Reading Roundup: Bealeton Book Club Reads The Mayor of Casterbridge
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy was the Bealeton Book Club’s classic title pick this year.
Michael Henchard is out of work and gets drunk at a local fair. He sells his wife, Susan and baby daughter, Elizabeth Jane to a sailor for five guineas. He guiltily vows not to drink for 21 years. Years later his wife comes to Casterbridge, where he is wealthy and respected and has the position of mayor. Henchard makes various attempts to atone for his sins but he continues to make impulsive and bad decisions both in work and relationships. His will and final decree is especially poignant:
“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
Some members of the Bealeton Book Club read this novel, which was published in 1886. The prose can be difficult to understand, especially Hardy’s use of colloquial and cultural terms. Some members were disenchanted by its dark and gloomy storyline, while others enjoyed discussing the moral dilemmas presented by the story. Thomas Hardy’s works are definitely not light reading. He calls Michael Henchard a “man of character” but it is difficult to like his character for the majority of the book. Michael Henchard eventually finds a small bit of redemption, but only after much rejection, heartache, and loss.
Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
The Mayor Casterbridge (DVD) – this 2003 adaptation, starring Ciarán Hinds, is excellent, true to the book, and easier to understand.
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Tess of the Durbervilles by Thomas Hardy
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
The Bealeton Book Clubs meet once per month. If you would like to join us, please check our schedule for dates, times, and reading selections.
Bealeton Evening Book Club, Monday, 7:30 p.m.
Bealeton Afternoon Book Club, Thursday 2:30 p.m.
Mary Sue, Adult Reference, Bealeton branch library