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The Mayor of Casterbridge

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  58,042 ratings  ·  2,586 reviews
I’ve not always been what I am now

In a fit of drunken anger, Michael Henchard sells his wife and baby daughter for five guineas at a country fair. Over the course of the following years, he manages to establish himself as a respected and prosperous pillar of the community of Casterbridge, but behind his success there always lurk the shameful secret of his past and a pers
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 445 pages
Published March 27th 2003 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1886)
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Dick Buchanan I found that at points it reads quick and at other points it lingers. I may go back and read it again at some point. When I finished I believed that o…moreI found that at points it reads quick and at other points it lingers. I may go back and read it again at some point. When I finished I believed that one of the things Hardy wanted to show was that Henchard never really changes. I wonder if I would have the same conclusion if I read it again...(less)

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Average rating 3.84  · 
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Jun 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Emily May
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.”

Hardy sure was a depressing fellow.

As with Tess and Jude, the eponymous mayor of Casterbridge in this book takes one figurative beating after another. Just when you think things might be starting to look up, when it seems he's found his footing and is turning his life around, Hardy says "nuh-uh" and throws another load of shit at him. I know he was challenging social norms and critiquing the bourgeoisie and whatever else,
Henry Avila
Jan 21, 2016 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
Paul Bryant
Oct 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
Ooof, finally finished this trudge trudge trudge of a book, and it isn’t even that long. Maybe I’m getting feeble but Thomas Hardy’s manytentacled sentences and trillion 19th century rural slang words presented a north-face-of-the-Eiger challenge for my little brain – strange words like clane, felloe, furmety, gaberlunzie, twanking, diment, rantipole and comminatory and many many more, and sentences like this (deep breath) :

As the lively and sparkling emotions of her early married life cohered i
Jon Nakapalau
Jun 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, favorites
Michael Henchard is the perfect example of being your own worst enemy - even after a second chance to redeem past mistakes he just will not see past the toxic pools of power that spill over his life; he can never be happy with who he is and what he has been given - highest recommendation.
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british, classics
This is the story of the rise and fall of Michael Henchard, a hot-tempered, proud and irascible hay-trusser who in a drunken haze, sells his wife and baby girl to a sailor at a fair, for five guineas.
He regrets his deed the next day, but can not find his wife and child. Entering a church, he kneels by the altar and vows to stay sober for 21 years and do good and be charitable.
But can he rise above his anger, pride, obstinacy, jealousy, sense of rivalry and impulsiveness?
Would he be able to prev
Aug 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Man stuck in his own character!

There is something endearing and sweet about the brutal consistency of Michael Henchard's eternal fight against his own bad temper. He is not a bad person as such - not bad in the psychopath fashion of careless evil doing at least.

Quite the contrary. He wants to be fair in life, but life keeps infuriating him to the point of boiling over, again and again. Even when he has murder in his heart, he makes sure to be fair in the fight, and therefore calculates that he
Jason Koivu
Nov 22, 2008 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
Some novels represent an attempt at a retreat into the past on the part of the reader, some a step into the imagined future & still others take aim at identifying a scenario that occurs in the present but which may or may not seem at all familiar. Thomas Hardy's wonderful novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge takes the reader into the author's world of 1840s Dorset, called Wessex in the novel, a very different time & place just on the eve of the Industrial Age.

In a departure from the literary effort
Thomas Hardy was a genius. I know that he wrote tragedies with characters crushed by fate (or their own mistakes) - yet there were so many twists and turns in this novel that I held out hope until the very end. He had me rooting for Michael Henchard, the Mayor, in spite of his difficult, sometimes cruel temperament. I was enthralled throughout.
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
Helene Jeppesen
What a silly novel! Much of these unfortunate destinies could have been prevented if only the characters weren't so stupid and didn't make so many irrational and unbelievable decisions.
But what an entertaining story this is! It's got a shocking beginning and a lot of plot twists that I didn't see coming, I just wish that it didn't feel like Thomas Hardy was pushing the plot forward in an unnatural and quite unbelievable way.
I won't go too much into the plot and the characters' decisions which
Violet wells
Aug 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Tess, along with Wuthering Heights, was a book that made me realise at a very young age I was going to find a lot of the love and excitement of my life in novels. That the novel was as thrilling in its way as foreign travel. Opening those first pages like standing on the deck of a boat and feeling buoyantly unsteady on one's legs and the sea spray wetting one's face and hair as a new world begins to slowly take shape. So I've always felt a debt of gratitude to Thomas Hardy for introducing me to ...more
Apr 27, 2010 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
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first Novel by Thomas Hardy. I can not say it was dull or that it was hard to read. It is a read with mixed feelings towards the characters and he does a good job keeping my attention and wanting to continue reading.

