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on March 31, 2003
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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on January 9, 2003
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. These wishes were almost all made in a rash moment, when perhaps a minute or more of reflection could have produced a clearer head. Yet Henchard lives by his instincts, since for almost twenty years they seemed to serve him well.
I would recommend this book to any serious literature lover and I believe it serves as a good introduction to his other works. His books serve as a bridge from Victorian literature to modern literature, with no happy endings guaranteed.
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on February 28, 2010
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. The popular aspects of Hardy's fiction made him more influential on later writers, especially mainstream ones, than nearly any other classic author; it is almost impossible to exaggerate his impact, which is such that even many who have never read him have been greatly influenced without knowing it. These strengths are present even in his earliest fiction, but The Mayor is the preeminent example. Supremely engrossing and intriguing, it is full of plot twists that will keep even the savviest readers guessing and ends in one of the most spectacularly memorable conclusions ever. One could not expect more from even the most entertaining pulp novel - and The Mayor of course has a wealth of great artistry to boot. To be sure, this Hardy aspect has always had critics bemoaning apparent overreliance on complex plots and melodramatic coincidence, the implication being that Hardy was unable to make a story without them. However, anyone even remotely familiar with him knows that he was intensely interested in coincidence, chance, and fate, using them deliberately to dramatize what dominated his thought. Those aware of this can see how well his writings work out the implications of his bleak impressions: that humans are near-laughably insignificant on the cosmic scale, that no force sympathetic to humans or generally benevolent controls the universe, and that human life is essentially miserable with little chance of success at love or other happiness. More specifically, his work illustrates what he called the Imminent Will - an unconscious force controlling human action. What seems luck or chance may thus be very much otherwise, though we can do nothing about it. Many have said that he has an almost malevolent attitude toward his characters, plotting so that things work out in the worst possible way and cause them the greatest possible suffering, but this is simply Hardy's view of the human condition. The Mayor's complicated plot is an essential example - perhaps the preeminent. Hardy was later somewhat unsatisfied, thinking that it suffered more from serialization's effects than any of his other novels. He worried that he included too many improbabilities and twists in an effort to include an exciting event in every installment but noted with satisfaction that the events arise naturally from the story, and so they do. Those who do not like this feature elsewhere will be unconvinced - or even have their view cemented -, but those for whom Hardy's tragic vision speaks powerfully will be in awe of the masterful execution.

There are several keys to its success. Hardy reiterated over and over again that probability of character, not of action, is what matters, and this proves it. The book works mainly because its characters are so believable and often identifiable; we care about them in spite of - or arguably even because of, such is Hardy's skill - the highly-wrought events. It has one of Hardy's largest casts, and the four main characters are some of his most fully realized and memorable. Three are unsurprisingly doomed to near-constant suffering: the admirably strong-willed and hard-working but fatally impulsive Michael Henchard; Elizabeth-Jane, who has great empathy and love potential but is so passive that others constantly step on her with impunity; and the dignified but overly passionate Lucetta. The fourth, Donald Farfrae, is one of Hardy's most original and interesting. He was not one to champion a creation, but Farfrae is probably his most thoroughly positive and genuinely likable. Other characters are drawn to him almost irresistibly, and so are we; intelligent, industrious, and positively infectious, he is drawn with a good humor almost never seen in Hardy and gives much of the book's appeal. He is also notable as a sympathetic and nuanced Scotch character from an English writer.

