The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Mayor of Casterbridge

by Thomas Defendant Hardy

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The Mayor of Casterbridge

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781847022356
Publisher: Pbshop.Co.UK Ltd DBA Echo Library
Publication date: 04/28/2006
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 652
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.44(d)

About the Author

Thomas Hardy, OM (2 June 1840 - 11 January 1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism, especially William Wordsworth. Charles Dickens was another important influence. Like Dickens, he was highly critical of much in Victorian society, though Hardy focused more on a declining rural society.

While Hardy wrote poetry throughout his life and regarded himself primarily as a poet, his first collection was not published until 1898. Initially, therefore, he gained fame as the author of novels, including Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895). However, beginning in the 1950s Hardy has been recognised as a major poet; he had a significant influence on the Movement poets of the 1950s and 1960s, including Philip Larkin.

Most of his fictional works - initially published as serials in magazines - were set in the semi-fictional region of Wessex. They explored tragic characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances. Hardy's Wessex is based on the medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom and eventually came to include the counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Hampshire and much of Berkshire, in southwest and south central England.
Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 in Higher Bockhampton (Upper Bockhampton in his day), a hamlet in the parish of Stinsford to the east of Dorchester in Dorset, England, where his father Thomas (died 1892) worked as a stonemason and local builder. His mother Jemima (died 1904) was well-read, and she educated Thomas until he went to his first school at Bockhampton at age eight. For several years he attended Mr. Last's Academy for Young Gentlemen in Dorchester. Here he learned Latin and demonstrated academic potential. Because Hardy's family lacked the means for a university education, his formal education ended at the age of sixteen, when he became apprenticed to James Hicks, a local architect. Hardy trained as an architect in Dorchester before moving to London in 1862; there he enrolled as a student at King's College London. He won prizes from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Architectural Association. Hardy was in charge of the excavation of the graveyard of St Pancras Old Church prior to its destruction when the Midland Railway was extended to a new terminus at St Pancras.

Read an Excerpt


One evening of late summer, before the nineteenth century had reached one-third of its span, a young man and woman, the latter carrying a child, were approaching the large village of Weydon-Priors, in Upper Wessex, on foot. They were plainly but not ill clad, though the thick hoar of dust which had accumulated on their shoes and garments from an obviously long journey lent a disadvantageous shabbiness to their appearance just now.

The man was of fine figure, swarthy, and stern in aspect; and he showed in profile a facial angle so slightly inclined as to be almost perpendicular. He wore a short jacket of brown corduroy, newer than the remainder of his suit, which was a fustian waistcoat with white horn buttons, breeches of the same, tanned leggings, and a straw hat overlaid with black glazed canvas. At his back he carried by a looped strap a rush basket, from which protruded at one end the crutch of a hay-knife, a wimble for hay-bonds being also visible in the aperture. His measured, springless walk was the walk of the skilled countryman as distinct from the desultory shamble of the general labourer; while in the turn and plant of each foot there was, further, a dogged and cynical indifference personal to himself, showing its presence even in the regularly interchanging fustian folds, now in the left leg, now in the right, as he paced along.

What was really peculiar, however, in this couple’s progress, and would have attracted the attention of any casual observer otherwise disposed to overlook them, was the perfect silence they preserved. They walked side by side in such a way as to suggest afar off the low, easy, confidential chat of people full of reciprocity; but on closer view it could be discerned that the man was reading, or pretending to read, a ballad sheet which he kept before his eyes with some difficulty by the hand that was passed through the basket strap. Whether this apparent cause were the real cause, or whether it were an assumed one to escape an intercourse that would have been irksome to him, nobody but himself could have said precisely; but his taciturnity was unbroken, and the woman enjoyed no society whatever from his presence. Virtually she walked the highway alone, save for the child she bore. Sometimes the man’s bent elbow almost touched her shoulder, for she kept as close to his side as was possible without actual contact; but she seemed to have no idea of taking his arm, nor he of offering it; and far from exhibiting surprise at his ignoring silence she appeared to receive it as a natural thing. If any word at all were uttered by the little group, it was an occasional whisper of the woman to the child—a tiny girl in short clothes and blue boots of knitted yarn—and the murmured babble of the child in reply.

