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The Mayor of Casterbridge: By Thomas Hardy - Illustrated (Bonus Free Audiobook)

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How is this book unique? 15 Illustrations Tablet and e-reader formatted Original & Unabridged Edition Best fiction books of all time One of the best books to read Classic Bestselling Novel Short Biography is also included Classic historical fiction books Bestselling Fiction The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), subtitled "The Life and Death of a Man of How is this book unique? 15 Illustrations Tablet and e-reader formatted Original & Unabridged Edition Best fiction books of all time One of the best books to read Classic Bestselling Novel Short Biography is also included Classic historical fiction books Bestselling Fiction The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), subtitled "The Life and Death of a Man of Character", is a novel by British author Thomas Hardy. It is set in the fictional town of Casterbridge (based on the town of Dorchester in Dorset). The book is one of Hardy's Wessex novels, all set in a fictional rural England. Hardy began writing the book in 1884 and wrote the last page on 17 April 1885. Within the book, he writes that the events took place "before the nineteenth century had reached one-third of its span". Literary critic Dale Kramer sees it as being set somewhat later—in the late 1840s, corresponding to Hardy's youth in Dorchester.


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How is this book unique? 15 Illustrations Tablet and e-reader formatted Original & Unabridged Edition Best fiction books of all time One of the best books to read Classic Bestselling Novel Short Biography is also included Classic historical fiction books Bestselling Fiction The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), subtitled "The Life and Death of a Man of How is this book unique? 15 Illustrations Tablet and e-reader formatted Original & Unabridged Edition Best fiction books of all time One of the best books to read Classic Bestselling Novel Short Biography is also included Classic historical fiction books Bestselling Fiction The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), subtitled "The Life and Death of a Man of Character", is a novel by British author Thomas Hardy. It is set in the fictional town of Casterbridge (based on the town of Dorchester in Dorset). The book is one of Hardy's Wessex novels, all set in a fictional rural England. Hardy began writing the book in 1884 and wrote the last page on 17 April 1885. Within the book, he writes that the events took place "before the nineteenth century had reached one-third of its span". Literary critic Dale Kramer sees it as being set somewhat later—in the late 1840s, corresponding to Hardy's youth in Dorchester.

30 review for The Mayor of Casterbridge: By Thomas Hardy - Illustrated (Bonus Free Audiobook)

  1. 5 out of 5

    karen

    this is hardy's most perfectly-constructed novel. there are others that are more appealing, to me, (am i allowed to say that?), but this one is such a perfect cause-and-effect, every-action-has-a-reaction kind of book, that it should really be his most popular and successful, instead of tess, which by comparison, is pure melodrama. mayor is full of the trappings of melodrama - convenient and inexplicable deaths, characters long out of the picture returning at the least opportune times, overheard this is hardy's most perfectly-constructed novel. there are others that are more appealing, to me, (am i allowed to say that?), but this one is such a perfect cause-and-effect, every-action-has-a-reaction kind of book, that it should really be his most popular and successful, instead of tess, which by comparison, is pure melodrama. mayor is full of the trappings of melodrama - convenient and inexplicable deaths, characters long out of the picture returning at the least opportune times, overheard conversations and love triangles and deathbed confessions, and yet it is so much more than that - it is the long, drawn-out punishment of a man who makes an impulsive mistake, tries to redeem himself, and finds that when thomas hardy is writing your life, it just isn't going to work out for you, sorry. this book has more psychological insight than tess, and henchard is a much more complex and nuanced character than any found in tess' world. tess' punishments result from her gender, her innocence, the hypocrisy of society, and a mismanaged letter. henchard is no ingenue. nor is this like jude, where a basically good but misguided man falls victim to circumstances - michael henchard is an unlikeable character through and through. but the fact that he tries to be a better man, and even pulls it off for a while, should be enough, right? even though he is arrogant and hot-tempered, even though he sold his wife and baby in a drunken impulse? is he not even a candidate for redemption? he regrets his mistakes, and even though he continues to make more, his awareness of his character flaws should be enough to avoid his fate, right? nope. this is hardyland. hardy doesn't take kindly to people trying to rise above their circumstances, nor does he take kindly to people getting off scot-free from their mistakes, good intentions or not. tess and angel pay, jude and sue pay, and michael henchard will pay. along with the very hardy-esque theme of "stay put and be good," this book is another shining example of hardy's facility with descriptive prose involving pastoral settings, and the idea of progress, and its effect on the working man. coincidences abound, but always acting as an agent of fate, which was hardy's god. fate is capricious, but determined, and there is no escaping it. is why i love thomas hardy. come to my blog!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    “Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.” Hardy sure was a depressing fellow. As with Tess and Jude, the eponymous mayor of Casterbridge in this book takes one figurative beating after another. Just when you think things might be starting to look up, when it seems he's found his footing and is turning his life around, Hardy says "nuh-uh" and throws another load of shit at him. I know he was challenging social norms and critiquing the bourgeoisie and whatever else, “Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.” Hardy sure was a depressing fellow. As with Tess and Jude, the eponymous mayor of Casterbridge in this book takes one figurative beating after another. Just when you think things might be starting to look up, when it seems he's found his footing and is turning his life around, Hardy says "nuh-uh" and throws another load of shit at him. I know he was challenging social norms and critiquing the bourgeoisie and whatever else, but good god man, give these poor characters a break! Michael Henchard stands apart a little bit though because - I feel - unlike Tess and Jude, he himself is something of an antagonist in the lives of other goodhearted and modernistic folk. He is actually rather unpleasant and probably deserves a lot of what he gets, which is why it's quite an achievement that Hardy makes me sympathise with him. I wanted him to get better, do better, be better. I didn't like him, of course, but then there are many ways I can be made to feel about characters and “like” is always the least interesting one. The novel opens eighteen years before the main story. Michael Henchard is unemployed, unhappy and on the road with his wife and daughter when he stops at a fairground tent for some rum-laced furmity. A few bowls later and he is drunk. In a moment of drunken foolishness, he gets angry at his wife and declares to all present that he will sell her to the highest bidder. What starts as a joke is taken too far, and when a passing sailor offers him five guineas, intoxication and pride make him go through with it. His wife, Susan, takes her daughter and leaves - quite gladly - with the sailor. The next morning, Henchard realises the horror of what he has done and makes a vow not to drink for as long as his age at that moment (21 years). Eighteen years later, the sailor has been lost at sea and Susan follows the trail of her true husband to the town of Casterbridge, hoping he will take pity on her and her daughter. There she discovers a sober, well-respected Michael Henchard in the mayor's seat. Could this be a second chance for them both? Could it hell. Sorry, but this is Hardy. He wasn't going to let anyone get away with anything that easily. There's twists around every corner in this book. He really pushes how much we can feel pity for Michael Henchard. Henchard essentially orchestrates his own downfall time and again by behaving selfishly and jealously. I found myself despising him at times, and yet in the end I could only think: Henchard, you poor, poor bastard. I enjoyed the moral challenges and complexity the book offered. I also really enjoyed the rural setting and the town of Casterbridge. My least favourite part of the book was Elizabeth-Jane, though she got a little more bearable towards the end. Maybe. I do have one question, though. (view spoiler)[How does Lucetta die? She can't have been more than, say, forty. What happened to her? She seems to have literally died of embarrassment 😂 (hide spoiler)] Facebook | Instagram

