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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hardy at his best
This for me is Hardy's greatest novel, written at the peak of his career. The character of Henchard, although deeply flawed, nonetheless captures the reader's attention both during and after reading the novel. His journey from young and despondent husband and father, through to his time as the mayor and his eventual demise, prove most gripping. This novel along with Tess,...
Published on 4 July 2008 by Mr. P. J. Rooke

versus
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not a patch on either Tess or Madding Crowd
The Mayor Of Casterbridge, if you include one unpublished, destroyed work, was Thomas Hardy's seventh novel and the third of his novels that I have read after Tess Of The D'Urbervilles and Far From The Madding Crowd, both of which I read in 2010.

It is the story of one Michael Henchard, the eponymous Mayor in question. At the opening of the novel he is a drunk,...
Published 20 months ago by R. A. Davison


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hardy at his best, 4 July 2008
By 
Mr. P. J. Rooke (London) - See all my reviews
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This for me is Hardy's greatest novel, written at the peak of his career. The character of Henchard, although deeply flawed, nonetheless captures the reader's attention both during and after reading the novel. His journey from young and despondent husband and father, through to his time as the mayor and his eventual demise, prove most gripping. This novel along with Tess, Jude the Obscure and The Return of the Native make up Hardy's tragic Wessex novels, and although all of them are rather sad and to an extent depressing, The Mayor of Casterbridge really does stand out as the most satisfying read that chronicles the shift away from older models of masculinity towards the beginnings of modernity that Hardy himself lived through during his long life. Don't forget about the genius of this man's writing!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Human Nature Hardy Style and it Never Changes, 22 Aug 2009
By 
Mrs. Judith Lugg "Judith Lugg" (Wolverhampton, England) - See all my reviews
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Loved this book - what a great story showing all the various elements of the human character - greed, love, hate, struggles for power..... I could go on.

It is also a human tragedy, explained at its best by the inimitable Hardy and although it was written many years ago, it does show that human nature remains very much the same as it always was and you could almost put it into a modern setting and alter the scenery a little and it would be up-to-date, so to speak.

All of Hardy's books are great (I was first introduced to them whilst studing for 'O' Levels in the 1950's and have continued to read them again and again since)and although the grammar and syntax are quite dissimilar to that of today they are easy to read and the stories are great.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read, 6 April 2000
By A Customer
I received this book as a Christmas present along with various other books. I left this one to last because I thought it might be hard going. It turned out to be one of the best books I've ever read, The characters are brilliant, my interest was held the whole way through, and it most definately wasn't a hard read. Now forTess of the D'urbervilles!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not a patch on either Tess or Madding Crowd, 30 April 2013
By 
R. A. Davison (UK) - See all my reviews
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The Mayor Of Casterbridge, if you include one unpublished, destroyed work, was Thomas Hardy's seventh novel and the third of his novels that I have read after Tess Of The D'Urbervilles and Far From The Madding Crowd, both of which I read in 2010.

It is the story of one Michael Henchard, the eponymous Mayor in question. At the opening of the novel he is a drunk, wandering from town to town in search of work. Accompanied by his wife and their baby daughter he gets drunk at a fair in Casterbridge, and in a moment of passion offers his wife and child up to the highest bidder. At first the gathered assembly take it as a shocking joke, but then a stranger, a sailor called Newson, steps forward and offers him 5 guineas, which he accepts. On waking and discovering his wife and child gone, Henchard vows to give up alcohol and become a good man.

Over the next two decades he prospers financially, and becomes a pillar of the community, the Mayor, respected though not particularly popular. By contrast his wife, Susan, who had a good life with Newson has now fallen on hard times, as her common law husband has been lost at sea. Along with her daughter she tracks down Henchard who is still legally her husband to make him provide for her.

The ensuing complications that arise from their reunion, mark a downturn in Henchard's fortunes culminating in a spectacular fall from grace.

Unlike many of his contemporaries who also made a lot of social comments, Dickens, say, or Eliot, Hardy has a tendency towards the bleak and the unhappy ending. Henchard as a study is something of a Shakespearian tragedy of a man, full of pride and conceit, inevitably brought low by his own character flaws and mistakes.

As a novel, it is enjoyable but nowhere near as well written as "Tess" or as involving as 'Far From The Madding Crowd'; both of which are completely beautiful novels, so on a certain level I was somewhat disappointed, and I would definitely recommend either of those novels before recommending this.

I did Thomas Hardy's poetry at A Level and ended up loathing and despising him, avoiding him assiduously for more than a decade. With Tess, which I read for a university type Masterclass he won me over and I was glad to finally appreciate him as a writer.

Whilst the Mayor of Casterbridge is excellent as a character driven study, its prose is not the calibre that I know Hardy is capable of.

With that said I give this book 7/10
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully resonant Hardy tale that asks questions still relevant today, 23 Sep 2010
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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Having waited until middle age to read a Hardy novel (while long an admirer of his poetry), I will definitely not be waiting until old age to read a second. In The Mayor of Casterbridge, Hardy examines great themes, still highly relevant today: is our character what determines our fate, or are we at the mercy of forces beyond our control ? Is progress an unalloyed good ? How far can we defy convention before social bonds break ? All of these questions are thrown up in the context of a well-paced and carefully plotted, complex tale, that (for all its occasionally strained coincidences) moves - not without humour that's still fresh today - towards seemingly inevitable tragedy. Suffused with both classical and biblical references, it's a story that bears comparison with Shakespeare's tragedies in a way that, say, Dickens' lighter tales generally don't.

