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The Mayor of Casterbridge (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – January 15, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Hardy's 1866 novel gets the red carpet treatment here. Like Broadview's recent edition of Dracula (Classic Returns, LJ 1/98), this includes a scholarly preface and introduction, a chronicle of Hardy's life, and several appendixes. All that for $9.95 makes this an absolute steal.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


“Of all the great Victorian novelists, Hardy is the one who consistently requires most annotation and careful contextual placing. The density of regional reference, the often complex composition, publication and reception histories, the author’s vexed relationship with his age―all call for tactful but learned editing. The noted Victorian scholar Norman Page supplies this admirably for Broadview Press’s Mayor of Casterbridge. This is the edition I shall use and prescribe in the future.” ― John Sutherland, University of London

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199537038
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199537037
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.7 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (255 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,152,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Jack Cade on March 31, 2003
Format: Paperback
When one finishes "Casterbridge," one is immediately struck by its place in the development of the novel. Hardy came after Dickens and before James, and his style intrigues as you connect parts of it to the former, parts to the latter.

His plotting is sort of Dickens "lite." There are mysterious benefactors, sudden tragic deaths, reversals of fortune, paternity mysteries, ect. His prose is cleaner and easier to read than both Dickens and James; "Casterbridge" scans better than "Bleak House" or "The Wings of the Dove."

The story begins when a pastoral laborer, in a drunken rage, sells his wife and child one evening (I hate it when that happens...). When he wakes the next morning, abhorred at what he has done, he swears off liquor and decides to make something of his life. The novel truly begins eighteen years later, when his wife and daughter come back to present themselves to him. In the course of the rest of the novel, we witness the fall of the now Mayor of Casterbridge, brought about by his own character flaws and the interventions of fate.

Henchard, the main character, is a facinating combination of hot-spirited volition and turn-on-a-dime repentance. He is quick to do things which damn him but just as quick to admit his guilt. He is a wonderful character and a precursor to the later "psychological" novels of James and Forster. The satellite characters remind one of Dickens, but they are not nearly as startling and interesting, but of course, a character such as Henchard never existed in all of Dickens.

The novel proceeds to its forgone conclusion inexorably, albiet with a few melodromatic touches, yet it sustains its tone and readibility due mostly to Henchard, and the dramatic situations Hardy puts him through.

Well worth a look.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Dana Keish on January 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
Since I have decided to dedicate part of my time spent reading in 2003 to the classics, I started first with The Mayor of Casterbridge, not the most famous of Hardy's works but seemingly a good place to start. I will definitely read the other works by this author since I was so captivated by this book.
The novel begins with the sale of Michael Henchard's wife and child to the highest bidder at a local summer fair. Henchard is drunk and his wife, tired of his habits, decides to leave with the sailor who bids on her and her daughter. Henchard wakes up the next morning, somewhat remorseful for what he has done and vows not to drink for twenty-one years.
The very next chapter picks up the story nineteen years later, with the return of the wife and child into Henchard's life. Henchard is now quite wealthy and is such an important man in his community, he is now Mayor of Casterbridge. From here, a series of wrong decisions and misunderstandings lead to the devastating conclusion.
Hardy is well known for his tendency towards gloomy endings and this book certainly fits the mold. But he is also well known for his lyrical descriptions of the English countryside and describing a way of life which had disappeared even in his own time. There were beautiful passages about the hay carts being driven through town, loaded so high that people on the second floor of homes could reach out and touch the top of the hay. Small details abound, describing the sound of rain on trees and the smell of the local foods. But perhaps the most significant aspect of the novel for me was the feeling that Henchard had wished for everything that had happened to him, and all of his wishes came true, and thus ultimately his downfall.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Bill R. Moore on February 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
The Mayor of Casterbridge is not Thomas Hardy's most famous or acclaimed novel, but in the opinion of this die-hard fan it is his best. The later Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure are generally considered his masterpieces, but while this lacks their epic grandeur and sociopolitical relevance, it is more immediately arresting, has a more conventionally interesting plot, and features one of literature's best tragic heroes. I give it the highest possible recommendation not only for fans but for anyone even remotely alive to literary greatness.

Hardy in his day was nearly unique in mixing high literary elements with what would later be called pulp factors. Hard as it is to imagine, he was like William Faulkner and Stephen King in one - a true artist with mass appeal, both critically acclaimed and bestselling. However, his early nineteenth century rural English settings, heavy dialect use, eccentric vocabulary, and other characteristics make many current readers think his books slow going. The Mayor is the obvious exception, beginning almost immediately with one of the most arresting and unforgettable scenes in all literature - nothing less than a drunken man selling his wife and child to a stranger out of anger and disgust. As often with Hardy, it is based on a real incident, but he dramatizes so vividly that we cannot help being enthralled. The drama indeed reaches such a fever pitch in these first few pages that even those normally averse to classic literature can hardly help being pulled in.

Such a beginning sets a very high standard, and it is a testament to the book's greatness that it never disappoints - and, indeed, hardly lets up.
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