Laura's Reviews > The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
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's review
Nov 24, 2008

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bookshelves: 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 from there. After twenty-one years of sober regret Henchard has risen to the position of mayor of Casterbridge, but is still haunted by his past mistakes, which, naturally, come back to haunt him in person. Surprise!

In spite of its obvious downsides, the novel does present a fascinating portrait of a man who battles demons of insecurity and bad temper and willingly endures the enormous suffering wreaked by his self-destructive behavior. The tragedy is that even though he accepts that he can’t escape his past actions, he doesn’t know how to change himself effectively. A sad but compelling read.
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