But this is of course mainly Henchard's story, and what a story! Hardy based his tragic fiction on ancient Greek models, but Henchard is his only true example of the tragic hero central to those works - a character who is in many ways admirable but imbued with a flaw that proves his downfall. "Impulsiveness" perhaps sums up his and is manifested in various ways; many know such a person, but the far more important thing is that we can see ourselves in him. He is in some ways an Everyman despite obvious flaws and has several admirable qualities, not least how he raised himself from extreme poverty to relative wealth and prominence by sheer force of will. However, his fall is even greater than his rise - in fact, one of the greatest and most affecting ever imagined. It is a true testament to Hardy's artistry that he makes us care for Henchard despite him being in many ways despicable; for him to win our hearts after the opening scene seems not only impossible but perverse to even conceive, yet Hardy pulls it off. There is much to dislike, but he is fully and thus frailly and tragically human. Whether or not we think him redeemed, he is more sinned against than sinning, as even those he has wronged eventually see. Yet he also undeniably caused his own demise; what seems like bad luck or wretched fate is really his bad decisions' delayed consequences. His end is one of the most highly tragic and sympathetic ever written; he dies miserably alone and fully broken, denied even the last ray of light that a guilty conscience and sincere repentance could have potentially given. The scene with his final note - complete with misspellings belying the lack of education and humble background that made his rise more remarkable but that he was in many ways unable to overcome - is one of the most moving I have ever read. It is the culmination of what is a highly emotional work throughout; Hardy runs us through a gamut of feelings as only he can. The pathos is at times almost unbearable, and few readers will not cry at least once. Indeed, aside from Les Misérables, which I believe is unquestionably the greatest creation of all-time, no other book out of the hundreds or thousands I have read has moved me so often or deeply. Other than Victor Hugo, Hardy has no equal at conveying emotion, and this is his supreme example. Later works, particularly Tess, show the tragedy of the human condition on a grander scale, but only Oedipus Rex itself even rivals this as a supremely moving depiction of individual tragedy. Indeed, I can say without hyperbole that nothing else I have ever experienced - artistic or otherwise - has driven home life's profound tragedy with such conviction or force.

This alone is of course more than enough reason to read the book, but the work is also notable for other reasons. Chief among these is another perennial Hardy strength - great sense of place. Perhaps no one equals him in making place so vivid that it is essential to the story; setting is never mere background with him. He is of course best-known in this regard for Wessex - the part-real, part-dream country based on his native Southwest England that he made world famous. Setting is not as important here as in some other works, but the Casterbridge focus is particularly noteworthy. Based on the real-life Dorchester, Casterbridge is Wessex's largest town; nearly all Wessex stories and a considerable number of the poems mention it, and many take place there in part. However, this is unique in being almost entirely set there, giving both a fascinating glimpse into Southwest England's early nineteenth-century hub and filling in much of the background to other works. This is invaluable to fans and of considerable interest to historians and others.

Relatedly, Hardy's work is well-known for showing modernity's ache, i.e., how technology and other advances were rapidly and drastically changing a society that had been essentially the same for a thousand years. The Mayor in particular portrays its effect on agriculture and other business aspects, depicting all with realism and human interest. Some current readers may think this makes the book drag somewhat, but it will be a big attraction for others, especially those keen on the background to the book and its importance to Hardy's life and thought.