  3. 4 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    Michael Henchard an itinerant, young, annoyed farm worker, walking with quiet wife Susan, infant daughter Elizabeth -Jane, looking for employment, the time, the early 1830's, in southern England, after an exhausting journey they reach a country fair, in a small village, enter a crowded tent, with dubious humans, serving alcohol, he imbibes vigorously, (a weakness that will cause much trouble, and haunt him the rest of his life) soon inebriated, the highly distressed man, in a stupor, sells Susan Michael Henchard an itinerant, young, annoyed farm worker, walking with quiet wife Susan, infant daughter Elizabeth -Jane, looking for employment, the time, the early 1830's, in southern England, after an exhausting journey they reach a country fair, in a small village, enter a crowded tent, with dubious humans, serving alcohol, he imbibes vigorously, (a weakness that will cause much trouble, and haunt him the rest of his life) soon inebriated, the highly distressed man, in a stupor, sells Susan to an unknown sailor named Newson, what began as a joke reaches an unforeseen conclusion. In the morning sober, and very ashamed, he seeks his wife and daughter everywhere, but they have left the area and the nation...Almost twenty years later, a drastic change, this Mr.Henchard is now the influential Mayor of Casterbridge (Dorchester) , a successful businessman in the corn and hay trade, only a few miles from his crime, a secret that still causes him much pain and suffering, he has vowed and kept this oath, not to partake any intoxicating beverages for 21 years, his age during the scandalous incident. Recently hiring the bright, young, reluctant, affable Mr. Donald Farfrae, from Scotland, with a vague dream of going to America, to pursue his fortune there, but after a protracted , difficult negotiation, on the road out of town, Henchard, persuades Farfrae to stay, he runs the business better than the owner. Michael has it all, a beautiful , girlfriend, Lucetta Templeman, too, from an impoverished family, on the island of Jersey, he has compromised, but promises will wed, the eager woman, she helped him back to health when the mayor, became dangerously ill there, nurses fall in love with their needy patients regularly . Yet life has frequent complications, the smooth voyage of his career hits a reef, his long suspected dead wife Susan returns, she also hides a deep secret, bringing his daughter Elizabeth-Jane, too...what to do? The respected mayor of Casterbridge, a widower he says, will quietly marry his wife again, for appearance sake... the townsmen are flabbergasted, a poor, sickly, uneducated woman, with a grown daughter, a stranger, Mr.Henchard, could have any single woman, from a good family, in the city, later Mr. Farfrae and shy Miss Elizabeth-Jane, start to look at each other, both with kind eyes . A major novel from the always interesting writer, Thomas Hardy, dark waters may flow through these pages , but they will take you back to a place that will engross, and this is the ultimate goal of any book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Ooof, finally finished this trudge trudge trudge of a book, and it isn’t even that long. Maybe I’m getting feeble but Thomas Hardy’s manytentacled sentences and trillion 19th century rural slang words presented a north-face-of-the-Eiger challenge for my little brain – strange words like clane, felloe, furmety, gaberlunzie, twanking, diment, rantipole and comminatory and many many more, and sentences like this (deep breath) : As the lively and sparkling emotions of her early married life cohered i Ooof, finally finished this trudge trudge trudge of a book, and it isn’t even that long. Maybe I’m getting feeble but Thomas Hardy’s manytentacled sentences and trillion 19th century rural slang words presented a north-face-of-the-Eiger challenge for my little brain – strange words like clane, felloe, furmety, gaberlunzie, twanking, diment, rantipole and comminatory and many many more, and sentences like this (deep breath) : As the lively and sparkling emotions of her early married life cohered into an equable serenity, the finer movements of her nature found scope in discovering to the narrow-lived ones around her the secret (as she had once learnt it) of making limited opportunities endurable; by a species of microscopic treatment, of those minute forms of satisfaction that offer themselves to everybody not in positive pain; which, this handled, have much of the same inspiriting effect upon life as wider interests cursorily embraced. You like that one? Heck, I got another : While life’s middle summer had set its hardening mark on the mother’s face, her former spring-like specialities were transferred so dexterously by Time to the second figure, her child, that the absence of certain facts within her mother’s knowledge from the girl’s mind would have seemed for the moment, to one reflecting on those facts, to be a curious imperfection in Nature’s powers of continuity. Yeah……….. time to lie down for 20 minutes. I guess I got what I thought I was going to get with this book – an intricate tale of the playing out of the intertwined fates of four characters who marry each other, lie about their origins to each other, lie about each others’ origins to each other, don’t marry each other, have the hots for each other, love each other, hate each other, betray each other, turn the tables on each other and in general bamboozlerize each other until the poor reader’s head is spinning. The plot is as constricted and convoluted as a box of pythons; it’s like a Coen Brothers movie, like Blood Simple or Burn After Reading. It’s a lethal quadrille. The sexual politics of this unlikely tale are just weird. The young (around 21 I guess) Michael Henchard auctions off his wife in the first (famous) scene and then lives as a bachelor for the next 18 years. He explains: Being something of a woman-hater, I have found it no hardship to keep mostly at a distance from the sex. The next big emotional entanglement he makes (after 18 years of celibacy) is with…. a man. An entrancing young Scotsman to be precise, we could be thinking maybe Ewan McGregor in Shallow Grave or David Tennant as Doctor Who. Henchard (by now hizzoner The Mayor of Casterbridge) practically falls in love with this guy. Then suddenly back comes the wife he sold with daughter in tow and the merry dance begins. Swing your partners, one two three. Reading this Hardy novel was like watching an old mournful elephant skilfully pick up three peas and juggle them expertly with his one enormous trunk and then turn round and plod massively back into the trackless jungle smashing bamboo plants and ripping creepers apart as he went, one large tear trickling down his cheek.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I give it five stars because it seems nearly a perfect example of its type of craft. This book has an intertwined and flawless plot that is never overcomplicated; it is full of wonderful language, rich with regional variation, for instance the tenor of Donald Farfrae's Scottish is exceptionally musical and not like the speech of his peers. There were moments reading this book I felt so much under the sway of the author's power that I could observe him wirte himself into one tight plot corner and I give it five stars because it seems nearly a perfect example of its type of craft. This book has an intertwined and flawless plot that is never overcomplicated; it is full of wonderful language, rich with regional variation, for instance the tenor of Donald Farfrae's Scottish is exceptionally musical and not like the speech of his peers. There were moments reading this book I felt so much under the sway of the author's power that I could observe him wirte himself into one tight plot corner and then another and then skillfully find his way out from all . Plot plot plot. There's a lot to learn here. Everything they told us in graduate school started here: plot springs from character; don't coddle your characters--reveal their weaknesses, build plot around their flaws. Let their mistakes haunt their lives forever. Don't get bogged down in narrative tangents. The simplicity of this tale makes room for its psychological richness--not the same as complexity, just depth. I wish I could do this. In comparision to the other 19th century realists with whom Hardy is often compared, Hardy it seems to me is the purest of them all. He doesn't get lost in well-meaning documentarian slumming as Zola did, and he has less of the pathos of Wharton or James. That said I prefer Wharton and James--somehow their characters seem yet more tragic. I'm not sure why--perhaps there is a teeny bit less subtely and elegance to Hardy's writing. His is sure footed, Anglo-saxon, stubborn, forceful. And yet with beautiful moments of authorial reflection. We'll have to take a poll....