The main character in a moment of impulsiveness and anger towards his wife offers a deal. The next day he regrets his decision and decides he will improve his life as justification for what he has done.
He turns out successful in his new world, but his past comes back from
Dave Schaafsma
“Life is an oasis which is submerged in the swirling waves of sorrows and agonies.”
“Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain”--Thomas Hardy, in this and almost every one of his tragic novels.

I had thought I was permanently done with my year of rereading Thomas Hardy, but I had some time in a car, so listened to this, a book I last read as a sophomore in college. Subtitled “A Story of a Man of Character,” Hardy's 1886 portrait of Michael Henchard—depressive, bad-tempe
Toria (some what in hiatus)
Dec 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm still after about 2 years after I read this novel the first time, agreeing what I wrote then. I realized I've missed to read his works as I haven't picked up one in quite some time.
I thought I've already read this and didn't like it but on closer inspection I hadn't, so I decided to give it ago. To my surprise I actually quite enjoyed the book, maybe not most exciting book ever read but it's well written and well crafted. Thomas Hardy is one of those writers that make art with words, whil
α “He was like one who had half fainted, and could neither recover nor complete the swoon.”

α “Life is an oasis which is submerged in the swirling waves of sorrows and agonies.”

α “It was part of his nature to extenuate nothing and live on as one of his own worst accusers.”

α “She had the hard, half-apathetic expression of one who deems anything possible at the hands of time and chance, except perhaps fair play”

α “I won't be a slave to the past. I'll love where I choose.”

Review to follow!
Tristram Shandy
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
“And in being forced to class herself among the fortunate she did not cease to wonder at the persistence of the unforeseen, when the one to whom such unbroken tranquillity had been accorded in the adult stage was she whose youth had seemed to teach that happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.“

Thomas Hardy’s novel The Mayor of Casterbridge is a book that has accompanied me for a little more than forty years now, but more in the quality of a silent backseat passenger (
Perhaps I've been spoilt growing up by too many political sex scandals sinking careers in waves of laughter so I always felt that sale of the titular character's wife in order to buy Fermenty and even more the revelation of this secret later in the novel should have much more power and impact than they do. Instead I suppose it is not the tragedy of a stupid action but the tragedy of a more generally stupid hubris of the man who believes he can do what he wants and get away with it (including sel ...more
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. ...more
Jul 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
"Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain."

"Life is an oasis which is submerged in the swirling waves of sorrows and agonies."

Never have I found a couple of lines in a novel that so perfectly sum up the writer's oeuvre for me. To those, I'd add, "Gloom, despair and agony on me" from an old TV song.

This was my first Hardy novel, reading it last July. In the six-plus months since, I've made myself a Hardy punching bag: Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Return of the Native,
Micah Cummins
May 05, 2022 rated it really liked it
56th book of 2022

I love Hardy. He has the ability to write human struggle and tragedy in such a delicate way, that it slowly reels you in, and then crushes you with a force at the end. The concluding lines with stay with me for a long time.
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read this nearly two decades ago and then read it again about a decade later, too long ago for a thorough review. I will say a bit about the author:

If Dickens is the English Tolstoy, then Hardy is Dostoevsky. The latter (in each case) offers more psychologically and philosophically.

The eloquence of Hardy's prose sits in stark contrast to more contemporary authors, and reading him today is quite exhilarating. Nearly every sentence in a work by this under appreciated novelist, the inventor of t
S. Pearce
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Someone has been roasting a waxen image of me". Why is it that certain things you read in your youth stay with you forever? So it has been with this sentence from The Mayor of Casterbridge, which I had to read in school. There are many things that have stayed with me from those days, but little quite as much as this book. I am not sure why. Maybe it is the credible characterisation, maybe it is the subtle turns of plot that make you smile, frown, cross and shout in fury at the pig-headed yet im ...more
Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: assholes
Shelves: 2016
When you hear "tragic flaw" you think of hubris, probably, or curiosity, or the desire to fuck your mom, but here's the Mayor of Casterbridge's tragic flaw: 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 (Michael Henchard, the Mayor of Hardy's blazing character study) 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.
Sep 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
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.
Mar 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 08, 2011 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
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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

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