I decided to read The Mayor of Casterbridge after Allie (of A Literary Odyssey) reviewed it favorably. It's the first of Hardy's books that I've read, though I intend to read Tess of the d'Urbervilles at some point, and I'm very glad I picked it up.
The Mayor of Casterbridge is, according to the back of my copy, the only one of Hardy's works to have a tragic hero as the main character. The book begins with a drunken Michael Henchard selling his wife and baby daughter to a sailor at a fair in the town of Casterbridge. Though he tries to find his wife after the drink has worn off, Henchard is unable to do so and decides that they were probably lost at sea. Henchard's fortune rises, and eventually he becomes the successful and fairly well-loved mayor of Casterbridge. Then, his wife and child--now a teenager--show up. The sailor has died, and they have nowhere to go, so Mayor Henchard gradually takes them in. However, many twists and turns occur, ultimately leading to the discovery of what Henchard did so many years ago, and to his downfall.
I wouldn't normally expect a book published in the 1800s to be really suspenseful; however, The Mayor of Casterbridge definitely got and kept my attention. The many unexpected plot developments made it as exciting for me as some books that are actually in the suspense genre. Aside from that, I loved how Henchard develops from the "bad guy" drunkard in the beginning to someone much more pitiable in the end. Hardy also definitely managed to portray human relationships faithfully; none of the characters' relationships were predictable or simple or trite.
To close, I will quote from Allie's review of The Mayor of Casterbridge: "Many of his other titles I have heard mixed things about. It seems like Hardy might be one of those writers you either love, or you hate. I could be wrong, but based on what I have seen, that seems to be the case. And after finishing this lovely novel, I may be in the "love" camp." Me too.
"It's good to be home! Let's have a party!"
4 years ago