I simply cannot praise the novel highly enough; it is one of the all-time greatest artistic achievements, a supreme creation of artistry and, more fundamentally, the human heart. Suffice it to say that anyone sensitive to the unforgettable final two paragraphs, which sum up Hardy's grim but eminently practical view of existence in his fine inimitable style and conclude by calling happiness "the occasional episode in a general drama of pain," will not find the sentiments more vividly dramatized anywhere. This is enough - perhaps even all anyone could ask for.
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on December 8, 2003
I'm re-reading this book that thrilled me years ago and thrills me today. Now, however, I realize just how "modern" it is, even more so than the works of Dickens, whom I also revere, but whose writing had a quaint quality that actually makes him the lesser artist, in my opinion. Hardy's writing is spare but nothing is left out. You feel it, you taste it, you live it. It has the firm, sure quality of a minimalist work of art, and yet the twists and turns of its plot are dizzying. I detect its influence on novelist Toni Morrison, I might add. I'd be willing to bet she's a Hardy scholar. I read many passages, many scenes, that reminded me of her "folksy" conceits. And I was amazed at Hardy's contemporary understanding of addiction, in this case alcoholism. In fact, Henchard is a "dry drunk." He abstains from liquor for 21 years, but his character defects and lack of spiritual awareness catapault him right back into his disease when he begins drinking again. In fact, his life spirals out of control faster and faster with his first return to drink, showing that alcoholism, like all addictions, is a progressive disease. A reviewer here said the book was depressing, and that Hardy is dark. However, the "light" in Hardy comes with his wisdom, not unlike Faulkner's, of human nature. There are so many themes of the enduring truths that one is uplifted just by the reading. Sometimes I mourn for the writers I will never meet, the ones who have passed on. Their teaching is so important to my own spiritual and artistic growth, that I have experienced a great love from them and for them. Hardy is one of those for me. Wherever he dwells now, I send him my appreciation.
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on December 7, 2000
At first I was forced to read "The Mayor of Casterbridge" in school more than 12 years ago. Reading it slowly made an impact on my life. This book always served a special purpose in my life. It introduced me to the wide world of Literature. It sort of enlighten my interest and liking for English literature. Now re-reading it not only brought back fond memories of my yester school days but also renewed my liking to one of the greatest writer of all time Thomas Hardy.
Through this novel I came to the understanding of Irony and oxymoron. Hardy totally wrote with a sense of awareness of human characteristic and he had a amazing style of mixed humour with tragedy.
His protagonist,Michael Henchard's life was under the microscope of Hardy.
I love the way the story began I quote:"ONE evening of late summer, before the nineteenth century had reached one-third of its span, a young man and woman, the latter carrying a child, were approaching the large village of Weydon-Priors, in Upper Wessex, on foot. " I love the Englishness and the sense of intriguing events that would follow...
In brief, Michael Henchard was a drunk who sold his wife and daughter at the fair. Later he realised his mistakes he work real hard and eventually became the mayor of Casterbridge. His life took another twist 20 years later when his wife and daughter came back to his life plus a few more other characters adding on the complexity of his life.Soonafter events unfolded and many things became to go against his way and then came his downfall. Indeed Michael Henchard's rise and fall were filled with compelling details and his encounters with numerous intestering people.
What I love most about this novel was the way Hardy depicted Henchard's behaviours and thoughts and totally enhanced his weak character and irresponsibleness with dashes of ironies. His sardonic literary style were brilliant and at the same time he also vividly described the scenery and situations. Another greatest of Hardy was his ability to create innovative characters still account for in modern contemporary days and he was a pioneer in analysising human's weakness and blended it into his creation. It's a vintage classic,psychoanalytic and intriguingly written ,a must read for all books lover.
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on November 15, 2009
I don't know why it has taken me so long to decide to read this book, it is very easy to read and a very good story. I saw the TV mini-series years ago with Alan Bates in the leading role and all the way through the book I imagined Alan Bates as Michael Henchard. It was Alan Bates speaking Michael's lines. That did not put me off in the least since I was always a fan of Alan Bates and he was very well cast in the part.

The story, as most people probably know, starts off about a drunkard who sells his wife and daughter at a country fair to a sailor for five guineas. He then, when sobered up, becomes full of remorse and vows in the nearest church never to touch a drop of alcohol for as long as he has been alive, (21yrs). He keeps his promise, works hard and makes good in the town of Casterbridge, becoming a very rich merchant, land owner and mayor. Of course as time goes by his past catches up with him and a large part of the story is about his subsequent downfall. We see this so often in politics today, how many mayors do we know or have heard of, who have ended up in jail? The difference, refreshingly, is that Michael Henchard in that day and age is truly wretched for his misdeeds, and one can't help but feel sympathy for him in the end. His last will and testimony says everything:-

Michael Henchard's Will.

That Elizabeth Jane Farfrae be not told of my death,
or made to grieve on account of me.
& that I be not bury'd in consecrated ground.
& that no sexton be asked to toll the bell.
& that nobody is wished to see my dead body.
& that no murners walk behind me at my funeral.
& that no flours be planted on my grave.
& that no man remember me.
To this I put my name

Michael Henchard.

