30 Day Challenge: Day 30

The Mayor of Casterbridge - Thomas Hardy, P.N. Furbank, Ian Gregor



“Life is an oasis which is submerged in the swirling waves of sorrows and agonies.”


No surprises here for anyone who's read my earlier ramblings. 


My favourite book is The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy.


I first read this book when I was 14 years old and it was assigned to my English Literature class. My classmates all hated it, but I was completely blown away. So much so, that while we were only supposed to read the first three chapters for discussion the next day, I went and read the entire thing.


From the the opening scene where Henchard gets drunk and sells his wife, I was completely captivated. I knew that this act would eventually be his downfall, but I was still hoping against hope that things would turn around for him and he would be redeemed.


But this is Thomas Hardy we're talking about, which means fate and karma combine with tragic results. 


“…happiness [is] but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.”


And so Henchard goes from being a respected businessman and Mayor, to eventually dying alone and destitute after his past catches up with him and brings him down. He is abandoned by everyone who once loved him. 


I have re-read this book countless times. I still have my battered paperback copy from my schooldays (the edition attached to this post in fact). And I still cry when I get to the part where Elizabeth-Jane reads Henchard's will.


“Michael Henchard’s Will

That Elizabeth-Jane Farfrae be not told of my death, or made to grieve on account of me.
& that I be not bury’d in consecrated ground.
& that no sexton be asked to toll the bell.
& that nobody is wished to see my dead body.
& that no murners walk behind me at my funeral.
& that no flours be planted on my grave.
& that no man remember me.
To this I put my name.


Michael Henchard”  


"& that no man remember me."


That one line is just so unremittingly bleak.  I couldn't get it out of my head for weeks after I finished. It affected me then, and it still does now. 


I have many books which I classify as 'favourite', but I know that if I was banished to a desert island with only one book, this is the one I would take.