16. The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy (1886)

Where do I begin with Hardy? And how can I possibly make a serious decision about what position this comes in the chart? I love every single thing Hardy ever wrote, even Jude the Obscure, which is without doubt the most depressing book of all time. I think The Mayor of Casterbridge is the masterpiece, because it just seems to be the most wide-ranging of all the novels – in a way, the most Dickensian, with a large cast and a broad social spectrum. There are few characters in literature as compelling as Michael Henchard, and his relationships with the women in his life are at the core of the story. Tragedy broods over the book from the first drunken disaster all through Henchard’s rise and fall, and his nemesis, the slippery Donald Farfrae, is a compelling rural Iago. There – literary enough for you?

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Filed under My top 100 novels

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