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    I'd heard Hardy was a bit of a chore, so instead of his chunky novels I went slender with The Mayor of Casterbridge as my first. I'm not sure it was a wise choice. Not because I thought it was bad by any means. The writing's quite good, the story held my interest, but jeez louise, this is bleak stuff! It's bleaker than Bleak House! Are all this books like this? I'm not normally depressed, but I may have to put myself on suicide watch just to get through another one of his novels! Seriously though I'd heard Hardy was a bit of a chore, so instead of his chunky novels I went slender with The Mayor of Casterbridge as my first. I'm not sure it was a wise choice. Not because I thought it was bad by any means. The writing's quite good, the story held my interest, but jeez louise, this is bleak stuff! It's bleaker than Bleak House! Are all this books like this? I'm not normally depressed, but I may have to put myself on suicide watch just to get through another one of his novels! Seriously though, I don't mind a dose of miserable realism now and then, and I liked that peek into an odd and terrible matrimonial tradition. Stories based on drunken missteps that linger into lifelong regrets do not generally lend themselves to frivolity and this book is not about happy happy good times. Back in merry ole England (and no doubt many other places) if a man no longer loved his woman, he could get rid of her and potentially make a profit. What a world... Some day I'll get around to meeting Tess of the d'Ubervilles, but I fear by the end of the encounter I may want to get as Far from the Madding Crowd as possible!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Helga

    This is the story of the rise and fall of Michael Henchard, a hot-tempered, proud and irascible hay-trusser who in a drunken haze, sells his wife and baby girl to a sailor at a fair, for five guineas. He regrets his deed the next day, but can not find his wife and child. Entering a church, he kneels by the altar and vows to stay sober for 21 years and do good and be charitable. But can he rise above his anger, pride, obstinacy, jealousy, sense of rivalry and impulsiveness? Would he be able to prev This is the story of the rise and fall of Michael Henchard, a hot-tempered, proud and irascible hay-trusser who in a drunken haze, sells his wife and baby girl to a sailor at a fair, for five guineas. He regrets his deed the next day, but can not find his wife and child. Entering a church, he kneels by the altar and vows to stay sober for 21 years and do good and be charitable. But can he rise above his anger, pride, obstinacy, jealousy, sense of rivalry and impulsiveness? Would he be able to prevent the life and name he has built for himself from unraveling? Could he fight fate? This is a story of misunderstandings; of suffering the consequences of transgressions; of self-punishment and regrets and of longing to be loved and cherished. This is a tragedy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Quo

    Some novels represent an attempt at a retreat into the past on the part of the reader, some a step into the imagined future & still others take aim at identifying a scenario that occurs in the present but which may or may not seem at all familiar. Thomas Hardy's wonderful novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge takes the reader into the author's world of 1840s Dorset, called Wessex in the novel, a very different time & place just on the eve of the Industrial Age. In a departure from the literary effort Some novels represent an attempt at a retreat into the past on the part of the reader, some a step into the imagined future & still others take aim at identifying a scenario that occurs in the present but which may or may not seem at all familiar. Thomas Hardy's wonderful novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge takes the reader into the author's world of 1840s Dorset, called Wessex in the novel, a very different time & place just on the eve of the Industrial Age. In a departure from the literary efforts of many other writers from this & similar periods in England, there seems little reference to Britain's extremely class-conscious stratification, very much in force during this period. The novel involves the path to resolution if not actual reconciliation for a misdeed of major proportion by Michael Henchard, committed in a fit of drunkenness at a county fair, selling off his wife & young daughter to a sailor. By way of a quick summary, the rest of the slow-moving novel involves the quick onset of remorse & a gradual revelation of just what Mr. Henchard does to resolve his offense. Nothing in Hardy's universe is ever termed a "sin" & so Henchard does not seek a return to grace but rather endures a self-imposed penance, vowing not to drink for 21 years, his age at the time that he parts company with his wife & child. In the coming years, the reader learns a great deal about grain harvesting in Casterbridge & follows Henchard as he searches in vain for this wife & child, working as an itinerant tradesman, a "hay-trusser", bundling corn or wheat, while saving his money, in time settling in Casterbridge, working diligently and eventually becoming so resourceful in the harvesting & selling of grain that he becomes both wealthy & in turn the town's mayor. With the sort of twists & turns that occur in Dickens or in Shakespeare, Henchard's wife Susan & daughter Elizabeth-Jane almost magically reappear in Casterbridge, not seeking revenge but rather a continuation of life as it had been before they were sold off to the sailor, Richard Newsom for 5 Guineas. In the interval, the erstwhile Susan Henchard had taken leave of Mr. Newsom, who is now believed to have been swept away while at sea. With what is described as a "mechanical rightness" rather than a loving embrace, the family becomes reunited. There are "3 great resolves" at play with Henchard: "to make amends to Susan; to provide a comfortable home for Elizabeth-Jane; to castigate himself with the thoughts that these restitutory acts brought in their train." But Henchard's daughter knows none of the circumstances surrounding this apparent marriage renewal or the earlier sale of mother & daughter. Indeed, there is deception aplenty involved on the part of both her father & her mother. For: His mind began vibrating between the wish to reveal himself to her & the policy of leaving well enough alone, till he could no longer sit still. He walked up & down & then he came & stood behind Elizabeth-Jane, looking down on the top of her head. He could no longer restrain his impulse. 'What did your mother tell you about me--my history?' he asked.But wait, I've forgotten to mention the arrival of an industrious young Scot, Donald Farfrae, an intelligent, even-tempered lad who is seemingly en route to a new life in America but who reminds Henchard of his late brother & who is convinced to sign on as a foreman at Henchard's grain business, helping to enhance its profitability, while becoming a confidant but later a rival. In a reversal of roles, Henchard becomes a pauper & Farfrae wealthy & the town's mayor. In fact, Henchard is enlisted as a hay-trusser working for Farfrae, commenting "the bitter truth is that when I was rich, I did not need what I could have & now that I be poor, I can't have what I need." And in the midst of all of this, Elizabeth-Jane shines as a developing woman, a heroine of great capacity to deal with whatever confronts her. Please pardon that I have given away more than a touch of the plot but not in any way hinted at how the novel concludes. The imagery in The Mayor of Casterbridge is very memorable, even at times stunning! By way of one humorous example is the vignette of Henchard & Farfrae being hosted by a women each is enamored of & upon being offered a piece of buttered bread, "each feeling certain that he was the man meant, neither letting go & the slice tearing apart." But even more portentous & haunting is the scene by a bridge when Henchard, having lost everything that is of any value to him, "devoid of loved ones, hobby or desires, all had gone, one by one, either by his fault or by his misfortune but with hard fate having ordained that he should be unable to call up the Divine Spirit in his need" contemplates suicide.He took off his coat & hat and stood on the brink of a stream with his hands clasped in front of him. While his eyes were bent on the water beneath, there slowly became visible something floating in the circular pool formed by the wash of centuries; the pool he was intending to be his deathbed. At first it was indistinct by reason of the shadow from the bank but it emerged thence & took shape, which was that of a human body, lying stiff & stark upon the surface of the stream. Then he perceived with a sense of horror that it was himself. Not a man somewhat resembling himself but one in all respects his counterpart, his actual double. The sense of the supernatural was strong in this unhappy man & he turned away as one might have done in the actual presence of an appalling miracle. He covered his eyes & bowed his head. Without looking again into the stream, he took his coat & hat and went slowly away.What also lifts Thomas Hardy's early novel well above the pitfalls of the apparent storm & stress of the relationships I've highlighted are some most uplifting descriptive details about sunsets, sunrises, daily life in a small English village almost 200 years ago, including some mention of the grog that was Henchard's undoing, "furmity" (fermenty), a mix of milk, boiled & fermented corn, spices, sugar & for an extra tuppence, a bit of rum, most certainly not on the drink menu of any place I've ever visited in the U.K. If you have no interest in entering this diorama of mid-19th century Dorset, the morality tale of Mr. Henchard & the others will likely not be sufficient to support the many allusions to Greek & Roman antiquity, French phrases & archaic English words that are indeed a distraction, at least in my version of The Mayor of Casterbridge, published with no footnotes by Vintage/Random House in 2016. My guess is that Hardy, lacking a formal education, longed to demonstrate his self-taught comprehension of the world at large. Belatedly, I became aware of an online resource for the Hardy novel which conveys almost all of these terms for the reader & which is highly recommended. Likewise, I urge empathy & a sympathetic stance in the case of Michael Henchard, while at the same time highly recommending Mr. Hardy's excellent novel.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Thomas Hardy was a genius. I know that he wrote tragedies with characters crushed by fate (or their own mistakes) - yet there were so many twists and turns in this novel that I held out hope until the very end. He had me rooting for Michael Henchard, the Mayor, in spite of his difficult, sometimes cruel temperament. I was enthralled throughout.

