broken down. Her face softened…and she told me the story of a boy. A boy she’d been friends with as a teenager who committed suicide, so her and her friend group wear those handmade bracelets to remind them of him.

I own my great grandmother’s class ring, gold and square. It gives me a thrill to actually have a legit piece of history, something that intimately experienced the ’50s.

I look through a Ziploc bag of jewelry I brought with me to California: a pair of wooden leaf earrings that my quiet father bought me; many random mismatched yellow accessories from my stint wearing all yellow during sophomore year of college; earrings my grandma gave me that I love but aren’t quite me so I’ve never worn.

So, if you ever need an icebreaker…ask about the unique pair of earrings or wacky bracelet a stranger is wearing. You’ll be surprised at the stories they share.

REBECCA // codependency, relatableness, moody mansion, and a rich husband

HAVE

I

TALKED

ABOUT

REBECCA

ENOUGH

??????

My gosh, yes, I am obsessed with this book. I can’t quite explain it, except that it was so insightful and relatable and had this ominous tone that I couldn’t put my finger on. I had already watched the movie when it released on Netflix, not knowing it was originally a book, but despite knowing the end I still got chills and was overall HOOKED. That’s the sign of a gem!

If you haven’t read this book yet and want to, you might want to skip this post because SPOILER ALERT! I just can’t explain how much I loved this book without revealing key information.

An entertaining one-sentence summary

A nameless ladies’ companion falls in love with a rich, mysterious man while on vacation and ends up marrying him and going back home with him sounds perfect right NO THE LEGIT GHOST OF HIS DEAD WIFE HAUNTS THE HOUSE and the girl discovers that maybe being married to this dude isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be because he’s just this grumpy middle-aged man struggling to get over his previous wife…

MORE ENTERTAINING SUMMARIES

Very detailed descriptions of flowers

Scary maid intent on sabotaging the new Mrs. de Winter

Codependency

Dressing up

Balls

BEATRICE — oh my gosh we stan Beatrice, she’s a bit too blunt but she gives comic relief

Narcissism

Trick marriages

Beautiful description of the landscape surrounding Manderley

Feeling too much like a child, incompetent, incapable

CHARACTERS

Mrs. de Winter (hereby referred to as MC, as in Main Character)

  • First off, I LOVED that she was never named. It subtle-y and artfully showed how she felt invisible and incapable.
  • As I was reading this, I was also reading a book about being codependent. GUYS—poor MC, this gal is SO co-dependent. See the quotes below for proof.
  • I so so so related to this character. I moved out to LA, freshly 21, and I tended to feel incapable. I couldn’t pick out insurance, pay my bills on time, make doctors appointments, let alone excel at my job. Looking at all the 30-year-olds surrounded me, I tended to feel like a fake adult, Just as MC did. See the quotes below, these resonated the most with me.

Maxim de Winter

  • Idk, do we like this man???? He asked MC to marry him without ever telling her he loved her. Like, COME ON. She’s over here, a sweet summer child, drooling over him and freely telling him how much he means to her and he’s just like . . . hey don’t ever wear black velvet bc I get triggered and hey wanna come live with me?
  • I can understand that his grief and remorse is (literally) haunting him, but that’s NEVER a reason to treat another person like trash. If you aren’t in a place you can love someone in a respectful way, you should be mature enough to not enter a relationship of ANY kind (let alone a marriage). PEOPLE. ARE. NOT. LIFE. PRESERVERS. He treats MC so so poorly and yet she’s so codependent that she immediately blames herself and absolves him of any guilt.

Mrs. Danvers

  • SO. SO. CREEPY. ACK!!
  • I love that I got such a clear visual of Mrs. Danvers from the book. She gave me this VIBE of darkness, and her passionate, obsessive loyalty to Rebecca (even after her death) gives me absolute chills. This is the gothic romance thriller subject matter that I live for!

Rebecca

  • Narcissist for DAYSSSSS! Narcissists are famous for showing the world one image, but being a totally different person at home. They can’t feel normal human emotions, but they’re very good at studying emotion and then displaying it like an actor so most people aren’t any the wiser. Rebecca acted like the perfect wife, kind to animals and humans alike, a gracious host, everything one should be . . . but in reality, she was a monster, beating animals into submission (i.e. she tamed a horse). She also knew how to manipulate people, using men as objects and laughing at how devoted they became to her. She didn’t love any of the men she slept with . . . it was all a game to her. Even to the end, she manipulated Maxim into killing her by insinuating she was pregnant with Favell’s child. DESPICABLE!

OVERALL SUMMARY

This book is OCTOBER VIBES. If you want a cozy read with creepy vibes, immersive descriptions of landscapes, well-rounded characters, and even a couple laughs, this is the book for you! This is the kind of book that I would happily pay $20 to reread like it’s the first time. Unfortunately, such a service hasn’t been invented yet.

This book is relatable to anyone who struggles to feel capable or like they fit in.

