52 in 52 Week 13: The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

Cover image for The Mayor of CasterbridgeThis novel is subtitled, "A Story of a Man of Character." I wanted to read this after hearing a lecture about "Scene and Summary" by Timothy Spurgin in The Teaching Company's Art of Reading course.  He explains that summary is used to activate our senses, and Hardy is a master at doing that.


First off, I became a Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) fan when I read The Return of the Native. My book club, overall, disliked it which really surprised me.  He writes beautifully, but his stories aren't always all pretty and tied up in a bow of a happy ending.  His genre is naturalism. It is also a "bildungsroman" novel meaning it charts the protagonist's moral and psychological development. In this case the protagonist is Michael Henchard. The opening summary and scene had me hooked from page one. 








The novel was written from 1885-1186 and published in serial form in both England and America. 
Hardy was also a poet, and you see it come out in his prose.  The Book of Great Books says:
Rich, dense, formal prose describes characters and settings (both natural and social) in detail; gives a sense of nature's majesty and power: "The sun had recently set, and the west heaven was hung with rosy cloud, which seemed permanent, yet slowly changed." 
I distinctly remember feeling this way when I read The Return of the Native. His description of the heath made me feel like I was right there. I felt like I was in Casterbridge also.


I found the protagonist extremely sympathetic and found myself rooting for him, despite his imperfections!
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