Title: The Mayor of Casterbridge
Author: Thomas Hardy
Publisher: Many editions in print
# of Pages: About 325
Favorite Line: "...don't let my sins, when you know them all, cause 'ee to quite forget that though I loved 'ee late I loved 'ee well."
Michael Henchard, in a drunken fit, sells his wife and daughter at an auction. Years later, we see him again as a successful businessman and mayor of the town of Casterbridge- sober since the day he woke up to find his wife and child gone. 18 years after the sale, his wife and daughter find him, and then once again his life begins to crumble, even as a Scotsman, Mr. Farfrae, gets his turn in the spotlight of Casterbridge success. Add in a newly-rich woman with whom Henchard had an affair, and you have a plot teeming with possibility.
This book was selected as a read for my British Classics group on Yahoo. It's the first Hardy novel I have ever read, and it makes it clear why Hardy is now a classic. The book has a bit more narrative (as opposed to dialogue) than I would have preferred, which slows down the reading pace somewhat. But Hardy so perfectly describes rural England being made more cosmopolitan by means of the Industrial Revolution. And his characters, while difficult to like, are easy to sympathize with.
The book is fairly short, and there is always something happening, so it is just as plot-driven as it is character-driven. Coincidences abound- a bit too many for my liking- but that is Victorian literature. The writing is deft, the author knows his setting and his themes well, and the plot is interesting. This one is a classic for a reason.