I'm trying to keep some semblance of normalcy in my life, and blogging about books is one of those things that has been part of my life for over ten years now, so onward.
I finally got around to reading The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy. It was on my Back to the Classics list for last year and the one book I didn't read in the challenge. Thankfully, the Goodread group The Victorians read it in March, which was incentive enough for me to dive in.
Interestingly, I really liked the book, and didn't find it as heartrending as I expected. The main character, Michael Henchard, was not sympathetic enough for me to feel much real angst at his spiral into tragedy. When it comes to tragic flaws, his is clearly being impulsive, acting before thinking and then regretting his actions almost immediately afterwards. And, you cannot simply blame his plight on drunkenness. Even when cold sober, he is foolishly rash.
Near the end of the book, it struck me that the story was really that of two mayors of Casterbridge, and as I read on it fell into place that this was basically an archetypal story, that of the new young king challenging and defeating the old king. A tale as old as time, as old as Oedipus.
Donald Farfrae is, of course, the young king, who is young, buoyant, handsome, clever, and at first Michael embraces him as a son. But then the prince outstrips the king, and the people clamor for him, and he steals the old king's woman. Michael is so threatened by Donald that he fights him, and then slinks away to the woods to die.
It is beautifully written--you can tell that Hardy saw that his true calling was to be a poet. I love his turn of phrase, the symmetry of his storytelling.
Here is one of my favorite little passages, when Michael seeks out a soothsayer to predict the weather:
“By the sun, moon, and stars, by the clouds, the winds, the trees, and grass, the candle-flame and swallows, the smell of the herbs; likewise by the cats' eyes, the ravens, the leeches, the spiders, and the dungmixen, the last fortnight in August will be—rain and tempest."
I'm not quite sure why I dreaded reading this so much. Despite the tragedy of the story, I enjoyed it immensely. It gave me much to think about, and the writing really is first rate.
For the Back to the Classics Challenge - 2020, this is for the category Classic with a Place in the Title.
And, drum roll please, this completes the 50-book Classics Challenge that I started back in 2013. I didn't complete the challenge in 5 years, but that's life! I'm not sure I want to sign up for another 50 new classics. Right now I feel the urge to reread classics I love or read so long ago they'll be like new.
Stay safe and healthy, all my book-loving friends.
Stay calm, and read on.