This is a good book to take on vacation with you. It is not depressing, (although his Will sounds depressing). Michael Henchard is a spirited unusual character that Thomas Hardy develops to the full. Even though he has done bad things one cheers him on at times and feels that he more than pays his dues for his transgressions.

A very good story.
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VINE VOICEon November 14, 2000
Having thoroughly detested Tess of the d'Urbervilles for its overload of melodrama and odious characters, I was hesitant to It often seems that to be considered a classic, a work must be both lengthy and tragic. Mayor is indeed a tragedy, but unlike start on another novel by Hardy. It was then a happy surprise to find that The Mayor of Casterbridge, though less famous than Tess, is an infinitely more enjoyable work.
Tess, it succeeds in drawing sympathy from the reader. Thomas Hardy's irony is also much in evidence, and he comes across as quite witty. The result is a concise and interesting mixture of humor and tragedy in which characters are reasonably likable. Henchard is impetuous and comes to his end almost entirely through his own actions, but his actions are always motivated by realistic emotions and there is nothing overblown or melodramatic about his downfall. Because he is so human and flawed, it is far easier to feel sorry for him than it was for Tess, Hardy's embodiment of the perfect woman.
There are, of course, elements in Hardy's style that do not change from novel to novel. His writing remains very Victorian and therefore rather ornate and longwinded. Nor is the melodrama absent from Mayor-- events often take on such an absurd turn that the reader is left momentarily with the impression of a soap opera. The plot relies heavily on coincidences, reminiscent somewhat of Dickens, and things work out so neatly and implausibly that incredulity must be firmly restrained.
It is worth it, though. Beneath the superficial plot lie careful writing and hidden parallels. The elaborate Biblical Saul and David parallel with Henchard and Farfrae throughout emphasizes the unchangeability of human nature (the love/hate relationship between Henchard and Farfrae) and the cyclical rise and fall from power. Hardy also uses limited third person narration that allows the reader to know the characters and events only through their actions and conversations, further evidence of a meticulously constructed novel. In a refreshing change, Mayor moves along quickly with virtually no extraneous events.
The Mayor of Casterbridge is an unusual book, and one that can be understood on multiple levels. On one, it is the simple story of the fall of a proud man; on another, it is a retold Biblical story, updated but not deprived of its original power. And though I never thought to say this about Hardy's novels, The Mayor of Casterbridge also does pretty well as entertainment...

Ailanna
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on April 20, 2010
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. The popular aspects of Hardy's fiction made him more influential on later writers, especially mainstream ones, than nearly any other classic author; it is almost impossible to exaggerate his impact, which is such that even many who have never read him have been greatly influenced without knowing it. These strengths are present even in his earliest fiction, but The Mayor is the preeminent example. Supremely engrossing and intriguing, it is full of plot twists that will keep even the savviest readers guessing and ends in one of the most spectacularly memorable conclusions ever. One could not expect more from even the most entertaining pulp novel - and The Mayor of course has a wealth of great artistry to boot. To be sure, this Hardy aspect has always had critics bemoaning apparent overreliance on complex plots and melodramatic coincidence, the implication being that Hardy was unable to make a story without them. However, anyone even remotely familiar with him knows that he was intensely interested in coincidence, chance, and fate, using them deliberately to dramatize what dominated his thought. Those aware of this can see how well his writings work out the implications of his bleak impressions: that humans are near-laughably insignificant on the cosmic scale, that no force sympathetic to humans or generally benevolent controls the universe, and that human life is essentially miserable with little chance of success at love or other happiness. More specifically, his work illustrates what he called the Imminent Will - an unconscious force controlling human action. What seems luck or chance may thus be very much otherwise, though we can do nothing about it. Many have said that he has an almost malevolent attitude toward his characters, plotting so that things work out in the worst possible way and cause them the greatest possible suffering, but this is simply Hardy's view of the human condition. The Mayor's complicated plot is an essential example - perhaps the preeminent. Hardy was later somewhat unsatisfied, thinking that it suffered more from serialization's effects than any of his other novels. He worried that he included too many improbabilities and twists in an effort to include an exciting event in every installment but noted with satisfaction that the events arise naturally from the story, and so they do. Those who do not like this feature elsewhere will be unconvinced - or even have their view cemented -, but those for whom Hardy's tragic vision speaks powerfully will be in awe of the masterful execution.

