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The Mayor of Casterbridge

Thomas Hardy

Book Overview: 

The Mayor of Casterbridge is a tragic novel by English author Thomas Hardy. It is set in the fictional town of Casterbridge (based on the town of Dorchester in Dorset).

A poor, disgruntled, drunken young man sells his wife and child to the highest bidder. When he awakens, sober, the next day he regrets his rash act and vows to give up drink and find his family and bring them home. Eventually he is forced to give up the search and move on with his life. He does this quite successfully until, nearly 20 years later, his past comes back to haunt him.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .What—do you call yourself—your Christian name?"

"Elizabeth-Jane, sir."

"Newson?"

"Elizabeth-Jane Newson."

This at once suggested to Henchard that the transaction of his early married life at Weydon Fair was unrecorded in the family history. It was more than he could have expected. His wife had behaved kindly to him in return for his unkindness, and had never proclaimed her wrong to her child or to the world.

"I am—a good deal interested in your news," he said. "And as this is not a matter of business, but pleasure, suppose we go indoors."

It was with a gentle delicacy of manner, surprising to Elizabeth, that he showed her out of the office and through the outer room, where Donald Farfrae was overhauling bins and samples with the inquiring inspection of a beginner in charge. Henchard preceded her through the door in the wall to the suddenly changed scene of the garden and flowers, and onw. . . Read More

Community Reviews

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 m...more

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 b...more

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 imag...more

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...more

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...more

"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...more

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 se...more

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...more

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, fe...more

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...more

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