It can also be super revealing for people who struggle with being codependent. As you read the book, you can get frustrated with MC because as an outsider, her codependency is SO TRAGIC and SO OBVIOUS. But when you’re the one being codependent, you can feel like a saint-victim combo. Honestly, this book was super enlightening to me. No one has the power to make you feel a certain way or do anything. How people understand you is not your responsibility. In fact, other people are NOT your responsibility. Period. We’re all responsible for our ACTIONS and our ATTITUDES. That’s it, end of story.

Great Lit Inspires My Creativity … SO HERE

i have a new favorite app…you’ll love it too!

I am a COLLAGE FIEND—I love paper and glue and stickers and paraphernalia. So the other day I was on Pinterest and found an app called Sequel and OH MY GOSH I LOVEEEEE THIS THING! You can use photos from pinterest and your phone to create collages, any collage, any collage at all.

I’ve gone absolutely nuts, making collages inspired by poems I’ve written or quotes I’ve saved. Here’s a sprinkling. You should 200% download this app as well and go nuts.

LEFT /

I became an adult when

I realized

Sometime we

Choose each other

Only for a moment

But we’re all free

At any time

To walk away—

I became a woman

WhenI realized

To have is to lose,

Eventually.

It’s the physics of the universe,

The law Newton

Forgot.

— Amanda Michelle Brown

RIGHT / Build me a world of scarlet-plated lies, and I will take refuge there when my reality is burning — Amanda Michelle Brown

The words on the above collages are just random tidbits I found on the internet, although the one on the far right is my fave Emily Dickinson. ❤

My Next Novel: An Exploration of Being Told “You Can’t”

Words are powerful.

There will always be those who deny this. There’s a whole rhyme about it: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Inspiration

For a while, I let what people thought about me define who I was. When you’re a teenager, you’re on this epic quest to find who you are, and often others’ opinions about you help inform that.

One baking incident in the kitchen permanently barred me from the kitchen. I began to believe I wasn’t capable of cooking or baking.

Being an artist barred me from being “smart.” “Artists are ditzy.” “Artists can’t be good at math.”

Some of the strongest lies are the ones we tell ourselves ABOUT ourselves. After I ended my soccer career, I let go of the title of “athlete” and told myself I wasn’t athletic anymore. That really hurt how I saw myself.

I also began to believe I wasn’t responsible enough. I could never live on my own and be trusted to pay rent on time or buy car insurance. I wasn’t trustworthy. I was incapable.

I began to fear failure. It’s so public, so icky. I wanted a clean image—yet this crippled me in doing some of the things I most wanted to do.

Side note, I’m very very grateful for my mom because she always encouraged me in all my creative pursuits. She was and is my biggest fan, and that’s gotten me to where I am today—metaphorically and literally!

The Exploration

In the world of my book, there are two classes of people.

The lesser class repeats a mantra every day about how they can’t accomplish anything beyond what they’ve been assigned by the government. The idea of trying doesn’t even exist to them. They are told who they are and what they do, and that is enough to keep them stunted for life.

I am incapable. I cannot, so I do not try. I have not been programmed to succeed at anything outside of my means.

If I try, I will fail every time. So I must not try.

— What Has Delphine Done, WIP by Amanda Brown

The higher class is told that they can accomplish anything; they have access to Talents, kept in jars and sold at extravagant prices.

The lesser class can never achieve anything because they don’t believe they can, and because they don’t believe they can they will never step outside of their means and learn to do the real moneymaking jobs, thus gaining enough money to buy Talents.

The Application

Dear one, what lies are you telling yourself? What lies have people told you about yourself that you’ve taken on as a false identity? At the end of the day, we are responsible for ourselves. Yes, people may fill our heads with lies…but it is within our power to refuse to believe them.

You can pivot your life at any point. You can decide you CAN cook or you CAN be a wedding planner or you CAN start dating again.

Personal Challenge

When I moved to LA two years ago, I challenged myself to do things I wasn’t good at. After all, I was in a totally new state; no one knew I “couldn’t” bake or “couldn’t” dance. I could totally reinvent myself and my capabilities!

You don’t need a crazy cross-country move to change, thankfully.

With this book in mind, I’m still actively choosing to be bold and do things I think I might fail at. Here’s a small list of the things I’ve tried over the past two years.

  • Swing dancing
  • Baking
  • Cooking
  • Hiking
  • Working out
  • Photography
  • Leading at work
  • Podcasting

If you knew you wouldn’t fail, what is something you’d start today? Thinking of that thing?

Well, dear . . . today has come. Go for it!

celebrating 2 years in LA with a FREE e-book

I celebrated two years in LA last month, which is really no big deal EXCEPT the whole story of how I moved here is so innately tied to my faith.

I thought that to celebrate (and also to do some design work because I miss doing book/magazine layout), I’d create a nice coffee-table type book collection of all my letters. You can sit down and read them all together, or read one every now and then when you need something to chuckle at or a reminder of God’s purpose in each of our lives.