And though the world of The Mayor of Casterbridge is at heart the bleak story of Michael Henchard, a wilful, impetuous man who rises from humble beginnings to great heights, only to be brought low again by his own shortcomings, it is also one where devotion can call forth love, as Henchard's relationship with his step-daughter Elizabeth-Jane Newson belatedly demonstrates. Is happiness `but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain', as the last page of the book seems to suggest ? That's certainly one conclusion you could draw from all of this. But the last word seems to go to Elizabeth-Jane, who seems, more than the other characters, to represent Hardy's own point of view, and who acknowledges that `the doubtful honour of a brief transit through a sorry world' can be `irradiated at some half-way point by daybeams rich as hers' (310).

This Oxford World's Classics edition comes with helpful explanatory notes and a thought-provoking introduction from Pamela Dalziel, musing on how Hardy draws on the past to, on the one hand, question conventional notions of progress (as represented by Henchard's nemesis, Donald Farfrae) while on the other advocating a new social order based on `the loving-kindness that Hardy believed alone could minimize the pain of existence' (xxiii). A great read, and one that will resonate with you long after you've put it down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars El mejor The Mayor of Casterbridge, 25 Jun 2009
Hardy had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the English countryside. He was also able to put into words the fleeting thoughts we all have, but find difficult to express. Consequently, some of the long descriptive passages may be off-putting to some. However, the story is a humdinger and should be savoured at a leisurely pace.
Tony Britton has done a wonderful job of bringing the text to life in the audiobook. He has skilfully animated each character - major and minor.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fickle fortune.., 29 Sep 2009
Beginning a Hardy novel is always something of a bittersweet experience. The characters are slowly and carefully introduced, the scene beautifully and evocatively set and quickly you find yourself deeply immersed in nineteenth-century Wessex. And yet, even as you begin to feel yourself almost a part of the story you are filled with a sense of imminent doom. That a protagonist, possibly several, will die, is an absolute given. Hardy's fascination with predestination, whether or not it exists and whether or not, if it does exist, we humans have any agency to influence it, is starkly revealed here. In Michael Henchard he creates a man full of `character', displaying, by turns, impetuosity, reflection , malice, regret, hate and love. If some of these appear contradictory then this is because they are, because such contradictions lie in all people, particularly warm-blooded, instinctive people like Henchard. Yet, despite this, or perhaps because of it he is unable to prevent himself tumbling inexorably towards tragedy.

No clear conclusions about the nature of fate are reached. It is not clear, at least not to me, what Hardy really thought about it, but it is very apparent that he meditated deeply on the subject.

There is much more to this novel besides, the town of Casterbridge, with its Roman ruins, agrarian economy and civic machinations, is brought beautifully to life. Moreover, in addition to Henchard, Hardy introduces us to several other very memorable characters, not least Elizabeth-Jane who is arguably the novel's true hero or heroine. Quietly, solidly she observes, reads and grows until finally she achieves a degree of happiness that is forever denied to most of those around her, including of course Henchard, her unfortunate `father'. Not an easy read by any standards, but the characters and themes in this book are sure to linger with you long after you close the final page
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Drama, excitement and intrigue, 18 Jan 2012
By 
Boof (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Auction fever, 22 Jun 2014
By 
Officer Dibble (Zummerzet) - See all my reviews
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Or should it be 'Mayors'? We have the despicable Henchard and the counter-jumper Farfrae. It is Henchard who dominates the novel amidst a cast who come and go, who do or don't tell each other all, or part, of the truth about themselves and their relationships with each other.

Anyone setting out the details of the plot will be writing a short story in their own right and I actually found this book a return to Hardy's sensation novel roots. The novel struggles to come to an end suggesting Hardy wasn't sure of the legacy we should expect from the wife-salesman Henchard.There are other characters who don't convince eg why is the super-rich Lucetta showing any interest in the Kenneth McKellar of Wessex?

The whole skimmington set-piece was a lovely social history insight. However, the tangled web was well and truly woven to the detriment of the reader. An enjoyable (slightly frustrating) read that is second tier Hardy (more Return of the Native than Madding Crowd).
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1.0 out of 5 stars Not a classic, 6 Dec 2014
By 
Mr. J. J. Maughan "Jeff Maughan" (Newcastle UK) - See all my reviews
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This is not a classic novel and I am surprised it is included in the canon as such. It reads like an overly-melodramatic soap opera.

A particular issue I have with this work is that having read and enjoyed Far From the Madding Crowd, quite frankly I have some difficulty believing this was written by the same author. It has certainly put me off persevering with Hardy's later work.

The quality of writing is execrable in parts, the characters remain poorly developed and generally unbelievable throughout, and the plot manages to be both entirely predictable as a whole whilst being randomly capricious in part.

The saving grace is perhaps the period detail, which was Hardy's stock-in-trade, but this is often overwrought. You get a bit tired of his narrative device of reverting to arcane elaboration of period detail when explaining some minor comment or event which has just taken place. It does seem like Hardy's work served as cod-social anthropology to a leisured class to whom the world of Wessex obviously seemed almost as remote as to the reader of the early 21st Century.

However, where Hardy's rich depiction of Wessex lay as a muted background to the plot in FFTMC, here it seems more like the description of Casterbridge is the real subject of the novel, whilst the characters and plot merely serve to pad out the scenery. Given Casterbridge was modelled on Hardy's native Dorchester, you sense Hardy was much more interested in Casterbridge than in Michael Henchard, Elizabeth-Jane or the preposterously synthetic Farfrae.

Thomas Hardy was a prolific writer, but the lack of quality control on show here suggests that this work was knocked out to be read by a certain audience, in order to provide him with some ready income.

--

One other point - JK Rowling has clearly used a paragraph in the novel to give names to some of her Harry Potter characters. This was probably the most interesting thing about the novel, and I'm not even a Harry Potter fan.
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The Mayor of Casterbridge (BBC Audiobooks) by Thomas Hardy (Audio CD - 8 Dec 2011)
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