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The Mayor of Casterbridge

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  40,365 Ratings  ·  1,486 Reviews
In Thomas Hardy's classic novel, an ambitious man discovers that the blind energies and defiant acts that brought him to power can also destroy him.
Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Signet (first published 1886)
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Jason Khadka It is a tragic novel and will leave a bitter taste as you go into the story. I would highly recommend it. It is an English literature classic and is a…moreIt is a tragic novel and will leave a bitter taste as you go into the story. I would highly recommend it. It is an English literature classic and is a very good read. (less)
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Apr 22, 2015 karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

this is hardy's most perfectly-constructed novel. there are others that are more appealing, to me, (am i allowed to say that?), but this one is such a perfect cause-and-effect, every-action-has-a-reaction kind of book, that it should really be his most popular and successful, instead of tess, which by comparison, is pure melodrama.

mayor is full of the trappings of melodrama - convenient and inexplicable deaths, characters long out of the picture returning at the least opportune times, overheard
Henry Avila
Jun 05, 2016 Henry Avila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Henchard an itinerant, young, annoyed farm worker, walking with quiet wife Susan, infant daughter Elizabeth -Jane, looking for employment, the time, the early 1830's, in southern England, after an exhausting journey they reach a country fair, in a small village, enter a crowded tent, with dubious humans, serving alcohol, he imbibes vigorously, (a weakness that will cause much trouble, and haunt him the rest of his life) soon inebriated, the highly distressed man, in a stupor, sells Susan ...more
Oct 07, 2007 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I give it five stars because it seems nearly a perfect example of its type of craft. This book has an intertwined and flawless plot that is never overcomplicated; it is full of wonderful language, rich with regional variation, for instance the tenor of Donald Farfrae's Scottish is exceptionally musical and not like the speech of his peers. There were moments reading this book I felt so much under the sway of the author's power that I could observe him wirte himself into one tight plot corner and ...more
Jason Koivu
Nov 24, 2015 Jason Koivu rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I'd heard Hardy was a bit of a chore, so instead of his chunky novels I went slender with The Mayor of Casterbridge as my first. I'm not sure it was a wise choice.

Not because I thought it was bad by any means. The writing's quite good, the story held my interest, but jeez louise, this is bleak stuff! It's bleaker than Bleak House! Are all this books like this? I'm not normally depressed, but I may have to put myself on suicide watch just to get through another one of his novels!

Seriously though
Mar 14, 2013 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sue by: Read with Constant Reader Classic
It seems The Mayor of Casterbridge can end only in one direction as this Mayor is continually victimized by his own shortcomings. As the novel begins, we witness the famous selling of his wife while he is in a drunken stupor, not caring about anything or anyone else in the world. Years later, he has his chance to make changes, amends but his essential character prevents this. He sees evil and devils where there are none and increases small faults to large. He turns friends to enemies and enemies ...more
Aug 13, 2016 Yamini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-print, classics
I felt like I’d been in a Hardy-slump lately, in my attempt to read 1 Hardy novel a month this year, so veered off the schedule and read this when I was meant to be reading The Trumpet-Major. Like every Hardy novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge is another case of extreme dramatics attempting to illustrate a point.

This reads somewhat different to previous Hardy novels that had become slightly repetitive for me. Instead of the concentration being on an individual female, the main protagonist is a mal
MJ Nicholls
When Thomas stopped writing novels in the early 1900s, he concentrated his bitterness on spectacularly peevish poetry, dripping with more melancholy self-loathing than mid-90s Morrissey albums (has anyone actually heard Maladjusted or Southpaw Grammar the whole way through?) These poems captivated my downbeat imagination as a teenager but the novels remained out of reach—I wanted heartbreak-to-go, I wasn’t looking to eat in the restaurant of shattered dreams. Now, I find myself pulled towards th ...more
Jul 30, 2012 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is the story of Michael Henchard, who sells his wife and infant daughter for five guineas while drunk at a local fair. The consequences of this one impulsive action haunt his life thereafter. Henchard is a tragic figure, doomed not only by the character flaws of which he is only too aware, but also by a malignant, inescapable fate.

