Far from the Madding Crowd: When a steadfast young shepherd named Gabriel Oak meets the beautiful Bathsheba Everdene, he falls in love with her. He proposes marriage, but proud Bathsheba refuses. Thomas Hardy's novel about the evolution of a relationship between a headstrong woman and a quiet, thoughtful man is a vivid masterpiece. The Return of the Native: Passionate Eustacia Vye detests her life amid the dreary environs of Egdon Heath and spies her escape when Clym Yeobright returns from Paris. Hardy's timeless tale of a romantic misalliance embodies his view of character as fate and underscores the tragic nature of ordinary human lives. The Return of the Native ranks among the author's greatest works.