The Mayor of Casterbridge (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy.  I had never read any Thomas Hardy before, so I thought I’d give this one a try.  First published in 1886, it has a real grabber of an opening.  In 1830s England, Michael Henchard is a poor young man of about 20 or so.  He’s walking about the countryside, looking for work, with his wife and baby daughter in tow.  Henchard has a pretty bleak disposition in general, and he is somehow convinced that his family is to blame for his poverty.  Then, when he gets drunk at a country fair he gets the bizarre idea to auction his wife and daughter off—and even more bizarrely, a passing sailor takes him up on his offer, and his disgusted wife departs with the sailor, baby in tow.  By the time Henchard sobers up, they are long gone.  This is only the first 28 pages of the book; then we jump forward 20 years, and the rest of the tale is about how the past catches up with Henchard, and whether he has acquired the wisdom to deal with it.  I found the book somewhat soap-opera-like, with lots of coincidences and barely missed connections, but I was never bored.  Indeed, I rather liked it.


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