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The Mayor of Casterbridge
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Archive Member Fav Reads > 2019 September: The Mayor of Casterbridge

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message 1: by Trisha (last edited Sep 01, 2019 01:06AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trisha | 828 comments Of the books I have read by Thomas Hardy, this is definitely my favourite. Many years ago, family holidays for me always meant staying in Dorset, a beautiful part of south west England. So my first Hardy books were borrowed from the local library then read on the beach in between swimming & going for walks on the cliffs - all in the area I was reading about. Magical!

Hardy was an established author during his lifetime & lived in London for a while. But Dorset was his real home. He renamed the places for his books. Some people find the names very strange, though I think the names are very clever as they are in keeping with the style of names in the area & often reflect something about the place. If you look for “Thomas Hardy place names” on Wikipedia you can find lists that give real & fictional names, with information about which books use them.

Casterbridge is Dorchester, the county town of Dorset. The museum has manuscripts & other items owned by Hardy. Various buildings in the town can be identified from their description in the book.

Do consider joining me to read the book this month. I hope you will enjoy it.


message 2: by Trisha (last edited Sep 01, 2019 01:32AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trisha | 828 comments The story starts with a young family going to a fair at Weydon Priors. The place is really Weyhill in Hampshire, where apparently fairs were held from the 11th century until 1957. Fairs were not always like those we see now, there was entertainment but also a lot of trade - in that area, sheep were an important commodity.

Reading the first part of the book again, it made me wonder if some people might be put off as it may seem quite difficult to understand at first. Don’t worry, some of the more obscure terms get explained as the book continues. The story of the fair is important as what happens there is the basis for the whole book.


message 3: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
I have ordered a copy. So hopefully the second half of the month.


message 4: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosemarie | 8752 comments Mod
I have read this twice and agree with Trisha's comments about the language and the importance of the fair at the beginning of the book.


Trisha | 828 comments Thank you, Lesle & Rosemarie.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 186 comments I love Hardy and this book is one of my favorites.


Trisha | 828 comments Kelly wrote: "I love Hardy and this book is one of my favorites."

That’s good! I hope you will join the discussions here even if you don’t need to read the book again this time.


Jane | 9 comments Just started


message 9: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
Jane we are glad your reading this with Trisha! Is this your first time?


message 10: by Eugene (new) - added it

Eugene Galt (eugenegalt) | 659 comments I’ve started it. This will be my second novel by him.


message 11: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
Eugene which was your first read of Hardy?


message 12: by Eugene (new) - added it

Eugene Galt (eugenegalt) | 659 comments My first was The Return of the Native.


message 13: by Trisha (last edited Sep 03, 2019 02:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trisha | 828 comments Welcome to the discussions, Jane & Eugene. Jane, I noticed you are reading another Hardy book too. I’m impressed! It will be interesting to see what you think of A Pair of Blue Eyes - it’s on my TBR list.
I was out most of today, but spent time reading while on trains - it was quite annoying to get back to my local station & have to stop reading!


message 14: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosemarie | 8752 comments Mod
My first Hardy was The Mayor of Casterbridge in high school, which I have since reread at least once.


Trisha | 828 comments Rosemarie wrote: "My first Hardy was The Mayor of Casterbridge in high school, which I have since reread at least once."

That’s impressive, Rosemarie. I really disliked books that I was forced to read at school & have avoided most of them ever since. Such a shame, as I have loved reading for as long as I can remember. But those English literature lessons...


message 16: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosemarie | 8752 comments Mod
When there is a 20 year gap, the bad memories have a habit of fading, but not always. It took me almost 40 years to reread The Midwich Cuckoos because of the English teacher. It was much, much better than I remembered it.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 186 comments So far I have read The Return of the Native, Tess, Jude, Far from the Madding Crowd and this one. I love his writing. I find it clever and beautiful.


message 18: by Trisha (last edited Sep 03, 2019 11:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trisha | 828 comments Rosemarie, I wish it was only a “20 year gap”! You’re too kind.

Kelly, I like your comment that Hardy’s writing is clever & beautiful. Although I read his main books many years ago, I have only started rereading them more recently & also read some of his shorter works. There are so many & so much to learn. Only a few days ago I discovered that not only does he use his place names consistently, but he also includes some of the minor characters in more than one book.


message 19: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosemarie | 8752 comments Mod
Some of his earlier novels are almost gothic, especially Desperate Remedies and Two on a Tower. They are not as deep as his later novels, but worth reading too. And I really like his poetry.
I like his descriptions of nature, especially in The Return of the Native.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 186 comments Trisha wrote: "Rosemarie, I wish it was only a “20 year gap”! You’re too kind.

Kelly, I like your comment that Hardy’s writing is clever & beautiful. Although I read his main books many years ago, I have only st..."


Yes his fictional county is a theme throughout his works. And I love that he returns to that place and refers to those characters again and again


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 186 comments Rosemarie wrote: "Some of his earlier novels are almost gothic, especially Desperate Remedies and Two on a Tower. They are not as deep as his later novels, but worth reading too. And I really like his poetry.
I like..."


