Title: The Mayor of Casterbridge
Author: Thomas Hardy
First Published: 1886
This Edition: Penguin Classics 2012
I probably wouldn’t have picked this book out myself, as I didn’t overly enjoy Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Urbevilles” but I was pleasantly surprised. The story spans approximately 25 years and although it is largely dominated by Michael Henchard – the Mayor of Casterbridge – it also follows several characters through changing circumstances, showing how their characters change under poverty and pressure. Each character has virtues and flaws which are weaved through the plot, and their interactions and deceptions cause a ridiculous amount of twists – most foreshadowed, a few completely unforeseeable.
Stylistically Hardy could be a difficult read for those who aren’t accustomed to 19th Century writing, or don’t like to read printed accents (as one of the central characters is Scottish). However, each chapter is a small installment of similar lengths, so it would be a good book to challenge yourself with. It gave me the impression it was written to be read chapter by chapter through magazine publications, although I’m uncertain of it’s origins but it definitely had the feel of a 19th Century equivalent to Coronation St.
Overall I found this a very enjoyable book and found it difficult to put down. It did not have the finesse of Dicken’s works, or the engagement of Austen’s, but it felt somewhere in between the two with maybe a splash of Charlotte Bronte’s fog of gloom. There were a few passages that jumped out as particularly artful, however I cannot share them for the sake of avoiding spoilers.
If you want to try this book but are intimidated by Hardy’s style, try Charles Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities” first. If you can read that, you will definitely manage this book!