Hardy's writing is breathtaking. The novel is full of stunningly beautiful descriptive language. Hardy paints vivid pictures with words, bringing both characters
Barry Pierce
I really loved this one. This was my third Hardy novel and it's by far one of his best. Horribly tragic of course, well obviously, this is Hardy, but also SO GOOD. I think this one would be a good entry point into Hardy, it has all this major themes and all of his delicious pessimism. Ah, it's so fantastic.
I had to read this in high school . It was so boring it caused every particle of oxygen to be instantly sucked out of my brain whenever I opened the cover. My teacher gave me detention for falling asleep in class, I pointed to The Mayor of Casterbridge, he hit me on the back of the head with a wooden ruler. I can truly say that the classics of 19th century English literature made an impact on me.
Apr 03, 2015 Apatt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If Thomas Hardy's Wessex region was a real place the British government would probably have to nuke it as nothing but misery seems to go on there, as recounted in Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, The Return of the Native and other bleak-fests (I am excluding Far from the Madding Crowd here because I find it quite cheerful by his melancholic standard (only a few tissue papers required instead of a whole box of Kleenex). The Mayor of Casterbridge is Hardy at least wonderfully mirth ...more
Jun 03, 2016 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: assholes
Shelves: 2016, 2016-bingo
When you hear "tragic flaw" you think of hubris, probably, or curiosity, or the desire to fuck your mom, but here's the tragic flaw Michael Henchard has in Hardy's blazing character study: he's an asshole.

He's not bad, exactly. He has a sense of justice, or at least he develops one. As the book opens, he auctions off his wife for five shillings in a fit of drunken pique. When he sobers up and realizes what he's done, he swears off drinking. He tries to be better. Later on in a fistfight, he ties
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 ab ...more
Nov 24, 2008 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, english-lit
Truth is stranger than fiction except in this story, which presents a circuitous series of tragic circumstances that only the cruelest force — a depressed novelist — could dream up. Actually, I have no idea if Hardy was depressed when he wrote this book, but I certainly was by the time I finished reading it. The story begins with an itinerant hay-trusser, Michael Henchard, selling his wife and baby daughter for five guineas (!!) in a fit of drunken madness. Unbelievably enough, it goes downhill ...more
Jul 17, 2008 Meg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: psychologically stable tragedy lovers
This book is amazing. Its pacing and subject matter reminded me somewhat of Les Miserables. And it pretty much confirmed my opinion that Thomas Hardy is the most depressing creature ever to walk God's earth. Those of you who appreciate tragedy will love this... you poor souls...
May 17, 2010 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best book I've read in a while. If some books are worth putting down because they are too depressing, others (like this one) are worth devouring for the same reason.

Bitter irony stacked upon heaps of previous bitter ironies permanently invested me in this horrible character that I hate to love. And Hardy can't even let the happy ending for the one truly good character stand--he MUST qualify it with the lesson that happy endings aren't very happy if your life has taught you that happiness can't l
Bleak Country
I've just reread this after many, many years and I'm wondering how this tale of self imposed isolation and utter loneliness appealed to me as a teenager. And yet, I remember really enjoying it. Mystery.
Mar 14, 2011 Catie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s been about 12 years since I’ve read a Thomas Hardy novel (he was a big favorite in the dark teenage years). I was a huge classics buff as a kid. Ironically, I’ve spent my adult years reading a ton of cheesy YA. Apparently the universe has a sense of humor. Not in a Thomas Hardy novel though. In his world, the universe is capricious and exacting. Don’t get too comfortable or make plans, because nothing is permanent and difficulty abounds.

This book opens with Michael Henchard – out of work, t
Daniel Clausen
Aug 19, 2016 Daniel Clausen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is a bit like a dinner guest who, though entertaining at first, stays too long and then wears out his welcome. In this way, the book is not entirely unlike its main character, Michael Henchard.

Still, if you're a writer, there is much to learn from this book.

First, the book is an excellent example for how to write scenes. I read this book directly after reading Charles Dickens, a writer who tends to narrate too much and focus too little on the physical world and the actions of characte
Ron Nie
Nov 26, 2014 Ron Nie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for a class on sociology and the Victorian novel, particularly looking at it next to Heather Love's piece on description without presumption - how looking from a distance and documenting, instead of witnessing (her idea of witnessing necessitating a kind of emotional reaction that can obscure actual events and change them with empathy), can be a, maybe not better, but different way of reading texts. Basically, it's anti-humanist, and she's on board with changing up the approach from ...more
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
I am in the midst of reading all of Thomas Hardy's novels in the order that he wrote them. Well, at least the more well known novels. While most of Hardy's 'Novels of Character and Environment' have a fairly pronounced pastoral presence, The Mayor of Casterbridge is distinctly a novel about characters in a relatively urban setting, the Wessex town of Casterbridge.