He actually liked his poetry better than his novels. And at one point became so disillusioned with people's responses to his novels that he just quit writing them and turned to only poetry.


Trisha | 828 comments That’s sad, Kelly. I will have to try his poetry at some time.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 186 comments Trisha wrote: "That’s sad, Kelly. I will have to try his poetry at some time."

I have a book of his poetry, but really I am all about novels.


Trisha | 828 comments I hope everyone is enjoying this book. I assume different readers have got to different parts of the book, so please don’t give any very specific details unless you mark them as spoilers. But I wonder how people feel about Michael Henchard so far. Do you like/dislike him? Do you find him generous or selfish or... ?

At various points I thought he was inconsiderate, opinionated & incredibly selfish. But I also thought he was misunderstood & very insecure, so he overreacted & made situations worse. He had a temper & was too proud to apologise even when he realised he was wrong. How do you feel about him?


message 25: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
Hello Trisha!
Im just starting here later after dinner.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 186 comments Trisha wrote: "I hope everyone is enjoying this book. I assume different readers have got to different parts of the book, so please don’t give any very specific details unless you mark them as spoilers. But I won..."

Yes, I don't think he is particularly likable, but I do think that he can inspire some compassion and empathy.


Trisha | 828 comments Kelly wrote: "Trisha wrote: "I hope everyone is enjoying this book. I assume different readers have got to different parts of the book, so please don’t give any very specific details unless you mark them as spoi..."

I agree, Kelly. I found him infuriating at times but felt sad for him too as he seemed to make situations worse then regret what he’d done, but didn’t know how to put things right.


message 28: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
Im just a bit into the story and am shocked what Mike has done to Susan and to have thought this before, just horrific to me.

Does the story follow Susan at all later?


message 29: by Trisha (last edited Sep 12, 2019 01:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trisha | 828 comments Lesle wrote: "Im just a bit into the story and am shocked what Mike has done to Susan and to have thought this before, just horrific to me.

Does the story follow Susan at all later?"


Yes, Lesle, Susan remains an important part of the story. Keep reading! There are lots of aspects of the story of this little family, with other people involved too. Even some of the minor characters reappear later in the book. Remember that attitudes were very different then & women were often treated as “possessions”. I thought the incident that shocked you was partly caused because Michael didn’t like Susan’s implied criticism of his behaviour so he felt embarrassed & wanted revenge.


message 30: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
Good Im glad she remains part of the story. Mike and her seemed as if they fell apart over time, it didn't matter to either whether the remained together or not, and him bringing it up before just really got to her...so more or less "Don't do it" or "Get it over with"
Her carrying really bothered me.


message 31: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
Having to have that awful attitude about yourself and your child to carry with you (not sure I could...how she was treated...like nothing at such a young age), I am even more shocked after so many years has passed that she is letting all that go and now is searching for Michael!


message 32: by Trisha (last edited Sep 13, 2019 01:46PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trisha | 828 comments Lesle wrote: "Having to have that awful attitude about yourself and your child to carry with you (not sure I could...how she was treated...like nothing at such a young age), I am even more shocked after so many ..."

I agree. But did women have much choice then? Without a wealthy family, a husband or a home, could she have managed? Perhaps she was willing to put up with poor treatment in exchange for some security. I had the impression (perhaps from watching a dramatisation rather than the book) that she wasn’t tough enough to do the physical work required on a farm. But, to be fair, I think she was gentle & forgiving, & had discovered that she had partly misunderstood the situation years before so felt she needed to see Michael to resolve this. (Not obvious early in the book, but there’s more later on...)


message 33: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
Trisha the first 5 chapters have been rather shocking/surprising.
You are right about the time frame.
Have to remember that fact!


Trisha wrote: "discovered that she had partly misunderstood the situation years before so felt she needed to see Michael to resolve this..."

That part will be interesting to learn...the motivation to find him.
Thank you Trisha for the reminder of the times.


Trisha | 828 comments Lesle wrote: "Trisha the first 5 chapters have been rather shocking/surprising.
You are right about the time frame.
Have to remember that fact!


Trisha wrote: "discovered that she had partly misunderstood the..."


You mention “the times” Lesle - I’m laughing as my first reaction when I saw your previous comment was to feel guilty I hadn’t seen it sooner. I think time is definitely an issue for us, I’m guessing about a 6 or 7 hour difference as we are so far apart (it’s currently around 10:15pm here as I’m on BST). You probably wrote your comment late last night your time & I’m just catching up now.


message 35: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
Trisha it is 6:36 pm here right now so when you said it was 10:15 about an hour and fifteen ago it would have been 5:15 pm EST. Guessing if my math is correct 5 hrs different.

Msg 31 was around 6:40 am. Thats my normal time to check in before I go to work.

Hoping to get some more chapters read here shortly.


message 36: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
EJ has a crush on Donald Farfrae, who gives advice to Michael about how to save his bad wheat. Drying/Refrigeration process to bring it back enough to use.

