Set against the backdrop of peaceful south-west England, where Thomas Hardy spent much of his youth, The Mayor of Casterbridge captures the author's unique genius for depicting the absurdity underlying much of the sorrow and humor in our lives.
In the stunning opening chapter of The Mayor of Casterbridge, a drunken hay-trusser, Michael Henchard, sells his wife and daughter for five guineas to a sailor. The book follows Henchard who, overcome by guilt after the sale of his wife, swears he will not have another drink of alcohol for twenty years. By hard work, he becomes a wealthy dealer in corn and hay, and eventually the mayor of Casterbridge. But after eighteen years, his wife and child Elizabeth-Jane return and, from this point on, his fortunes decline, in part through bad luck and in part through his own obstinate nature. In the end, his rival Farfrae has Henchard's business, his house, Lucretta, and he even becomes mayor of Casterbridge. Henchard eventually dies in a miserable hut on Egdon Heath.
This special edition of The Mayor of Casterbridge features a splendid introduction by fiction writer Rick Moody, who calls Hardy's classic "the first great novel about alcoholism."