The Mayor of Casterbridge is a relentless novel. It is a relentlessly sad story, and a relentlessly painful story to read. Change the
Gary  the Bookworm
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This is a real roller-coaster ride. Following the mayor from his drunken decision to sell his wife and infant daughter to his final act of desperation is an engrossing tale of perfidy and happenstance. At its moral center is Elizabeth-Jane, the mayor's long lost daughter who bears a strong resemblance to Jane Eyre, another nineteenth century heroine who doesn't expect much from life except the freedom to live in accordance with her own code of honor. There are plenty of plot twists and richly e
Dec 18, 2008 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, victorian
In Mayor of Casterbridge, Hardy tells the unmitigatedly tragic story of the strong-willed, domineering, some-times alcoholic Michael Henchard. From Henchard's unpardonable act of drunken folly in the opening scene, Hardy takes the reader through an unlikely series of mishaps and three hundred thirty some pages of ruin.

Among other things, this is a book about timing, more specifically bad timing. While Henchard is ultimately responsible for most of the ill that befalls him and others, the primary
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
The "first great novel about alcoholism"? I disagree. Except for the opening scene where the main male protagonist is drunk, and when he gets back to the bottle some 21 years of staying sober, alcohol barely had any role in this novel.

An opening "of such heartlessness and cruelty"? Excuse me. The guy is drunk and his wife helps things happen by calling his dare made in stupor. Cruelty and heartlessness are done intentionally and with complete consciousness of the consequences. Not this, when the
Jan 31, 2009 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book bored me. It was written well, had a decent plot, and faced some good themes, but I find it hard to recognize literary merit when I'm asleep.
May 10, 2008 Gavin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: classics-old-new
This was one of six books that I had to read for English Literature 'O' Level. Of the six it was the only one I enjoyed; and let me say I really enjoyed it. My mother reckons I like Hardy because she was reading Jude the Obscure when she was pregnant with me, and she may have a point, but all I know is that this was the first of Hardy's works I read. Since then I have read almost his entire oeuvre, not including the poetry, of which I have only read a little. The Dynasts is, however, on the read ...more
Mar 03, 2009 Rashaan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Michael Henchard undoubtedly has to be a not-so-distant relative of American anti-hero Homer J. Simpson. The Mayor of Casterbridge serves as literary English grandfather to our own lecherous, lazy, and negligent father of America's longest running cartoon family. Bull-headed, dim-witted, and insolent, we cannot turn our gaze from the train-wreck that is Hardy's eponymous protagonist. Henchard is both repellent and fascinating. We know his ship is going down from the start of the novel--the story ...more
John Frankham
Feb 28, 2016 John Frankham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-pre-1900
How can this superb novel have an average rating of 3.77? Words fail me.

Tragic, comic, Shakespearean. 'Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.'

The story of Michael Henchard in Hardy's 19thC Wessex. His life and fortunes after he, a hay-trusser, and drunk from eating too much alcoholic porridge, sells his wife and child to a sailor at a local fair.

Anyone who does not cry at the last chapter cannot be human!
Apr 11, 2009 RachelAnne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
HATE! HATE! If the author doesn't even care what happens to his characters, how are we supposed to? The plot is obscenely contrived and moralistic. The verbiage is absurdly disinterested; at one point, I believe a character fleeing for her life is actually described as "earnestly" climbing a haystack as she tries to escape a mad bull. EARNESTLY? In high school, we had to read this and write an essay arguing whether the book was a tragedy or a comedy. I wrote that the tragedy was that in the fact ...more
Mar 11, 2009 Meredith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this in high school and again in college, and have to admit that I wouldn't have rated it so highly if I hadn't had the benefit of studying it as part of a course. I don't think I would have appreciated the subtleties of the story and characters without someone telling me what to look for. I also read this at a time when the other books I was reading all ended either on a cryptic or a tragic note, so it impressed me that someone could tell a story with an outcome that felt good.
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Thomas Hardy, OM, was an English author of the naturalist movement, although in several poems he displays elements of the previous romantic and enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural. He regarded himself primarily as a poet and composed novels mainly for financial gain. The bulk of his work, set mainly in the semi-fictional land of Wessex, delineates cha ...more
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“Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.” 427 likes
“Some folks want their luck buttered.” 22 likes
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