The chief—almost the only—attraction of the young woman’s face was its mobility. When she looked down sideways to the girl she became pretty, and even handsome, particularly that in the action her features caught slantwise the rays of the strongly coloured sun, which made transparencies of her eyelids and nostrils and set fire on her lips. When she plodded on in the shade of the hedge, silently thinking, she had the hard, half-apathetic expression of one who deems anything possible at the hands of Time and Chance except, perhaps, fair play. The first phase was the work of Nature, the second probably of civilization.

That the man and woman were husband and wife, and the parents of the girl in arms, there could be little doubt. No other than such relationship would have accounted for the atmosphere of stale familiarity which the trio carried along with them like a nimbus as they moved down the road.

The wife mostly kept her eyes fixed ahead, though with little interest—the scene for that matter being one that might have been matched at almost any spot in any county in England at this time of the year; a road neither straight nor crooked, neither level nor hilly, bordered by hedges, trees, and other vegetation, which had entered the blackened-green stage of colour that the doomed leaves pass through on their way to dingy, and yellow, and red. The grassy margin of the bank, and the nearest hedgerow boughs, were powdered by the dust that had been stirred over them by hasty vehicles, the same dust as it lay on the road deadening their footfalls like a carpet; and this, with the aforesaid total absence of conversation, allowed every extraneous sound to be heard.

For a long time there was none, beyond the voice of a weak bird singing a trite old evening song that might doubtless have been heard on the hill at the same hour, and with the self-same trills, quavers, and breves, at any sunset of that season for centuries untold. But as they approached the village sundry distant shouts and rattles reached their ears from some elevated spot in that direction, as yet screened from view by foliage. When the outlying houses of Weydon-Priors could just be descried, the family group was met by a turnip-hoer with his hoe on his shoulder, and his dinner-bag suspended from it. The reader promptly glanced up.

“Any trade doing here?” he asked phlegmatically, designating the village in his van by a wave of the broadsheet. And thinking the labourer did not understand him, he added, “Anything in the hay-trussing5 line?”

The turnip-hoer had already begun shaking his head. “Why, save the man, what wisdom’s in him that ’a should come to Weydon for a job of that sort this time o’ year?”

“Then is there any house to let—a little small new cottage just a builded, or such like?” asked the other.

The pessimist still maintained a negative. “Pulling down is more the nater of Weydon. There were five houses cleared away last year, and three this; and the volk nowhere to go—no, not so much as a thatched hurdle that’s the way o’ Weydon-Priors.”

The hay-trusser, which he obviously was, nodded with some superciliousness. Looking towards the village, he continued, “There is something going on here, however, is there not?”

“Ay. ’Tis Fair Day. Though what you hear now is little more than the clatter and scurry of getting away the money o’ children and fools, for the real business is done earlier than this. I’ve been working within sound o’t all day, but I didn’t go up—not I. ’Twas no business of mine.” The trusser and his family proceeded on their way, and soon entered the Fair-field, which showed standing-places and pens where many hundreds of horses and sheep had been exhibited and sold in the forenoon, but were now in great part taken away. At present, as their informant had observed, but little real business remained on hand, the chief being the sale by auction of a few inferior animals, that could not otherwise be disposed of, and had been absolutely refused by the better class of traders, who came and went early. Yet the crowd was denser now than during the morning hours, the frivolous contingent of visitors, including journeymen out for a holiday, a stray soldier or two come on furlough, village shopkeepers, and the like, having latterly flocked in; persons whose activities found a congenial field among the peep-shows, toy-stands, waxworks, inspired monsters, disinterested medical men who travelled for the public good, thimble-riggers,nick-nack vendors, and readers of Fate.