Michael tries to offer him a job but Farfrae refuses.
Susan is very cautious as of yet and has not revealed herself, she seems distressed and worried about Michael being Mayor.

It seems they tend to put a lot on appearances and status.


message 37: by Trisha (last edited Sep 14, 2019 12:31PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trisha | 828 comments Lesle wrote: "EJ has a crush on Donald Farfrae, who gives advice to Michael about how to save his bad wheat. Drying/Refrigeration process to bring it back enough to use.

Michael tries to offer him a job but Far..."


Yes, I think appearances meant a lot. I felt that Susan was concerned that Michael was well-known in the town because she was quite shy & also in case she embarrassed him. I wonder if she was also afraid people might laugh at her, or think she was only interested in him because he had money. She was terrified that EJ might discover what happened to them years before.


message 38: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (last edited Sep 15, 2019 05:01AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
The village is very farmer based. Events happening around that theme.

Susan's feeling of duty out weighs her common sense. She knows nothing of Michael's life now but is fine with moving on with him. He gives her the note with the same amount of money that he sold her for and has them meet in a ring, symbol:? that she tossed at him! and again for appearance sake Mike sets up a scheme.

He broke his word to Jopp and I can see that coming back to bite him and the same of him telling Donald his past story with Susan and his other promise which he is willing to break with money solving the issue.

EJ remains in the dark about the past.
I feel turmoil coming...


Trisha | 828 comments Lesle wrote: "The village is very farmer based. Events happening around that theme.

Susan's feeling of duty out weighs her common sense. She knows nothing of Michael's life now but is fine with moving on with h..."


I’d call it a market town rather than a village, but I agree farming was the most important industry there at the time. I hadn’t considered that meeting at the ring was symbolic, though it may have been. To me, the ring was just a local landmark a reasonably short distance from the town, so an easy place to meet away from prying eyes in town. As for Susan being fine with returning to Michael, I think she was fairly innocent & did it because she felt it was her duty. She may also have been trying to secure EJ’s future by placing her under the protection of an influential man, which both kept her safe & presumably increased her chance of marriage.


message 40: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
Trisha it just seems like he does things for symbolic reasons. Just my thought.
I meant that the village may not function with out the surrounding farms to sell items to market.
Fine like in okay with, even if a duty.
Sorry if my thoughts are coming across as I think they do! lol


message 41: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
Michael and Donald have a falling out over an employee and how each handle it differently. This really irritates Michael.

Donald's strengths are his business skills and how popularity he is with the villagers. This causes Michael great distress and finally makes a regrettable move.


Trisha | 828 comments Lesle wrote: "Michael and Donald have a falling out over an employee and how each handle it differently. This really irritates Michael.

Donald's strengths are his business skills and how popularity he is with ..."


Yes, I agree - this is why I feel sorry for Michael at times. He is his own worst enemy. Because he feels insecure, & probably jealous of Donald’s popularity, he overreacts & makes things worse for himself. His life seems to be a series of misunderstandings & hasty decisions that have bad consequences.


message 43: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
Trisha wrote: "His life seems to be a series of misunderstandings & hasty decisions that have bad consequences. ..."

Your are so on point Trisha! I totally agree.


message 44: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
Wow! Really!
Micheal is ... his actions were for a right reason now that he has no reason he suddenly has no desire to be.

He turns and unrightly so. Station means more to him.

Im not feeling sorry for him right now he is selfish.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 186 comments I am really enjoying reading all your reactions. I wish I was new to the book!


message 46: by Trisha (last edited Sep 17, 2019 11:19PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trisha | 828 comments Kelly wrote: "I am really enjoying reading all your reactions. I wish I was new to the book!"

Do join in the discussions, Kelly. I feel differently from you though - I was pleased to read it again as I think I saw more details that I had missed, or perhaps forgotten, from reading it before.

Is anyone else reading this? Are you enjoying the book? Love it or hate it, if you have an opinion then join us here! (No spoilers though, some are reading this for the first time.)


message 47: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
EJ has taken up with Lucetta but there is no real friendship between them.

EJ is not a dumb girl. A story of another she has been able to figure out. She is hurt by both men in her life right now.

Michael tries to reinsert himself without much success. He is still not making any points with me!


message 48: by Eugene (new) - added it

Eugene Galt (eugenegalt) | 659 comments As I noted with regard to another novel, a protagonist can be unsympathetic as long as the author gets the reader to want to see what happens next. I think that Hardy passes this test.


message 49: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (last edited Sep 19, 2019 03:28AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
I must agree with you Eugene he is successful at keeping me wanting to read more.


message 50: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (last edited Sep 19, 2019 03:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesle | 5382 comments Mod
Michael is taking steps to figure out what is happening and trying to cause damage as well.

An old woman of the village is on trial and she tales the tale of the sale of a woman and child and Michael admits it is the truth.

Lucetta confesses to Michael that she and Farfrae have married secretly on her trip. Michael still tries to manipulate her and to stop that from happening she offers to pay the debt.

The dramatic irony? we know but Ej doesnt.


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