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Publisher's Summary

Exclusively from Audible

This audiobook is about the rise and fall of Michael Henchard. While out-of-work he gets drunk at a fair and impulsively sells his wife and baby for five guineas to a sailor. Eighteen years later he is reunited with his wife and daughter, who discover that he has gained wealth and respect and is now the most prominent man in Casterbridge. Though he attempts to make amends he is no less impulsive and once again loses everything due to bad luck and his violent, selfish and vengeful nature.

In this dramatic audiobook, Hardy sympathetically portrays a deeply flawed tragic hero, searching for love and acceptance from his community. It poses the question: do we shape our own fate or is the outcome inevitable? This tragic tale is played out against the vivid backdrop of a close-knit Dorsetshire town.

Thomas Hardy was an English writer and one of the most significant novelists and poets of the 19th and early 20th centuries. He was greatly influenced by Charles Dickens and William Wordsworth.

Narrator Biography

In 1952, Tony Britton came to major attention after his role as Rameses in The Firstborn at London's Winter Garden Theatre. A renowned classical stage star, he has also appeared in numerous British films since the 1950s; most notably Operation Amsterdam (1959), Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) and The Day of the Jackal (1973). In 1975, he won the Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Nearly Man. From 1983-1990, he starred in the long running BBC sitcom Don't Wait Up alongside Nigel Havers and Dinah Sheridan. In 2013 he performed in a Gala Performance of King Lear at the Old Vic, London. Over the years Tony has lent his soothing voice to a huge collection of audio productions including Daphne du Maurier's Jamaica Inn and Anthony Trollope's An Old Man's Love.

Public Domain (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall

Tangled Webs

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.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Kenneth
  • Cary, NC, United States
  • 11-21-11

One of my Favorites

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.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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powerful novel of pre-idustrial age england

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Great reading

A beautiful narration of a great book. Thoroughly enjoyable. I had forgotten so much since my first reading.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent narration of a beautiful novel

Although not my favourite Hardy novel, I was still as entranced as always by his prose and plot line. This particular narration is fantastic, dramatic and very well executed, as Tony Britton brought considerable life and liveliness to all the characters. I highly recommend this audiobook!

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  • Performance
  • Story

Lots of fun twists in this book

If you could sum up The Mayor of Casterbridge in three words, what would they be?

Fate, tragic, pre-modern

Who was your favorite character and why?

I actually disliked most of the characters. They are all a bit annoying, but that draws me to them and creates their personality.

Which character – as performed by Tony Britton – was your favorite?

The Scotsman Donald

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The "modern" aspects of the book about "perspective" and how it shifts

Any additional comments?

This reader is top notch. If you like Hardy's books, because they are about chance/fate/providence, this will interest you--as long as you are ready for tragedy.

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Happiness..occasional..in a general drama of pain


"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

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  • Performance
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Great story, not the greatest reading

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.

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  • Overall
  • Richard
  • 09-02-11

Excellent reading

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Judy
  • 10-28-09

Highly recommended

Outstanding narration, particularly the characterisation of Henchard and Farfray - rivetting.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Alison
  • 06-18-11

Excellently read!

Tony Britten has an amazing range of voices for all the different characters. This book is excellently read and compelling listening.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • TB
  • 05-26-16

Top stuff

You can't help getting drawn into the tangle of Michael Henchard's precarious existence, great yarn

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Much Read Photographer
  • 05-20-16

Excellent narration of a classic

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes definitely.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Mayor of Casterbridge?

When the wife is sold off.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, it was difficult to stop listening as it was such a wonderful tale.

Any additional comments?

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Liz
  • 08-24-15

Compelling, Cruel, But Ultimately Redemptive?

What made the experience of listening to The Mayor of Casterbridge the most enjoyable?

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.

What did you like best about this story?

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.

Which character – as performed by Tony Britten – was your favourite?

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.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Beware of what you want, you may get it ...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mrs. S. E. Binns
  • 05-12-15

The Mayor of Casterbridge

What did you like most about The Mayor of Casterbridge?

Thomas Hardy is a Master Story teller

Who was your favorite character and why?

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

Which character – as performed by Tony Britten – was your favourite?

As above

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Welsh Mafia
  • 07-18-09

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • HOWIE
  • 09-14-17

Another favorite

Another brilliant tale by hardy who never disappoints and read so well by tony briton

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  • Sceptic
  • 08-10-16

First class adaptation

What did you like most about The Mayor of Casterbridge?

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.

Which character – as performed by Tony Britton – was your favourite?

Excellent performance.