I had not read the Mayor of Casterbridge for probably 15 years or so and decided to download it (for $0.99!) to my new Nook to read over vacation. Actually I hadn't read Thomas Hardy for some time and had forgotten not only how lyrical his descriptions are but also his wry sense of humor as a storyteller (well, Tess didn't have any wry humor but this book does...). For this is definitely a story being told and would do well being read aloud. Many plot flips and flops which is typical Hardy. The women are a bit bland but the Mayor is an interesting character who, true to Hardy literature, is constantly getting into trouble through his own foolishness. Yet you feel for him, despite this, and mourn his demise when it occurs. I think the opening of the book is one of the most memorable in this genre and it truly sets the stage for all that follows. One example of Hardy as "narrator" is when the Mayor listens to evidence against a raggedy old woman who is being tried for public drunkenness and disorderliness and who will soon betray the Mayor's secret. When the witness describes how the woman crudely berated him, the woman says, "I object to that conversation! I was not capable enough to hear what I said, and what is said out of my hearing is not evidence! The "narrator" went on to say that the truth was that the old woman had appeared in court so many more times than the magistrates themselves, that they were obliged to keep a sharp look-out upon their procedure!