  10. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    When Thomas stopped writing novels in the early 1900s, he concentrated his bitterness on spectacularly peevish poetry, dripping with more melancholy self-loathing than mid-90s Morrissey albums (has anyone actually heard Maladjusted or Southpaw Grammar the whole way through?) These poems captivated my downbeat imagination as a teenager but the novels remained out of reach—I wanted heartbreak-to-go, I wasn’t looking to eat in the restaurant of shattered dreams. Now, I find myself pulled towards th When Thomas stopped writing novels in the early 1900s, he concentrated his bitterness on spectacularly peevish poetry, dripping with more melancholy self-loathing than mid-90s Morrissey albums (has anyone actually heard Maladjusted or Southpaw Grammar the whole way through?) These poems captivated my downbeat imagination as a teenager but the novels remained out of reach—I wanted heartbreak-to-go, I wasn’t looking to eat in the restaurant of shattered dreams. Now, I find myself pulled towards the Great Grump’s masterworks. Starting with this terrific novel that reads like a transcript of my first two goes on The Sims—I lost my father, killed my mother, made a series of kitchen-fire hotchpotches and ended up killing all my close friends and children, then killed myself. The details are different in The Mayor of Casterbridge (only slightly), but if ever a writer was Sim-like, it’s Hardy. He is like an existential bingo caller with a grudge. Mayor no more—forty-four! Poisoned by hate—eight-eight! No women survive—twenty-five! This Oxford World Classics edition stifled me with its academia and I confess I skipped the intro. Usually I like the setup and context intros give me but here, I wanted in to the action. Since this review is stressfully scattershot, I might as well conclude with this track from Nick Cave: sums up the fate of the poor Mayor perfectly, as well as being amazing in its own right: When I First Came to Town

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    It seems The Mayor of Casterbridge can end only in one direction as this Mayor is continually victimized by his own shortcomings. As the novel begins, we witness the famous selling of his wife while he is in a drunken stupor, not caring about anything or anyone else in the world. Years later, he has his chance to make changes, amends but his essential character prevents this. He sees evil and devils where there are none and increases small faults to large. He turns friends to enemies and enemies It seems The Mayor of Casterbridge can end only in one direction as this Mayor is continually victimized by his own shortcomings. As the novel begins, we witness the famous selling of his wife while he is in a drunken stupor, not caring about anything or anyone else in the world. Years later, he has his chance to make changes, amends but his essential character prevents this. He sees evil and devils where there are none and increases small faults to large. He turns friends to enemies and enemies to people who will do him wrong. I used to think that Hardy was about fate (when I was young) but now I see him as about character. His people earn the good and bad that happens by how they interact with the world around them, by their meanness or their generosity, their straightforwardness or their double-dealing. Fate watches and smiles or cries. A strong 4 stars. 3/15/13...Rating changed to 5 stars after wonderful group discussion with Classics section of Constant Reader. This made me realize just how much I enjoyed this book and how well it is written.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    What a silly novel! Much of these unfortunate destinies could have been prevented if only the characters weren't so stupid and didn't make so many irrational and unbelievable decisions. But what an entertaining story this is! It's got a shocking beginning and a lot of plot twists that I didn't see coming, I just wish that it didn't feel like Thomas Hardy was pushing the plot forward in an unnatural and quite unbelievable way. I won't go too much into the plot and the characters' decisions which What a silly novel! Much of these unfortunate destinies could have been prevented if only the characters weren't so stupid and didn't make so many irrational and unbelievable decisions. But what an entertaining story this is! It's got a shocking beginning and a lot of plot twists that I didn't see coming, I just wish that it didn't feel like Thomas Hardy was pushing the plot forward in an unnatural and quite unbelievable way. I won't go too much into the plot and the characters' decisions which I disagree with because I want for you to be surprised when you read it. I will say, though, that this is quite an entertaining book, however in my eyes not the strongest work of Hardy's.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    “Life is an oasis which is submerged in the swirling waves of sorrows and agonies.” or “Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain”--Thomas Hardy, in this and almost every one of his tragic novels. I had thought I was permanently done with my year of rereading Thomas Hardy, but I had some time in a car, so listened to this, a book I last read as a sophomore in college. Subtitled “A Story of a Man of Character,” Hardy's 1886 portrait of Michael Henchard—depressive, bad-tempe “Life is an oasis which is submerged in the swirling waves of sorrows and agonies.” or “Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain”--Thomas Hardy, in this and almost every one of his tragic novels. I had thought I was permanently done with my year of rereading Thomas Hardy, but I had some time in a car, so listened to this, a book I last read as a sophomore in college. Subtitled “A Story of a Man of Character,” Hardy's 1886 portrait of Michael Henchard—depressive, bad-tempered, self-destructive—still manages to be sympathetic of this deeply flawed man. He considered the book one of his strongest achievements; “he was deeply affected, telling a friend that the novel was the only tragedy that made him weep while writing it.” I can believe it. Hardy got the idea for the story based on something he had read in the Times about a young man who had gotten drunk, got into a fight with his wife and auctioned her and his baby in a pub. So from the beginning, it’s a hard sell to get you to care about this guy as a potential “man of character.” When Henchard wakes up in the bar the next morning he is seized with remorse, but his wife and child are indeed gone, sold to a sailor. Twenty years later we find he has worked his way up economically and politically to be the mayor of Casterbridge. And then his wife shows up, with her daughter, the sailor apparently lost at sea. Hey! Henchard can do the right thing! Then things get really complicated. Henchard tells his hired hand, Donald Farfrae, that he has a problem; he tells him of the story of Susan, and also that he had recently told Lucetta he would marry her! But! Susan dies! But! Henchard finds out Elizabeth-Ann is not really his daughter. The original Elizabeth-Ann, his actual daughter, had died, and this Elizabeth-Ann is actually the daughter of Captain Newsom, the sailor! Henchard is now being totally mean to this Elizabeth-Ann and so she moves out and in with a woman who has just come to live in town, and whoa, this woman actually turns out to be Lucetta! So, perfect, Henchard is free to marry Lucetta and do the right thing and maybe even be nice again to this Elizabeth-Ann he admits he has been mean to!! But! It seems Lucetta and Farfrae, fired by Henchard, had quietly fallen in love and gotten married! And so on, but I really loved it, seriously, in spite of the expected gloom and grimness that attends almost every event. Can he Henchard be redeemed? Given the chance to do so, can he consistently do the right thing? He certainly tries at some points, but fate reigns, you pay for your mistakes in the Hardy-verse. People being as flawed as they are, the likelihood of a grim outcome is almost never in doubt in a Hardy novel. Too many twists and turns, you say? Too many coincidences? Ok, maybe, but in spite of my making light fun of the plot twists above, and in spite of my love for all the strong and complex women in the other novels—Tess, Bathsheba, Sue and Eustacia—The Mayor of Casterbridge has emerged as my favorite Hardy. J. M. Coetzee confessed a couple years ago that he was “sick of the well-made novel with its plot and its characters and its settings.” Life is not a novel, we know, but Thomas Hardy wrote here what must be one of the most finely crafted “well made” novels ever, shaped like a finely-crafted oak cabinet, with a polished and perfectly fitted tongue and groove plot that might have even gotten Coetzee to change his mind.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Perry