Neither of our pedestrians had much heart for these things, and they looked around for a refreshment tent among the many which dotted the down. Two, which stood nearest to them in the ochreous haze of expiring sunlight, seemed almost equally inviting. One was formed of new, milk-hued canvas, and bore red flags on its summit; it announced “Good Home-brewed Beer, Ale, and Cyder.” The other was less new; a little iron stove-pipe came out of it at the back, and in front appeared the placard, “Good Furmity Sold Hear.” The man mentally weighed the two inscriptions, and inclined to the former tent.

“No—no—the other one,” said the woman. “I always like furmity; and so does Elizabeth-Jane; and so will you. It is nourishing after a long hard day.”

“I’ve never tasted it,” said the man. However, he gave way to her representations, and they entered the furmity booth forthwith.

A rather numerous company appeared within, seated at the long narrow tables that ran down the tent on each side. At the upper end stood a stove, containing a charcoal fire, over which hung a large three-legged crock, sufficiently polished round the rim to show that it was made of bell-metal.A haggish creature of about fifty presided, in a white apron, which, as it threw an air of respectability over her as far as it extended, was made so wide as to reach nearly round her waist. She slowly stirred the contents of the pot. The dull scrape of her large spoon was audible throughout the tent as she thus kept from burning the mixture of corn in the grain, flour, milk, raisins, currants, and what not, that composed the antiquated slop in which she dealt. Vessels holding the separate ingredients stood on a white-clothed table of boards and trestles close by.

The young man and woman ordered a basin each of the mixture, steaming hot, and sat down to consume it at leisure. This was very well so far, for furmity, as the woman had said, was nourishing, and as proper a food as could be obtained within the four seas; though, to those not accustomed to it, the grains of wheat swollen as large as lemon-pips, which floated on its surface, might have a deterrent effect at first.

But there was more in that tent than met the cursory glance; and the man, with the instinct of a perverse character, scented it quickly. After a mincing attack on his bowl, he watched the hag’s proceedings from the corner of his eye, and saw the game she played. He winked to her, and passed up his basin in reply to her nod; when she took a bottle from under the table, slily measured out a quantity of its contents, and tipped the same into the man’s furmity. The liquor poured in was rum. The man as slily sent back money in payment.

He found the concoction, thus strongly laced, much more to his satisfaction than it had been in its natural state. His wife had observed the proceeding with much uneasiness; but he persuaded her to have hers laced also, and she agreed to a milder allowance after some misgiving.

The man finished his basin, and called for another, the rum being signalled for in yet stronger proportion. The effect of it was soon apparent in his manner, and his wife but too sadly perceived that in strenuously steering off the rocks of the licensed liquor-tent she had only got into maelstrom depths here amongst the smugglers.

The child began to prattle impatiently, and the wife more than once said to her husband, “Michael, how about our lodging? You know we may have trouble in getting it if we don’t go soon.”

But he turned a deaf ear to those bird-like chirpings. He talked loud to the company. The child’s black eyes, after slow, round, ruminating gazes at the candles when they were lighted, fell together; then they opened, then shut again, and she slept.

At the end of the first basin the man had risen to serenity; at the second he was jovial; at the third, argumentative; at the fourth, the qualities signified by the shape of his face, the occasional clench of his mouth, and the fiery spark of his dark eye, began to tell in his conduct; he was overbearing—even brilliantly quarrelsome.

The conversation took a high turn, as it often does on such occasions. The ruin of good men by bad wives, and, more particularly, the frustration of many a promising youth’s high aims and hopes and the extinction of his energies by an early imprudent marriage, was the theme.

“I did for myself that way thoroughly,” said the trusser, with a contemplative bitterness that was well-nigh resentful. “I married at eighteen, like the fool that I was; and this is the consequence o’t.” He pointed at himself and family with a wave of the hand intended to bring out the penuriousness of the exhibition.

The young woman his wife, who seemed accustomed to such remarks, acted as if she did not hear them, and continued her intermittent private words on tender trifles to the sleeping and waking child, who was just big enough to be placed for a moment on the bench beside her when she wished to ease her arms. The man continued—

“I haven’t more than fifteen shillings in the world, and yet I am a good experienced hand in my line. I’d challenge England to beat me in the fodder business; and if I were a free man again I’d be worth a thousand pound before I’d done o’t. But a fellow never knows these little things till all chance of acting upon ’em is past.”

