One of the great novelists of British literature, Thomas Hardy caused quite a stir when this powerful novel was first published. Michael Henchard, down on his luck and drunk, sells his wife and child to a sailor for five guineas. As time goes by, Henchard becomes Mayor of Casterbridge—but he cannot escape the tragedy of his past.
Public Domain (P)2003 Recorded Books, LLC
Have re-discovered "quality time." Evenings listening to good books have replaced mindless tv watching. What a difference!
Thomas Hardy considered himself primarily to be a poet. Which is partly why his novels are so beautiful to read. Another reason is because he had the gift of writing stories that depicted the deepest desires and struggles of people pitted against nature, society and their own inner conflicts. Told with Victorian pathos, showing some of the changing times as England moves into the industrialized era, they also reflect the Greek notions of fate and destiny.
Michael Henchard is undoubtedly one of Hardy's most complex characters. He is a man who is deeply flawed, but who is always willing to accept the consequences of his actions (indeed, it might even be thought that he has a self-destructive personality, so creates his own opportunities for suffering). It is this quality about him that defines a life in which he is often guided by his passions, and does things that lead him to live with enormous guilt and remorse. Beginning with selling his wife and daughter while in a drunken state, the book picks up many years later, as he has made a respectful position for himself in Casterbridge. We see him showing hints of his ultimate downfall as the townspeople are upset with the quality of wheat he has sold them. His wife Susan and her daughter Elizabeth-Jane have found him, and considering how to make contact with him. The daughter has no idea who he is. The remainder of the book depicts the emotional events that ensue as Henchard comes to terms with his own actions. He struggles to do what is right, but his own nature leads him often to actions that defeat him instead.
This is one of my admired authors and definitely one of my all-time most favorite books. It is for this reason that I would have wished for the narration to have been a little better. However, with only that caveat, I highly recommend this book (indeed, anything written by Thomas Hardy)!
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