    "Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain." "Life is an oasis which is submerged in the swirling waves of sorrows and agonies." Never have I found a couple of lines in a novel that so perfectly sum up the writer's oeuvre for me. To those, I'd add, "Gloom, despair and agony on me" from an old TV song. This was my first Hardy novel, reading it last July. In the six-plus months since, I've made myself a Hardy punching bag: Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Return of the Native, "Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain." "Life is an oasis which is submerged in the swirling waves of sorrows and agonies." Never have I found a couple of lines in a novel that so perfectly sum up the writer's oeuvre for me. To those, I'd add, "Gloom, despair and agony on me" from an old TV song. This was my first Hardy novel, reading it last July. In the six-plus months since, I've made myself a Hardy punching bag: Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Return of the Native, and Far from the Madding Crowd. I may need Treatment. This Hardy tragic novel, published in 1886, was set in the first half of the 19th Century. Still, the set up is far-fetched compared to the other three. Here we have a drunken Michael Henchard who sells his wife and baby girl Eliza-Jane to a sailor. You think that's bad.... If anyone can transform bad into worse, blue into black, it's Hardy. After recovering from his hangover, Henchard repents and desperately searches for his family to no avail. He gives up booze cold turkey, becomes a successful merchant farmer and is elected Mayor of Casterbridge. The former Mrs. Henchard returns with daughter Eliza-Jane years later when the girl is 18. The story takes S-curves and turnabouts until Henchard's pride gets the best of him, he returns to booze and he's ruined emotionally and publicly. I'd say this story has a few morals: 1. Drink in moderation. 2. No matter how bad things get, never sell your wife or children. 3. "Pride goeth before destruction; and an haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18, Bible, KJV

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lesle

    This is my first Novel by Thomas Hardy. I can not say it was dull or that it was hard to read. It is a read with mixed feelings towards the characters and he does a good job keeping my attention and wanting to continue reading. The main character in a moment of impulsiveness and anger towards his wife offers a deal. The next day he regrets his decision and decides he will improve his life as justification for what he has done. He turns out successful in his new world, but his past comes back from This is my first Novel by Thomas Hardy. I can not say it was dull or that it was hard to read. It is a read with mixed feelings towards the characters and he does a good job keeping my attention and wanting to continue reading. The main character in a moment of impulsiveness and anger towards his wife offers a deal. The next day he regrets his decision and decides he will improve his life as justification for what he has done. He turns out successful in his new world, but his past comes back from a guilt of duty. He goes through a lot of conflict that is from his own doing and lack of confidence has him making decisions that are spontaneous, reckless, stupid, and downright mean, just plain bad. He has made grave mistakes and it will eventually destroy him. He is his own worst enemy! A lot happens and one person has a very high tolerance for his nonsense and crap shoveling that he does. The one person, that is caring, kind, selfless and affectionate continues to be so towards him, as no others do, he had a chance to make things right and again makes a choice that will end the relationship forever. In the end, despite all of the lies, suffering and pain endured in life, that sometime forgiveness can come too late and you must appreciate the life and happiness you have.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    I really loved this one. This was my third Hardy novel and it's by far one of his best. Horribly tragic of course, well obviously, this is Hardy, but also SO GOOD. I think this one would be a good entry point into Hardy, it has all this major themes and all of his delicious pessimism. Ah, it's so fantastic.

  17. 4 out of 5

    S. Pearce

    "Someone has been roasting a waxen image of me". Why is it that certain things you read in your youth stay with you forever? So it has been with this sentence from The Mayor of Casterbridge, which I had to read in school. There are many things that have stayed with me from those days, but little quite as much as this book. I am not sure why. Maybe it is the credible characterisation, maybe it is the subtle turns of plot that make you smile, frown, cross and shout in fury at the pig-headed yet im "Someone has been roasting a waxen image of me". Why is it that certain things you read in your youth stay with you forever? So it has been with this sentence from The Mayor of Casterbridge, which I had to read in school. There are many things that have stayed with me from those days, but little quite as much as this book. I am not sure why. Maybe it is the credible characterisation, maybe it is the subtle turns of plot that make you smile, frown, cross and shout in fury at the pig-headed yet immensely warm protogonist Henchard. Maybe it is the wonderful vocabulary. Maybe it is just that this is a delightful story, which I have read again this week, and enjoyed every bit as much all these years later as I did then. Thank you Mrs Rooke, my English teacher, for making me read this book. And if you read this review, I hope it inspires you to read The Mayor of Casterbridge. It will stay with you for a long time. S Pearce, author of Mo

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Perhaps I've been spoilt growing up by too many political sex scandals sinking careers in waves of laughter so I always felt that sale of the titular character's wife in order to buy Fermenty and even more the revelation of this secret later in the novel should have much more power and impact than they do. Instead I suppose it is not the tragedy of a stupid action but the tragedy of a more generally stupid hubris of the man who believes he can do what he wants and get away with it (including sel Perhaps I've been spoilt growing up by too many political sex scandals sinking careers in waves of laughter so I always felt that sale of the titular character's wife in order to buy Fermenty and even more the revelation of this secret later in the novel should have much more power and impact than they do. Instead I suppose it is not the tragedy of a stupid action but the tragedy of a more generally stupid hubris of the man who believes he can do what he wants and get away with it (including selling wife number one in order to have some mildly alcoholic refreshment). The small town setting of a fictionalised Dorchester is good, hard alongside the remnants of the Roman town - the past is inescapable, it is just that when it grabs you by the collar it is more like Eamonn Andrews with his red book than the grim visage of Nemesis. Stock energetic Scotsman on his way to make his fortune in the colonies gives it a painting by numbers feel. Hardy in his way is more a Rembrandt in his style than one of the fine painters who is careful about every detail. Instead there is absolute concentration on his central theme while the rest can be sketched in or populated by stock figures.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tristram Shandy