Table of Contents

Thomas Hardy: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text
The Life and Death of the Mayor of Castlebridge: A Story of a Man of Character
Appendix A: Dialect Words and Expressions
Appendix B: Place-Names
Appendix C: Wife-Selling
Appendix D: The Corn Laws
Appendix E: Prince Albert in Dorchester
Appendix F: Maumbury Ring and Execution of Mary Channing
Appendix G: The Skimmington Ride
Appendix H: Henchard’s Bankruptcy
Appendix I: The First Book of Samuel
Appendix J: Hardy’s "General Preface"
Appendix K: Contemporary Reviews
Works Cited and Recommended Reading

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Mayor of Casterbridge 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As soon as I saw the movie was an adeptation of Thomas Hardy's book "The Mayor of Casterbridge" I put a tape in my VCR and watched it and taped it at the same time because after having read so many of Thomas Hardy's books I knew it would be great. I've watched it again and again and invited my daughter to watch it. He was an exceptional writer for that period and I enjoy his books and I wish that they would do more of his work. I may have seen "Tess" a few years ago. I wish it would come out again. Maybe "The Movie Channel" will do it if its doable. Great movie and great books! "The Claim"
mermind on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the second novel of Hardy's I have read this year. It is not as romantic as Far from the Madding Crowd, but it was an enjoyable read. Hardy has a reputation as somber, but although this is a novel of tragedy, a great man overcome by his own flaws, particularly pride, it was an exhilarating read. I loved Hardy as a poet before I appreciated his novels. His signature use of language combines the romantic, Victorian and modern in a way that is surprising and engaging. He has a sense of humor. His characters are types, but complex types, with contradictions that create a winding plot. The plot is not surprising. I would have to use the word "adumbration" multiple times in detailing the story's development. The romantic use of the fictional Wessex with its Roman ruins and its remnants of Druidic traditions holds huge appeal for me. The scale of the novel is not epic, it is intimate and compassionate.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the nearest I've read to a page-turner by Hardy. It's a highly dramatic situation *POSSIBLE SPOILER* (man sells wife, basically), and Hardy cleverly turns the situation around a few times, pulling the rug out from under the reader. Incidentally, there's a paragraph in this book containing the names of not one but two characters from Harry Potter. Spooky!
supersam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
all about the importance of your name. very true in todays world.
janoorani24 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of Michael Henchard¿s life in rural England at the start of the 19th century. Casterbridge was Hardy¿s ninth novel, and shows the maturity of a seasoned novelist. Hardy trained to be an architect, and became a novelist gradually through self-education; he didn¿t become published until he was in his 30s.Casterbridge opens with a scene at an agricultural fair where Michael Henchard, his wife, Susan and baby daughter have stopped to rest while on a journey to find work. Henchard is a farm laborer and the family is very poor. In a fit of impulsive anger and drunkenness, Henchard sells his wife to a passing sailor. Wife-selling was a method among the poor of getting a divorce in rural England, but had become very uncommon by the early 19th century, and had actually been declared illegal as a means of divorce in the 18th century. Henchard¿s wife was uneducated and so believed that the sale was binding. When Henchard came to his senses the next day, he tried unsuccessfully to find the sailor and his wife. By Chapter Three, about 18 years have passed and Henchard is a successful corn merchant and Mayor of the town of Casterbridge. Susan and her daughter, Elizabeth-Jane are destitute; the sailor being thought lost at sea, and come to Casterbridge to seek out Henchard. Michael Henchard is a passionate, impulsive man. He loves intensely, but is quick to anger, and this leads to many problems in his life. Early on in the story, he develops strong and instant liking for a younger man, Farfrae, and hires him to be the manager of his business. Unfortunately this means the manager he had hired by letter, and who arrives a day later is turned aside, which has serious consequences later in the story. This is the same day that he discovers Susan and Elizabeth-Jane have come to Casterbridge to find him. Henchard stages a marriage with Susan so the townsfolk won¿t know that she is actually his wife, and to protect Susan and Elizabeth-Jane¿s reputations. Again, this leads to the unfortunate recanting of another marriage proposal Henchard had made to a woman on the isle of Jersey whom he had compromised in an affair before the return of Susan. This woman, Lucetta, arrives in Casterbridge after Susan¿s death and falls in love with Farfrae, who had been paying court to