There are several keys to its success. Hardy reiterated over and over again that probability of character, not of action, is what matters, and this proves it. The book works mainly because its characters are so believable and often identifiable; we care about them in spite of - or arguably even because of, such is Hardy's skill - the highly-wrought events. It has one of Hardy's largest casts, and the four main characters are some of his most fully realized and memorable. Three are unsurprisingly doomed to near-constant suffering: the admirably strong-willed and hard-working but fatally impulsive Michael Henchard; Elizabeth-Jane, who has great empathy and love potential but is so passive that others constantly step on her with impunity; and the dignified but overly passionate Lucetta. The fourth, Donald Farfrae, is one of Hardy's most original and interesting. He was not one to champion a creation, but Farfrae is probably his most thoroughly positive and genuinely likable. Other characters are drawn to him almost irresistibly, and so are we; intelligent, industrious, and positively infectious, he is drawn with a good humor almost never seen in Hardy and gives much of the book's appeal. He is also notable as a sympathetic and nuanced Scotch character from an English writer.

But this is of course mainly Henchard's story, and what a story! Hardy based his tragic fiction on ancient Greek models, but Henchard is his only true example of the tragic hero central to those works - a character who is in many ways admirable but imbued with a flaw that proves his downfall. "Impulsiveness" perhaps sums up his and is manifested in various ways; many know such a person, but the far more important thing is that we can see ourselves in him. He is in some ways an Everyman despite obvious flaws and has several admirable qualities, not least how he raised himself from extreme poverty to relative wealth and prominence by sheer force of will. However, his fall is even greater than his rise - in fact, one of the greatest and most affecting ever imagined. It is a true testament to Hardy's artistry that he makes us care for Henchard despite him being in many ways despicable; for him to win our hearts after the opening scene seems not only impossible but perverse to even conceive, yet Hardy pulls it off. There is much to dislike, but he is fully and thus frailly and tragically human. Whether or not we think him redeemed, he is more sinned against than sinning, as even those he has wronged eventually see. Yet he also undeniably caused his own demise; what seems like bad luck or wretched fate is really his bad decisions' delayed consequences. His end is one of the most highly tragic and sympathetic ever written; he dies miserably alone and fully broken, denied even the last ray of light that a guilty conscience and sincere repentance could have potentially given. The scene with his final note - complete with misspellings belying the lack of education and humble background that made his rise more remarkable but that he was in many ways unable to overcome - is one of the most moving I have ever read. It is the culmination of what is a highly emotional work throughout; Hardy runs us through a gamut of feelings as only he can. The pathos is at times almost unbearable, and few readers will not cry at least once. Indeed, aside from Les Misérables, which I believe is unquestionably the greatest creation of all-time, no other book out of the hundreds or thousands I have read has moved me so often or deeply. Other than Victor Hugo, Hardy has no equal at conveying emotion, and this is his supreme example. Later works, particularly Tess, show the tragedy of the human condition on a grander scale, but only Oedipus Rex itself even rivals this as a supremely moving depiction of individual tragedy. Indeed, I can say without hyperbole that nothing else I have ever experienced - artistic or otherwise - has driven home life's profound tragedy with such conviction or force.