    “And in being forced to class herself among the fortunate she did not cease to wonder at the persistence of the unforeseen, when the one to whom such unbroken tranquillity had been accorded in the adult stage was she whose youth had seemed to teach that happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.“ Thomas Hardy’s novel The Mayor of Casterbridge is a book that has accompanied me for a little more than forty years now, but more in the quality of a silent backseat passenger ( “And in being forced to class herself among the fortunate she did not cease to wonder at the persistence of the unforeseen, when the one to whom such unbroken tranquillity had been accorded in the adult stage was she whose youth had seemed to teach that happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.“ Thomas Hardy’s novel The Mayor of Casterbridge is a book that has accompanied me for a little more than forty years now, but more in the quality of a silent backseat passenger (not one of those annoying ones who keep playing with the electric side window or the even worse ones who engage their fellow-passengers into conversations in which I, the driver, have not the least bit of interest). Instead, it was a very silent one because it took me about forty years to read it. Ironically, it must have been one of the first Penguin Classics that came into my possession, back in the spring of 1989 when our class took a week’s trip to London and Dorchester. Dorchester was, and probably still is, my hometown’s twin town, and we students were hosted in different guest families. Since the then-mayor took a lively interest in the exchange – he was later to become an honorary citizen of my hometown –, he also took up a student, and that happened to be me. At that time – it hasn’t changed at all – I loved reading Dickens, Dickens, Dickens, and I lost no time in equipping myself at one of the Dorchester bookshops with the Penguin Classics editions of those works by Dickens I did not own in English. Remember, this was well before the Internet, and so it was not that easy to order an English book in Germany, not even in any bookshop you dropped into. Since I am sometimes quite prolix about Dickens and his merits as a writer, I must have spent a lot of time telling the mayor and his wife about the Dickens novels I had read by then, and how wonderful they were, and the mayor and his wife listened very kindly … and maybe also with unabated interest, but in retrospect I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Nevertheless, they also liked reading a lot and talking about literature, and the only thing that took an equal share of our conversations was what happened in Hungary at the time, i.e. the many citizens of the GDR trying to leave the Eastern bloc (which was not so bloc-esque any more, all of a sudden) and enter Austria. On one of the last days of my sojourn in Dorchester, the mayor gave me a copy of The Mayor of Casterbridge, telling me that Casterbridge was actually Dorchester and that Thomas Hardy was a writer who could hold his ground against Dickens if needs be. I liked the idea of being given a book about the mayor of Dorchester by the mayor of Dorchester, but when I started reading the first two or three chapters, I felt disappointed: There is this hay-trusser, Michael Henchard, selling his wife and daughter to any man who’d bid five sovereigns – and yet the description of the characters involved and the events taking place is somewhat distant, even sober, mostly confining the narrator’s voice to externals … What Dickens would have made out of this, I thought, Dickens’s Michael Henchard would be a cold-hearted, ruthless villain with a penchant to drink, Dickens’s Susan Henchard a self-denying, patient mother doing her utmost to shelter her child, and the seaman who entered the bargain would, in Dickens’s world, probably have been some genial Joe-Gargery-kind of tar. Compared to my idea of how Dickens would have told the story, Thomas Hardy’s way of doing so could not quite satisfy the expectations of an 18-year old reader, and so I put the book aside. However, I kept it on my shelf – not so much out of insight that one day, my tastes would have matured and enable me to enjoy books of a more subtle calibre – what 18-year old would ever come up with such an idea? – but more because the book reminded me of the pleasant stay in Dorchester and the hospitality I experienced there. In the meantime, I started reading, and enjoying, Hardy’s novels (although I am still an out-and-out Dickens aficionado), and having read three of his novels, I finally remembered my old copy of The Mayor of Dorchester. This time, my reaction to what I was reading proved entirely different. In fact, the sombre-sober style in which the dark story of Michael Henchard is narrated, intrigued me because it left a lot to my imagination, especially when it comes to fathoming the depths of the protagonist’s character, which proves much more complex than that of the average Dickens villain. One may not even regard Henchard as a villain at all but just as an unlucky man whose passion and ambitions regularly interfere with his longing for human relationships. After selling off his wife and his daughter in a state of alcohol-induced stupor, Henchard comes back to his senses and immediately realizes that he has brought terrible guilt upon himself. And yet, his desire to make amends is thwarted by his sense of shame in that, although he tries to recover a trace of his family, he avoids taking the most promising measure of advertising for them, seeing that this would expose him to the necessity of openly owning up to what he has done. Still, his whole life is determined by the feeling that the guilt he burdened his life with must somehow move him to setting things right. It’s hard to like Henchard – actually, I still found it harder to like that prim and proper smartass Farfrae – but it is painful to read about how Henchard’s passions and pride get him deeper and deeper into a quagmire of unwise decisions. For example, when he realizes what an honest and caring person he has in Elizabeth-Jane, why should the sudden knowledge that she is not his real daughter awaken such coldness and anger in him? Basically, it is the old story of a person being able to appreciate what they had got when they have already lost it, or as Henchard says, “‘(T)he bitter thing is, that when I was rich I didn’t need what I could have, and now I be poor I can’t have what I need!‘“ In Henchard’s case, however, it’s not really so much a matter of being rich or poor but of a sense of impatience with life and of a hungry and masterful spirit standing in the way of one’s own heart’s desires. What adds to the bleakness of this story is the author’s use of coincidence as a force of increasing human misery beyond a human’s natural capacity of doing so. Nearly everything that can go wrong does go wrong. For example, the arrival of Farfrae in Casterbridge, and his acquaintance with Henchard is the result of a mere accident, some words about bad corn being overheard by the young Scot and his honest desire to be of help. Another instance of things taking their worst turn when they could have done otherwise is Henchard’s finding that the letter written by his late wife is not properly sealed and his thinking that its contents will not be of major importance anyway, leading him into reading the letter before the wedding of Elizabeth-Jane, with disastrous consequences. And then there is this furmity-woman who keeps up appearing whenever her presence can cause the most mischief; the three weird sisters obfuscating Macbeth’s senses would surely have envied that old hag her timing. Plus, whenever a coincidence could have happened to avert the worst course of events – like that swallow entering the tent where a drunken Henchard is on the point of auctioneering away his wife and all the people present looking at the bird’s flight –, man’s propensity to continue doing a stupid thing even though an accident interrupts its course makes sure that the coincidence is of no great consequence. What are we to learn from that – if not that whenever things don’t go wrong by accident, they will do so by people’s insistence on making them go wrong. At the age of 18, I might have resented such a conclusion but at 48 I am ready to resign myself to it. The only weakness of this powerful novel is due to the fact that it was published in a serialized form, forcing its author to include some major event in every single instalment. And so, when you read the novel nowadays, you will probably have the impression of a soap opera pacing what with all those terrible misunderstandings following at each others‘ heels. There is even a wild bull chasing two damsels in distress, but there’s no cockfighting scene so that you would wrong Hardy extremely in calling The Mayor of Casterbridge a cock-and-bull-story. Unless you see some similarities in the two male protagonists‘ characters with regard to the aforementioned two farm animals …

  20. 5 out of 5

    Crispy

    I had to read this in high school . It was so boring it caused every particle of oxygen to be instantly sucked out of my brain whenever I opened the cover. My teacher gave me detention for falling asleep in class, I pointed to The Mayor of Casterbridge, he hit me on the back of the head with a wooden ruler. I can truly say that the classics of 19th century English literature made an impact on me.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Apatt

