The Mayor of Casterbridge
Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Date: May 2011
Duration: 13 hours 7 minutes
From its astonishing opening scene in which the drunken Michael Henchard sells his wife and daughter at a country fair to the breathtaking series of discoveries at its conclusion, The Mayor of Casterbridge claims a unique place among Thomas Hardy's finest and most powerful novels.
Rooted in an actual case of wife selling in early nineteenth century England, the story builds into an awesome Sophoclean drama of guilt and revenge, in which the strong, willful Henchard rises to a position of wealth and power, only to achieve a most bitter downfall. Proud, obsessed, ultimately committed to his own destruction, Henchard is, as Albert Guerard has said, "Hardy's Lord Jim…his only tragic hero and one of the greatest tragic heroes in all fiction."
"The Mayor of Casterbridge is a story of fate. It is Henchard's awful fate to be as he is, a man who seems capable only of turning good fortune to bad. He is a man divided in his nature, so that his worst impulses — the first of which in the novel is, of course, the decision to sell his wife at a fair — rebound against himself. There are many versions available to listen to, as the text, published in 1886, is long out of copyright; I listened to the book unabridged, terrifically read by Pamela Garelick (Blackstone Audio, download from audible.co.uk, £11.69) and I was swept entirely away from my sickbed and deeply into Hardy's Wessex, into the twists and turns of this agonisingly beautiful and affecting book. Hardy's world view is infectious….I am still a little dizzy. Whether from my illness, or from Hardy's brilliance, I could hardly say."—Erica Wagner, Times (London)