This alone is of course more than enough reason to read the book, but the work is also notable for other reasons. Chief among these is another perennial Hardy strength - great sense of place. Perhaps no one equals him in making place so vivid that it is essential to the story; setting is never mere background with him. He is of course best-known in this regard for Wessex - the part-real, part-dream country based on his native Southwest England that he made world famous. Setting is not as important here as in some other works, but the Casterbridge focus is particularly noteworthy. Based on the real-life Dorchester, Casterbridge is Wessex's largest town; nearly all Wessex stories and a considerable number of the poems mention it, and many take place there in part. However, this is unique in being almost entirely set there, giving both a fascinating glimpse into Southwest England's early nineteenth-century hub and filling in much of the background to other works. This is invaluable to fans and of considerable interest to historians and others.

Relatedly, Hardy's work is well-known for showing modernity's ache, i.e., how technology and other advances were rapidly and drastically changing a society that had been essentially the same for a thousand years. The Mayor in particular portrays its effect on agriculture and other business aspects, depicting all with realism and human interest. Some current readers may think this makes the book drag somewhat, but it will be a big attraction for others, especially those keen on the background to the book and its importance to Hardy's life and thought.

I simply cannot praise the novel highly enough; it is one of the all-time greatest artistic achievements, a supreme creation of artistry and, more fundamentally, the human heart. Suffice it to say that anyone sensitive to the unforgettable final two paragraphs, which sum up Hardy's grim but eminently practical view of existence in his fine inimitable style and conclude by calling happiness "the occasional episode in a general drama of pain," will not find the sentiments more vividly dramatized anywhere. This is enough - perhaps even all anyone could ask for.

As for this edition, it is essentially bare bones, lacking even Hardy's Preface, though it has a bibliography. The dedicated will want something more extensive, but the work more than stands on its own.
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on May 31, 2004
When Thomas Hardy penned The Mayor of Casterbridge, he brought to life a very authentic character in Michael Henchard. He is possibly the perfect tragic character. The only other character I can think of to compare him to as I struggle to describe him and the story - for he is so much the story - is King Lear. But where Lear was a King who was foolish, Michael is the common man, a simple hay trusser, with several character flaws ... most notably shortsightedness and a desire to "be on top". He at no point feels something that most people don't but where we restrain our first rash and selfish actions (most of the time), he goes full out until he has cost himself everything and too late finds redemption. His flaw is insidious and all too common, so we relate easily even through his most outrageous misadventures.
In a fit of drunken despondency, feeling that he is being pulled down by the responsibility of being a twenty-one year old husband and father, he jests that he would gladly part with his wife and daughter for the sum of five pounds. After having sworn this so vehemently for the entire evening, he has little recourse when someone takes him up on it and his wife, in shame and anger, agrees to go with the purchaser, taking their daughter with her. When sobriety brings full realization, it also brings a vow of temperance from Michael who in the following fifteen years builds himself up to a position respectability and public admiration in the nearby town of Casterbridge.
Though he seems to have learned his lesson, we are only on chapter two and his story is just beginning as his wife and child return and his friendship with a trusted friend and critical advisor becomes a bitter rivalry. Time and again he demands allegiance when he need only ask it and return it in kind.
Hardy's writing style is direct and straight-forward with no flourishes like you might find with Dickens or Twain. He has a story to tell and he tells it - no swashbuckling adventures like DeFoe or Dumas. However you feel about that, the character of Michael Henchard continues to skulk around in my head. He represents to me a very real possibility of personal failure and haunts my mind now just as Scrooge's deceased partner haunted him in A Christmas Carol. I would have given this book a fun factor of three stars when I first read it. Now I give it five stars because I have had the time to realize what a masterful job Hardy did when he created Michael Henchard.
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on October 10, 2012
The book itself is excellent. Thomas Hardy was a master writer, and look no further than the fact that he makes a story about a person that buys and sells corn interesting. But, the kindle edition is, like the title of the review says, missing a chunk of the text. There might be other parts omitted, but that's the only one I've caught.

Perhaps this is evidence that you get what you pay for.
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