    If Thomas Hardy's Wessex region was a real place the British government would probably have to nuke it as nothing but misery seems to go on there, as recounted in Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, The Return of the Native and other bleak-fests (I am excluding Far from the Madding Crowd here because I find it quite cheerful by his melancholic standard (only a few tissue papers required instead of a whole box of Kleenex). The Mayor of Casterbridge is Hardy at least wonderfully mirth If Thomas Hardy's Wessex region was a real place the British government would probably have to nuke it as nothing but misery seems to go on there, as recounted in Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, The Return of the Native and other bleak-fests (I am excluding Far from the Madding Crowd here because I find it quite cheerful by his melancholic standard (only a few tissue papers required instead of a whole box of Kleenex). The Mayor of Casterbridge is Hardy at least wonderfully mirthless best. A sign reading “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” would do just as well for the border of Wessex as Dante’s gate of hell. The Mayor of Casterbridge, subtitled “The Life and Death of a Man of Character” is the story of Michael Henchard the (sometime) eponymous mayor of the town of Casterbridge. A bad tempered man with incredible mood swings who specializes in making very poor decisions. He starts off in fine form with selling his wife and child to an unknown sailor for the bargain basement price of five guineas (better known today as a fiver or GBP 5) while inebriated (pissed out of his mind in fact). After losing his wife for the price of a Big Mac he somehow manages to get his act together and works his way up in the world from a lowly hay-trusser to becoming a successful merchant and the town’s mayor (some suspension of disbelief is required here). After almost twenty years his poor sold wife shows up in town and reconciles with him, all seem to be going well until the fecal matter hits the fan. Seriously if they had electrical fans in Wessex I would stay well away from them as fecal matters would always make a beeline for these things, and spanners are always thrown into the works. Most of Henchard’s troubles are of his own making but the universe also seems to have it in for him as his bad decisions are always compounded by misfortunes. Henchard is Thomas Hardy’s most interesting protagonist, bad tempered, cynical, violent and pessimistic, yet energetic, well-meaning (sometime), and honorable (usually); but don’t make him angry, you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. He is often despicable yet oddly sympathetic and I could not help but wish things will work out well for him, but his worst stroke of luck is probably to find himself in a Thomas Hardy novel so that is not going to happen. This is the fourth Hardy novel I have read and it is definitely my favorite. I am a sucker for tales of redemption or at least contrition and I felt an unmanly lump in throat several times towards the end of this book. Hardy was a master at creating complex and vivid characters, his prose is always a thing of wonder. However, it is always best not to become too attached to his characters as he usually put them all through the grinder and make sausages out of them. In his defence he does not do it out of malice but to illustrate the pitfalls and vicissitudes of life. If only people would be more open and honest with each other, if only they do not let secrets fester in their lives. Henchard’s step daughter Elizabeth-Jane is a good example of this, she survives being in a Hardy novel relatively unscathed* by virtue of her humbleness, honestly and resilience. For example: “So she viewed with an approach to equanimity the now cancelled days when Donald had been her undeclared lover, and wondered what unwished-for thing Heaven might send her in place of him.” Attagirl! Likewise Henchard’s unintentional antagonist and rival Donald Farfrae who is always kind and forgiving. The Mayor of Casterbridge is a beautiful and moving novel in spite of its bleakness. There is always something you can take away from a Hardy novel, usually about your interrelationship with people around you. Now I’m going watch some cartoons… * Though it was touch and go for a while when she is attacked by a crazed bull (!). ______________________________________ Audio book credit: I "read" the free audiobook version from Librivox, beautifully read by Bruce Pirie. Thank you sir!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    When you hear "tragic flaw" you think of hubris, probably, or curiosity, or the desire to fuck your mom, but here's the Mayor of Casterbridge's tragic flaw: he's an asshole. He's not bad, exactly. He has a sense of justice, or at least he develops one. As the book opens, he (Michael Henchard, the Mayor of Hardy's blazing character study) auctions off his wife for five shillings in a fit of drunken pique. When he sobers up and realizes what he's done, he swears off drinking. He tries to be better. When you hear "tragic flaw" you think of hubris, probably, or curiosity, or the desire to fuck your mom, but here's the Mayor of Casterbridge's tragic flaw: he's an asshole. He's not bad, exactly. He has a sense of justice, or at least he develops one. As the book opens, he (Michael Henchard, the Mayor of Hardy's blazing character study) auctions off his wife for five shillings in a fit of drunken pique. When he sobers up and realizes what he's done, he swears off drinking. He tries to be better. Later on in a fistfight, he ties one hand behind his back because he's bigger than the guy he's facing. This is his justice. It's also his assholery, because he started the fight in the first place, and that's what plagues him through the book: he's just a dick. People don't like him. He can't bring himself to be nice to folks. You know people like this, right? You probably work with one. Sometimes you come into work and you're like, "Today I'm just gonna be nice to Steve. I'm sure if I just try a little harder, we can have a good relationship." Because you know it's not that Steve actually wants everyone to hate him. He just has a really fucked up social IQ. But then you have a meeting with him and he blurts out something wicked rude, because that's how Steve is, and you're like gah, I just can't do it. Some people are just assholes. That's an interesting thing to look at, and I think Henchard is a great character. It's not gonna help you empathize with Steve better, because honestly, fuck Steve, but it's an interesting thing to write a book about. Mayor also has Hardy's usual batch of stunningly cinematic scenes. A ruined Roman amphitheater provides several of them, as does a hay loft where Susan glows in a golden shower of wheat husks. But it wasn't Hardy's favorite. According to Michael Schmidt, he "reckoned that of all his novels the one most damaged by the exigencies of serialization was The Mayor of Casterbridge; the need for incident week after week made for too much plot." And it's true that it feels like there's some loose flesh hanging off that gruesome skeleton. It's not my favorite either. (Tess and Jude are my favorites.) But Henchard is one of my favorite characters. He's one of literature's great gaping assholes, and that's quite an achievement.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    This is the story of Michael Henchard, who sells his wife and infant daughter for five guineas while drunk at a local fair. The consequences of this one impulsive action haunt his life thereafter. Henchard is a tragic figure, doomed not only by the character flaws of which he is only too aware, but also by a malignant, inescapable fate. Hardy's writing is breathtaking. The novel is full of stunningly beautiful descriptive language. Hardy paints vivid pictures with words, bringing both characters This is the story of Michael Henchard, who sells his wife and infant daughter for five guineas while drunk at a local fair. The consequences of this one impulsive action haunt his life thereafter. Henchard is a tragic figure, doomed not only by the character flaws of which he is only too aware, but also by a malignant, inescapable fate. Hardy's writing is breathtaking. The novel is full of stunningly beautiful descriptive language. Hardy paints vivid pictures with words, bringing both characters and setting to life. It's a novel full of memorable characters. Henchard is the most striking, but in their quieter way Donald Farfarie, the Scotsman who wins and then loses Henchard's affection, the good and long-suffering Elizabeth-Jane and the complex Lucetta are also compelling, as are the secondary characters who form the chorus. This is an intensely sad novel. It had the same effect on me as a Greek or a Shakespearean tragedy: you know it'll end badly, no matter how hard the characters try to avoid their fate. And I ached for Henchard, a man who desperately wants to find redemption, even when pride, arrogance, temper and impulsiveness undo him at every turn. I listened to this as an audiobook narrated by Simon Vance. He does a magnificient job, particularly with Henchard and Farfarie, although (in common with most male narrators) he struggles with young female voices. It appears that I've turned into a huge Thomas Hardy fan after steafastly avoiding his novels for more than thirty years. Who'd have thought?

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy

    α “He was like one who had half fainted, and could neither recover nor complete the swoon.” α “Life is an oasis which is submerged in the swirling waves of sorrows and agonies.” α “It was part of his nature to extenuate nothing and live on as one of his own worst accusers.” α “She had the hard, half-apathetic expression of one who deems anything possible at the hands of time and chance, except perhaps fair play” α “I won't be a slave to the past. I'll love where I choose.” Review to follow!

