Classic Book Review: The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

The Mayor of Casterbridge
by Thomas Hardy

4 out of 5 stars

In a drunken rage, Henchard sells his wife and baby daughter to a sailor for five guineas. Once he is sober, Henchard bitterly repents of his deed and searches for his wife and child, but to no avail. Over the passing years, Henchard’s fortunes change and he becomes a successful businessman and mayor of the town of Casterbridge. He is well-respected and lives a peaceful life, until his wife returns with a teenage daughter, Elizabeth-Jane, and his old secrets begin to haunt him.

I love Hardy’s writing style! He really knows how to tell a dramatic story in a beautiful rural setting. There is something so vivid and immediate in his writing that draws you into the emotions of every scene.

This plot is really crazy. There are so many twists and turns and mistaken identities and dark secrets. I did not like the ending, but I can respect that it is well-written.

The setting of the town of Casterbridge and the surrounding countryside is almost like its own character in the story. The whole atmosphere of the town and the suspenseful gloom of the streets reflects Henchard’s inner turmoil. And the fresh air of the fields and woods around the town bring a brightness like Elizabeth-Jane brings to everyone who knows her.

I was sort of confused by Henchard’s character. He is such a conundrum. He is mixture of so many warring traits. His personality is a big mess of contradictions. He is neither good or bad. He is somewhere in between, and I think that is why I don’t like him.

I like Elizabeth-Jane though! She is thoroughly good and generous. No matter what ups and downs come into her life through all the various twists of the plot, she is strong and resilient.
I really loved her passion for knowledge and education though. She is determined to educate herself, and she studies and reads books all on her own without a teacher to guide her. She just loves learning and wants to better herself, and I related to that very deeply.
But somehow I didn’t emotionally connect with her. I think that might be because I was listening to an audiobook and her character’s voice was not very well done.

Overall, I can definitely see the genius of Hardy in this book, but it didn’t touch my heart. I was interested to see what would happen to the characters, but I didn’t really CARE about them. I think I would like to reread it sometime in the future, and not listen to an audiobook. This particular audiobook sort of ruined my enjoyment.

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