Elizabeth-Jane. Subsequent tragedy ensues for all concerned.Henchard¿s passions and impulsive anger lead him to make many mistakes, both in his business dealings and his personal affairs. All of these mistakes bring him low in life, and he loses his business, his house and all those he loved. Hardy¿s telling of the story is beautifully done, with great poetry of language and use of scenic descriptions. He uses a lot of allusions to classical characters, and historic events that went over my head, but probably made sense to readers of his time. The edition I read was an Everyman¿s Library edition, and contained no footnotes to help with these obscure references and with the language of the time. I read an annotated edition of Far From the Madding Crowd a couple of years ago, and wish I had had the same type of edition for this book. Even so, I greatly enjoyed the book and give it four stars.
charlie68 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Generally a good read, I love short chapters, I'm not a big fan of this edition however. I find notes irritating, even if they provide useful information, and terrible if they dont. But they novel itself flows along quite easily and the reader never feels tired.
gbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Largely forgettable.Except these quotes:On thinking deep thoughts in the middle of the night:¿The latter sat up with her mother to the utmost of her strength, night after night. To learn to take the universe seriously there is no quicker way than to watch ¿ to be a `waker,¿ as the country people call it. Between the hours at which the last toss-pot went by and the first sparrow shook himself the silence in Casterbridge ¿ barring the rare sound of the watchman ¿ was broken in Elizabeth¿s ear only by the time piece in the bedroom ticking frantically against the clock on the stairs; ticking harder and harder till it seemed to clang like a gong; and all this while the subtle-souled girl asking herself why she was born, why sitting in a room, and blinking at the candle; why things around her had taken the shape they wore in preference to every other possible shape; why they stared at her so helplessly, as if waiting for the touch of some wand that should release them from terrestrial constraint; what that chaos called consciousness, which spun in her at this moment like a top, tended to, and began in. Her eyes fell together; she was awake, yet she was asleep.¿On purity:¿So much for man¿s rivalry, he thought. Death was to have the oyster, and Farfrae and himself the shells. But about Elizabeth-Jane: in the midst of his gloom she seemed to him as a pin-point of light. He had liked the look of her face as she answered him from the stairs. There had been affection in it, and above all things what he desired now was affection from anything that was good and pure. She was not his own; yet for the first time he had a faint dream that he might get to like her as his own ¿ if she would only continue to love him.¿
dalmatica on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A young man, his wife, and their baby daughter stop in at a country fair after travelling through the English countryside searching for work. In a fit of alcoholic rage, the man sells auctions off his wife and daughter to a sailor passing through for a few coins. When he sobers up the next day and realizes what he's done, he searches the nearby towns trying to find them and undo his actions. He fails to find them and vows to give up alcohol. Years later, he's become a succesful businessman and mayor of Casterbridge. When his wife and grown daughter suddenly reappear, his life takes an unexpected turn. Success turns to failure, lives intertwine not always for the better, and everything he's worked so hard for look as though it will crumble before his eyes.Hardy masterfully weaves a fantastic tale filled with the consequences of secrets and lies, the excesses of alcohol, and the power of love and redemption. I had tried to read this a few years ago but wasn't in the right frame of mind. This time around, however, I was hooked from the opening scene. I found The Mayor of Casterbridge to be a powerful story that had me eagerly looking forward to each spare moment I could spend reading a few pages or even a paragraph of two. I highly recommend picking up a copy and reading it yourself.
markfinl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Thomas Hardy is the anti-Jane Austen. Where her novels end in marriage, his novels usually end gloomily. The Mayor of Casterbridge is no exception. It reminds me of a Greek drama, where the main character is doomed from the start because of hubris. The locals of Casterbridge function as a Greek chorus as well, commenting on the action of the main players. I didn't find this quite as affecting as his other works because there are just too many plot contrivances. Characters appear and disappear, are dead then alive. For a novel so grounded in the realities of early 19th Century English rural life, the plot twists felt out of place.