  25. 5 out of 5

    The Book Whisperer (aka Boof)

    When I began this book I have to admit that I didn't think the three words I'd be using to describe it would be drama, excitement and intrigue . In fact, I really had no intention of reading this book at all any time soon as a friend of mine had to study it in school as a teenager and told me it's the worst book she's ever read and that had stayed with me and filed into the "don't bother" part of my brain. So then, just before Christmas I saw or heard something about this book and that it was ab When I began this book I have to admit that I didn't think the three words I'd be using to describe it would be drama, excitement and intrigue . In fact, I really had no intention of reading this book at all any time soon as a friend of mine had to study it in school as a teenager and told me it's the worst book she's ever read and that had stayed with me and filed into the "don't bother" part of my brain. So then, just before Christmas I saw or heard something about this book and that it was about a man who sells his wife and baby daughter at a fayre and immediately I thought that sounds intriguing and off I popped to pick up a copy. How glad I am that I did - The Mayor of Casterbridge has turned out to be one of my favourite books! I loved it! Michael Henchard is a young man of twenty-one and walking the countryside of Dorset with his wife, Susan, and their baby girl, Elizabeth-Jane, looking for work. They decide to rest a while in a small village where there is a fayre and several drinks later, Michael starts loudly asking for bidders to buy his wife. After accepting 5 guineas from a sailor he wakes later to realise that they have actually gone and when he realises what he has done he swears not to drink a drop more of alcohol for another 21 years (as long as he has so far lived). He starts to make enquiries about where the sailor and his family may have gone but nobody knows who he is and Michael is too ashamed of his conduct to search too effectively and he sets off on the road once more, alone. The story then fast-forwards eighteen years and Michael is now the Mayor of Casterbridge (modelled on Dorchester in Dorset). It's difficult to say more about what happens next as I really don't want to give it away - this book is much better read if you know nothing about the characters and what is to come yet as there are plenty of twists and turns along the way. The fuller title for The Mayor of Casterbridge is The Life and Death of a Man of Character, and that is really what this book is based around - Michael Henchard and his fall and rise (and fall again). The main cast of characters is small enough that we really get to know them well and care about them: Susan and Elizabeth-Jane become part of the story again as does a Scottish traveller looking for work, Donald Farfrae and a young lady, Lucetta Templeman, who gets caught up in something that will come back to haunt her in a big way later in the book. Henchard really is a man of character, as the title suggests, and he is prone to jealousy, impulsiveness and malice but in turn he can be caring, warm and reflective meaning that the reader never hates him, but actually feels for him as he is his own harshest critic. What astounded me was Hardy's understanding of human nature: time and time again I was amazed that he had managed to get it so spot on; to really make me feel as the characters did and understand why they behaved the way they did. What I really loved about this book, though, was the drama. This is why I love all the Victorian books I have read so far - they're like watching a soap-opera. The Mayor of Casterbridge has it all - love, hate, greed, jealousy, deceit and repentence. And watch out for a scene involving a skimmington-ride (what the Victorians - and those before them - used to do to humiliate people, particularly adulterous women or women who beat their husbands which involved a very rowdy and public parade with effigies of the persons concerned being ridden through town on the back of donkeys) which has extremely tragic consequences. Verdict: I heart Thomas Hardy! This is the second book of his that I have read (the first being Tess) and I now fully intend to gorge myself on the rest this year. Forget your pre-conceptions about dry and dull Victorian literature - this book has it all! A firm favourite now and one I will definitely read again at some point.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Fuzaila

    Still as good as I remember it to be. ------ Pre-reading: Rereading this book in an attempt to determine the exact point I fell in love. Besides, it doesn't even feel like I'm reading the book for the first time in ENGLISH. Wow.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is my favorite Hardy by far. I loved everyone’s evolving relationships and families. I loved the psychological depth to Mr Henchard. I loved the morbid imagery that pervaded the setting and scenes. I couldn’t anticipate the plot. I loved how the end was bittersweet. The narrator of my audiobook, Pamela Garelick, really brought the characters to life.

  28. 4 out of 5

    shakespeareandspice

    I felt like I’d been in a Hardy-slump lately, in my attempt to read 1 Hardy novel a month this year, so veered off the schedule and read this when I was meant to be reading The Trumpet-Major. Like every Hardy novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge is another case of extreme dramatics attempting to illustrate a point. This reads somewhat different to previous Hardy novels that had become slightly repetitive for me. Instead of the concentration being on an individual female, the main protagonist is a mal I felt like I’d been in a Hardy-slump lately, in my attempt to read 1 Hardy novel a month this year, so veered off the schedule and read this when I was meant to be reading The Trumpet-Major. Like every Hardy novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge is another case of extreme dramatics attempting to illustrate a point. This reads somewhat different to previous Hardy novels that had become slightly repetitive for me. Instead of the concentration being on an individual female, the main protagonist is a male who is extremely unlikable many times throughout the novel. I don’t think Michael Henchard is necessarily written to be unlikable, but his all too human emotions certainly lead him into a pathetic state of being. The consequences of attempting to escape your past, the tragedies of a drunken mistake, the all-too convenient coincidences that define your present and future are heavy struggles for Henchard. Although for most of the novel I despised his character, in the end all that’s really left to feel for him is pity. Often what makes Hardy a very cruel writer is his ability to abuse his powers as the God of his novels. He’s always played it fast and loose with the concept of deus ex machina and many times some of his characters like Henchard react badly to the consequences of Hardy stepping in and taunting their fates. In fact, Henchard might be the worst case I’ve seen yet. And yes, that includes Jude the Obscure, which frankly drew no sympathy from me at all. In the end, I did not like Michael Henchard but I certainly did like this novel a lot. It’s melodramatic, gut wrenching, and beautifully written.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lucie

    Buddy read with Clara Reading one of Thomas Hardy's novels is always quite an experience. From the first few words, I will fall in love all over again with his writing, won't be able to stop reading and will come to care for his characters as if they were important in my own life. The Mayor of Casterbridge was no different in that sense. I gasped out loud so many times as I was reading, which doesn't happen that often, Thomas Hardy kept surprising me with this one. At some point, I think he even Buddy read with Clara Reading one of Thomas Hardy's novels is always quite an experience. From the first few words, I will fall in love all over again with his writing, won't be able to stop reading and will come to care for his characters as if they were important in my own life. The Mayor of Casterbridge was no different in that sense. I gasped out loud so many times as I was reading, which doesn't happen that often, Thomas Hardy kept surprising me with this one. At some point, I think he even made a reference to Far from the Madding Crowd by mentioning the name Everdene, Bathsheba's last name, during a scene at the market and I couldn't help but smile. Wessex is his fictional area and seeing such an Easter egg (it's weird to use that term as it's a 19th novel, but oh well) in one of my favourite author's novels was amazing. As Les Misérables by Victor Hugo is one of my favourite books, I couldn't help but notice some similarities between the two novels - there were a few of them, but the mayor situation was a huge one, and Hardy even used the word misérables in French, so - which made me love it even more. It's not my favourite of his, because the characters were harder to love than usual, but they were fleshed out so well, the author explored morals in such an interesting way that I couldn't rate it anything else. Another one of Thomas Hardy's amazing novels, I cannot wait to have read all of his novels (or I can, because it will mean I will only be able to reread them over and over again).

  30. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Truth is stranger than fiction except in this story, which presents a circuitous series of tragic circumstances that only the cruelest force — a depressed novelist — could dream up. Actually, I have no idea if Hardy was depressed when he wrote this book, but I certainly was by the time I finished reading it. The story begins with an itinerant hay-trusser, Michael Henchard, selling his wife and baby daughter for five guineas (!!) in a fit of drunken madness. Unbelievably enough, it goes downhill Truth is stranger than fiction except in this story, which presents a circuitous series of tragic circumstances that only the cruelest force — a depressed novelist — could dream up. Actually, I have no idea if Hardy was depressed when he wrote this book, but I certainly was by the time I finished reading it. The story begins with an itinerant hay-trusser, Michael Henchard, selling his wife and baby daughter for five guineas (!!) in a fit of drunken madness. Unbelievably enough, it goes downhill from there. After twenty-one years of sober regret Henchard has risen to the position of mayor of Casterbridge, but is still haunted by his past mistakes, which, naturally, come back to haunt him in person. Surprise! In spite of its obvious downsides, the novel does present a fascinating portrait of a man who battles demons of insecurity and bad temper and willingly endures the enormous suffering wreaked by his self-destructive behavior. The tragedy is that even though he accepts that he can’t escape his past actions, he doesn’t know how to change himself effectively. A sad but compelling read.

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