" 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."
It is Fair Day and Michael Henchard , his wife Susan and daughter Elizabeth-Jane stop to rest. Michael soon falls under the powerful influence of rum furmity and becoming increasingly loud and aggressive he eventually sells his wife and daughter to a sailor. The next morning he is filled with remorse, swears not to drink for twenty-one years, and after unsuccessfully trying to find his family proceeds on his way.
Eighteen years later Susan and Elizabeth-Jane travel the same road seeking Michael and on reaching the town of Casterbridge are amazed to find that the one-time hay trusser has become a wealthy grain merchant and mayor of the town. Seeking to make amends Michael 'marries' Susan although he has to let down another lady to do so.
Despite his outward success Michael Henchard is still a man ruled by emotions he has difficulty in expressing which leads to impetuous actions and outbursts of temper. He welcomes the young, progressive Scotsman, Forfrae, into his business as a means to help him recover from a bad financial situation but later rashly confides in him about his personal past, a decision he will regret as the relationship deteriorates. His character is flawed but very human and even though his behaviour is dreadful at times it's hard not to sympathise with him because ultimately he is destroying himself.
I do love Thomas Hardy's rural settings and pastoral passages but this one set in a small market town is a bit different and I enjoyed
reading the descriptions of the town, the Roman ruins it was built on and the community who lived there.
The Mayor of Casterbridge has all the drama and tragedy one expects from Thomas Hardy - I loved it!