MsNikki on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great book. Hardy is a master at capturing emotion, and doesn't shy away from showing complex human behaviours. This story got me all riled up. I had favourite characters, I hated the things that happened to some of them, I felt involved in the story.I do think Hardy was more sympathetic to his male characters. The women in this novel were treated poorly, and generally not well thought of. They met the worst fate, surprising since the protagonist was the real villain.
fingerpost on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In a prologue like first chapter, a drunken Michael Henchard sells his wife and daughter to the highest bidder, and the woman and girl go off with a traveling sailor. The rest of the book takes place many years later. Henchard has managed to rise to be a wealthy and prominent citizen of Casterbridge, and is the Mayor. Then his long gone wife and daughter return unexpectedly. Also involved are a briliant and charming young Scotsman and a woman from a nearby town that Henchard took advantage of for his pleasure. The story is sad on many levels, with all characters getting their turn to share in the misery.
technobrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
How could you not get involved with a novel that begins with a man in a drunken stupor selling his wife at a fair?
reading_fox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of Hardy's more famous books, detailing the rise and fall of one Michael Henchard, and various persons related to him. The story starts in the 1800s with Michael and his young wife and child entering the fair at Wheldon-Priors just outside Castorbridge (real life Dorchester). Michael is a journeyman hay trusser looking for work. He is quick tempered, bold, loud voiced and of rash but sudden judgement who bears a grudge long - an unsubtle man. The book is subtitled "The story of a man of Character".The story then jumps 19 yrs until Michael is inexplicably Mayor of Castorbridge. No reasons are given for how this came to be. However it is clear that his rash judgement has recently involved him in a purchase of bad wheat, causing much resentment. A passing Scotsman, one Donald Farfrae has another inexplicable cure for this, and Michael persuedes him to stay on as his business manager. Donald is everything that Michael is not, cool headed, quietly spoken, prepared to take advice and consider positions carefully. Although the story focuses on Michael it is no surprise that in all respects Donald, without meaning to, surpasses him in every way - each time it is carefully pointed out the faults of Michael's character that allow this to happen. The ending is not entirely unexpected, but tragically sad nethertheless. Michael's 'Will' being one of the more often quoted pieces of Hardy's work. The other chief character is that of the young daughter from the opening chapter Elizabeth Jane. Timid and meek, as is perhaps true of most well bred girls at that time, she plays little part other than to be a source of affection for the various men thourghout the book. The story is told in a dense prose that is however clearly intelligible. My edition had some 300 odd notes on the meanings of more obscure words that Hardy picks - many of which have fallen out of use as agricultural practise has changed. The meaning of many is obvious from context but the notes are sometimes helpful. Well written, if a little slow at times. Hardy took some liberties with the geography but is more or less based on the actual countryside and similar events of 18c England.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thomas Hardy was a great writer if for no other reason than his ability to show people at their best and worst in a manner that can make one cringe qt what people will do or say not only by their lips, but in their hearts. Great Book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was such a great book. And he is such a great writer. I really like the description. I loved it. It is wonderfully done.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bad Scan Like so many of the free books available for the Nook, this book is very poorly scanned. Pagination and printing is off. I love Thomas Hardy ¿ but this is not the way to read him. It is not worth the trouble, and I am deleting it. I guess you really do get what you pay for¿
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
with many typo's and odd characters randomly appearing within text. You get what you pay for. I'm going to delete this version and pay for one I hope has been typed more carefully.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I choose to read this book for an English project and was grateful I did. The author has your attention from the first 5 pages when the main character gets drunk and sells his wife at a fair.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thomas Hardy completely came out of nowhere and shocked me with this novel. It had been on my shelf for about half a year and this summer I read it. It only took about 4 days, and it was absolutely breathtaking. The contrast between the major characters, and the descriptions of the panoramic views were the perfect 1, 2 combo.