Monday, August 27, 2018

181. The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Mayor of Casterbridge
Thomas Hardy
1886









I have just returned from a trip to Scotland and England. This next confession might cause me to level up in nerd, but every time I travel, I try to bring books that take place at my destination. This was very easy to do on this trip, as 99% of the books on The List are British. On this trip, I read Rebecca, Trainspotting, Master of Ballantrae, and, of course, The Mayor of Casterbridge. While I liked them all, The Mayor of Casterbridge may have been my favorite.

21-year-old hay trusser Michael Henchard arrives in Casterbridge with his wife Susan and his young daughter Elizabeth-Jane. He soon gets drunk on furmity laced with rum and auctions off his wife and child to a sailor, Richard Newson, for five guineas. When he sobers up, they are gone and he, naturally, blames Susan for taking him seriously in the first place. God being a woman sucks in these books. Anyway, fast forward some years and Susan returns to Casterbridge to look for her first husband.  Michael has accumulated some secrets in her absence and Susan has a few bombs to drop as well.

My friend and travel companion read the description for this book, glanced at the cover, and said she had never seen a more boring-looking novel. But I just couldn't find this story dull, as it possessed so many twists and turns. Of course, it is Hardy so I knew that we were generally moving in a sad direction, but I still gasped a few times and let out an involuntary "Daniel! NO!" What can I say? I was team Elizabeth-Jane.

Hardy's writing is so distinctly English that it is easy to settle yourself immediately into the world he creates, even if you don't happen to be visiting the UK while you read it. Only one more Hardy to go!

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Casterbridge was based on Hardy's hometown of Dorchester.

UP NEXT: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. I got the order messed up and already wrote this post, so expect it shortly!