If you enjoyed this free book, you may want to subscribe to my newsletter! I send monthly-ish email updates with essays on what I’m learning and what it’s like to be a southerner in LA. You’ll also get cool bonus content from my book The Memory Jumper (starting with a handbook that expands on the universe), plus future projects.

a jungle of exceeding decibels

I hail from the gentle suburbs of Greenville, South Carolina. Tucked into the Bible belt, I lived life in a bubble and honestly it was a beautiful thing.

Now that I’m here in LA, I see and hear and even smell (ick) a lot of things that are different from my roots. I’ve gained a lot of new experiences, many of which are much like panning for gold and yield great nuggets of colorful settings, people, and ideas.

A couple weeks ago, I went to a party in downtown LA for an hour or two. The party scene is not for me—I’m a gentle creature made of lace and small smiles and a teacup or two—but I found it fascinating regardless.

Not everyone likes what I like. Not everyone dislikes what I dislike. And that’s what makes life so fascinating. You could live a thousand years and still not have done everything, gone everywhere, met everyone.

So, here’s a quiet, homeschooled girl’s take on a party in downtown LA.

//

Behind the giant doors, a heartbeat thrums and red lights pulse like blood, like a secret well kept. The doors are opened and I’m escorted into a room that wants to swallow me up. Everything swoops upward, tall ceilings complimenting layers of box seats that long ago must have held rich spectators. 

A man exhales a puff of smoke which catches the blue light and becomes a cumulonimbus of nicotine. Everyone bobs together, blood cells in transit. People come here to lose themselves after the pressure of work, you can see it by the way their faces hold no tension. 

I am a rare species in this jungle, and I’m very much aware of it. I melt into the floorboards and study the intricate patterns melded into the ceiling. Black chandeliers contrast with the antique wood paneling and modern square-shaped screens. We search for water, but everyone else needs something more to get them through the night. 

The beat finds its way into my core, shaking through me at a decibel I’ve never experienced. It’s an alcohol of its own; it can carry you to whatever you need. Energy, joy, consistency, even just nothingness. 

//

lol this is my face upon walking into ANY party, crazy or not ^^^ much disconcerted

I love these small little tidbits of experiences I’m gaining here. Next, I’d like to write a short paragraph or two on my experience going to a fashion show (yup, you read that right!).

Until then, enjoy whatever piece of the world you call home . . . and dare to find yourself outside of your comfort zone in the near future.

blue robe

Living in LA, I see a lot of *interesting* people wandering the streets. While driving to work the other day, I saw a rough-looking woman (probably in her 60s) walking with a man who was slowly riding a bike. She looked worn and weary, and I wondered what her story was. My heart went out to her.

I try to give these unknown, unloved people places in the worlds I create in my head.

//

Woman of the street,

Teal eyeshadow, teal robe,

Eyes empty yet hungering for more—

What has life done to you?

You wander these streets,

The ones that promised

Fame and fortune 

But all you have

Is a hollow feeling

That itself

Is famous

Amongst the stars. 

i did a photo series inspired by my debut novel

Photography is a sweet solace for me, if not a bit chaotic. When I get an idea, I pull out my camera and begin snapping. I live by myself so I have to rely on my camera’s self-timer, which can be frustrating.

I wouldn’t have it any other way, though. That frustration—that marriage between idea and execution—is such a fun challenge and adds to the artistic process.

I knew I wanted to do a series featuring a silver butterfly hairclip (just like the one in The Memory Jumper that my main character, Adelaide, has). To be honest, I wish the hairclip were more prominent but I was having problems getting it to be visible.

I explored several themes, each represented by an item in the photo.

PLANTS

growth

WINDOWS

Being trapped yet dreaming of more

MIRRORS

Self Reflection / Facing Ourselves / we’re our own worst enemies

What has my shadow done?

Some beautiful things

Some terrible things

I am reminded of a letter

I wrote a friend—

Beautiful.

I am reminded of

denying myself food, happiness,

Of turning the mirror around

So I wouldn’t have to see the stranger there—

Terrible.

We are all layers of shadows.

How many times have we died?

How many times have we been reborn?

Would all my shadows get along?

About this creative item’s inspiration

The Memory Jumper

To keep her mind-altering powers a secret, Adelaide lives in an underground safe house with her narcissistic mother Fawn. Together they sell her illegal Memory Jumping abilities for profit—but when Adelaide decides to break, Fawn’s grip on her life only tightens.

Learn more

my latest moody poems

NO 1. PROMPT: “old times”

Maybe new times

Are just old times

in disguise

NO 2. PROMPT: “feelings”

How deep

is the well

of my feelings

take a bucket

and drain me dry

don’t worry

how i collapse into dust

NO 3. PROMPT: “tragedy”

Life took me

one tragedy at a time

until i was

a collage of

almosts,

nevers,

and foolish somedays

NO. 4 NO PROMPT

again she was left—

left behind,

left over.

left for reasons unknown,

left to her own sorrows.

she was just

thoroughly

unceremoniously

unapologetically

left waiting for what would finally be right.