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Tony Britten did a bang-up job as narrator with this book. He has the voice of a crusty old English butler holding forth after work regaling the staff at the kitchen table. Michael Henchard led a rough and tumble life so "The Mayor of Casterbridge" is a rough and tumble story. I hadn't read this book since the seventies so while I knew the story, the details were hazy. Britten's narration refreshed my memory and illuminated details which eluded me when I only read. So I must say, as my eyesight deteriorates, there are compensating benefits in this age of audio books.
Many books written at this time were about the ruling classes, the landed and educated. The characters in this book like many other Hardy works are working folk, tradesmen and farmers...men and women with dirt under their fingernails. There is scarce a member of the gentry to be found. There are enough twists, turns and setbacks in the plot to even satisfy the modern sensibilities. The hero is a man who sold his wife and daughter to a sailor. No lords or ladies here. Yet, the hero is a likable and good man...hard but almost noble...and he pays a price. When the wife and daughter return, the tale becomes complicated with truths told; truths untold; truths at long last revealed; promises made and promises both kept and not kept. At the end the day, Thomas Hardy makes me feel I know these folks; have a kind of understanding of their ways which along with spending several pleasant hours is all that one can demand from a novelist.
I absolutely adore Thomas Hardy. His story telling is just so real. His characters are multidimensional and so vibrant. He takes a look at the working class with an eye of sincerity that most authors simply lack. This was one of my favorite books. Unlike in many of his other books, Hardy starts right out with the meat of the story and keeps the number of characters to a minimum. The story moves along with many twists and turns and completely kept my attention.
The narrator was delightful as well. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this book and highly recommend it to anyone who has ever liked classical literature.
The writing was superlative. The story was a little creepy. The main character was a great tragic figure. And it is a novel regarding place as well - the way in which he refers back to roman times was really fascinating - makes me want to visit the locale. This was a great book and a great production. Thanks.
"There is scarcely any passion without struggle." Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
"Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain."
"Life is an oasis which is submerged in the swirling waves of sorrows and agonies."
Never have I found a couple of lines in a novel that so perfectly sum up the writer's oeuvre for me. To those, I'd add, "Gloom, despair and agony on me" from an old TV song.
This was my first Hardy novel, reading it last July. In the six-plus months since, I've made myself a Hardy punching bag: Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Return of the Native, and Far from the Madding Crowd.
I may need Treatment.
This Hardy tragic novel, published in 1886, was set in the first half of the 19th Century. Still, the set up is far-fetched compared to the other three. Here we have a drunken Michael Henchard who sells his wife and baby girl Eliza-Jane to a sailor.
You think that's bad.... If anyone can transform bad into worse, blue into black, it's Hardy.
After recovering from his hangover, Henchard repents and desperately searches for his family to no avail. He gives up booze cold turkey, becomes a successful merchant farmer and is elected Mayor of Casterbridge. The former Mrs. Henchard returns with daughter Eliza-Jane years later when the girl is 18. The story takes S-curves and turnabouts until Henchard's pride gets the best of him, he returns to booze and he's ruined emotionally and publicly.
I'd say this story has a few morals:
1. Drink in moderation.
2. No matter how bad things get, never sell your wife or children.
3. "Pride goeth before destruction; and an haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18, Bible, KJV
Tony Britton reads with wonderful various accents and voices...of male characters at any rate. However his portrayal of female characters leaves much to be desired. His manner of reading the young heroine, Elizabeth-Jane was annoying to say the least. She sounded by his voice for her to be one of the little old men leaders of the Munchkins on Wizard of Oz. Anything but feminine or young. I would not recommend this version of the story although I love the story itself.
"An old friend?."
Thirty years after first reading The Mayor of Casterbridge, returning to this one is like meeting up with an old friend and appreciating almost for the first time just how wonderful and complete Thomas Hardy?s world is. Locked against the interior monologue of Jane Austen, this is the story of implements and machinery, of farm stock and landscapes and how the bright sunny morning of a heath land and turn into the muddy mire of late afternoon. An easy pleasure from start to finish.
Really impressive characterisations - I couldn't follow every word of the countrymen's conversations, so convincing is the accent but it made one feel as if amongst the listeners in the pub or street...really well read and of course a terrific story-telling. I'm now looking for other books by the same reader.
There is a review here that nearly put me off as it refers to trouble with the recording. I can only say that I found the recording quality faultless.
Tony Britten has an amazing range of voices for all the different characters. This book is excellently read and compelling listening.
Outstanding narration, particularly the characterisation of Henchard and Farfray - rivetting.
You can't help getting drawn into the tangle of Michael Henchard's precarious existence, great yarn
"Excellent narration of a classic"
When the wife is sold off.
Yes, it was difficult to stop listening as it was such a wonderful tale.
This was one of those books that I had wanted to read for a long time but couldn't spare the time to sit down to read a paper version. I am glad now that I didn't have the time as Tony Britton really brought the characters to life.
"Compelling, Cruel, But Ultimately Redemptive?"
The large ensemble of characters - as portrayed by Tony Britton - are all clearly delineated and his choice of accents and way of speaking really bring out the nuances of their personalities, class and position in society, essential to the understanding of the story. Real tour-de-force performance from Mr Britton.
The story is not as unremittingly bleak as the most famous of Hardy's novels, and the glimpses of possible happiness (Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae at the end of the novel?) serve to emphasise the tragedy the main story of Michael Henchard. The imagery of the starved goldfinch as the trigger for Elizabeth-Jane's forgiveness (but her step-father's ignorance of that forgiveness) is unbelievably powerful.
Henchard - complex, proud to the point of stupidity, honourable, emotional and impulsive. One of literature's great characters and portrayed extremely well by Tony Britton. I have to say that it took a few minutes for me to settle to Tony Britton's narration (it was those horrible memories of the dreadful 80s comedies he did), but once I'd got past that his reading was flawless.
Beware of what you want, you may get it ...
"The Mayor of Casterbridge"
Thomas Hardy is a Master Story teller
The Mayor (original one) was my favourite as he was really hard working and despite his appalling behaviour early on he tried to put things right
"First class adaptation"
The narrator has really brought to life the cast of characters in the novel and even manages to play the few women with some real feeling - quite a task in my opinion and having listened to a far less successful Tess of the D'urbervilles in the same series. The book is really a study in character of the Mayor, a bitter and lifelong misanthrope that manages to poison all good in his life. In spite of the heavy moral load that we are expected to shoulder the story and descriptions are leavened with enough wit, acute observation and commentary on the life of the country people in Dorset to make it well worth the listen. I would recommend it.
"One of my favourite books, beautifully read."
My first book.
Henchard. Watching a man on his path of self-destruction.
I didn't enjoy any scene. How can you enjoy such a sad story. A follow-up has got to be The Woodlanders with its appalling last paragraph.
Thomas Hardy has been a life-long favourite author. This reading not only does the book justice, but it adds a new dimension. Are all the readings as good as this one ?
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