Thursday, May 13, 2010

Aimless Reading: The H's, Part 5.1 (Thomas Hardy)

Hardy, Thomas
The Mayor of Casterbridge

Not sure where I purchased this, but this is not the copy I partially read. I once owned the Penguin Classics edition of the book; however, there is a sad story behind its loss.

In March of 1997, I was in the middle of a terrible winter. My father had suddenly died in November and I felt depressed and lost most of the time. I decided to treat myself to a vacation I could not afford and I bought a ticket to Ecuador. I wanted to return to visit the center where I had worked a couple of years earlier and see some of the children I had worked with.

I was reading The Mayor of Casterbridge on the flight back -- I can remember taking off from Quito and flying up over the Andes into the clouds and feeling really sad and nostalgic. I started reading and finished maybe a hundred pages before the in-flight movie came on. It was "Grumpy Old Men," starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. I must have been feeling really sad, because I remember that I had tears streaming down my face at the end of the movie.

After the film ended, I spent the rest of the flight staring out the window. The unfortunate result was that I left my copy of the Mayor of Casterbridge on the plane. At some point I bought another copy in order to finish reading it, but I never got around to it. Alas.

from The Mayor of Casterbridge

A man and a woman carrying a little girl in her arms slowly approached the village of Weydon-Priors on foot. It was a late summer evening and the man hoped to find work in the surrounding farms. There were many villages like this in this part of southwest England and in the early part of the nineteenth century a young
man could always find work if he was prepared to look for it.

The man, Michael Henchard, was young and tall, he had a rather serious-looking face and he was very suntanned from long hours spent working in the fi elds. His wife, Susan, was also young and her face might once have been attractive, but it now had the bitter look of a woman who had been badly treated by life. Although they walked side by side and they were clearly a small family, there was no sense of closeness or fondness between them. He was reading something on a sheet of paper and he seemed almost not to notice her. She, having nothing to say to him, spoke quietly and soft ly to her little daughter.

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