Random Book Quiz Round 7: One Star Reviews of Classic Books

One of the best things about the book blogging community is the diverse range of opinions. No two reviews are the same, with bloggers all having varying pros and cons when it comes to books. And that, of course, includes the classics. Even they are not immune to some scathing (or just downright funny) one star reviews. Here I have compiled 10 1-star reviews from around the Internet; all you need to do is tell me which classic (or at least modern classic in some cases) book they are talking about.

1.  ‘You may have seen the movie ‘Troy’ with Brad Pitt as Achilles, but it is quite different than the book’.

2. ‘It was just some ramblings written down by a crazy woman, with some sex in the middle’.

3. ‘Weird plotless story whose main character has no life but to be the gateway to that of others. Everyone cheats on everyone and in the end nobody ends up happy and the audience doesn’t even end up with a moral to hold on to and justify they waste of time and money they just spent’.

4. ‘I feel so sorry for these privileged, middle-class, white teenagers’.

5. ‘Maybe this was ahead of it’s time, at it’s time. I thought classics were supposed to hold their value, but this just doesn’t. Yeah, yeah Big Brother this, Big Brother that, watch out for the thought police, do your exercises in front of the telescreens…blah blah blah’.

6. ‘A book that seems like it is going somewhere good for the first half, and then gets bogged down in Russian philosophical musings. Just when you think its out of the depressing musings and going to get on with where it was headed it has an anti-climactic resolution which should be the end. Instead of ending the book at the natural place it goes on to repeat most of the plot in a very boring court room drama which takes up at least a fourth of the book’.

7. ‘First off, there was far too much incest in the book, no one likes to hear about incest’.

8. ‘How can anybody like this book? Whoever said this is the best classic ever written must be truly brain-dead. What could be enjoyable about a book that primarily consists of a guide on:
a) how to cut grass,
b) how to hunt bear, and
c) how to abandon your own kid for a gigolo.
If I wanted all that stuff I would have read Farmers Almanac’.

9. ‘Unfortunately I had to read this book for my American Literature class. It went on and on and on about absolutely nothing!  Yes Mr Steinbeck is very descriptive, but he goes completely overboard in almost every chapter. I mean, does it really take a whole chapter to describe a turtle!’

10. ‘Medieval Borat’.

Enjoy and let me know how you do!


Answers for Round 6

1. TS Eliot (The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock)

2. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner)

3. Christina Rossetti (Goblin Market)

4. Seamus Heaney (Blackberry-Picking)

5. Sylvia Plath (Lady Lazarus)

6. Robert Browning (My Last Duchess)

7. Percy Bysshe Shelley (Ozymandias)

8. Carol Ann Duffy (Mrs Darwin)

9. Maya Angelou (Caged Bird)

10. William Shakespeare (Sonnet 18)

Monthly Round Up: May 2020

Every time I start one of these round-ups I’m baffled to have reached the end of another month. Time seems to fly by pretty quickly for me; I always think I have more of it than I do. But alas here we are coming into June; in a couple of weeks I’ll be doing my best books of the year so far which seems crazy. Also doesn’t help I’ve read a lot of good books in the last six months so the list will be difficult to curate. But before thinking of that, I have my list for May:

Books Read in May 2020

This month I seemed to have gone for rereads/ comfort reads over my Women’s Prize reading. I know books like Charlotte Grey and The Mayor of Casterbridge aren’t exactly cheery, but I do like to revisit them. There’s something quite soothing rereading a book; I can get lost in the world a bit more without analysing the novel itself. Coupled with having my birthday in May, I think I just wanted to chill with some of my favourites this month. Saying that, I haven’t completely forgotten about the Women’s Prize. I read Girl, Woman, Other – am honestly still shocked by how many people have read my review and not come at me with pitchforks for not loving it – with my review of Jenny Offill’s Weather being released on Monday. Spoiler alert: I have a lot of thoughts on that book as well.

So yes, that has been my reading in May. Perhaps a smaller amount of books in previous months but I still enjoyed myself nonetheless. Now is the time I would discuss which new films I saw this month, but due to the cinemas being shut I’ll repeat what I did in April: discuss 3 films being released in 2020 that I would like to see. It’s always good to have something to look forward to.  So here are my 3 this month:

Films to Look Out For in 2020

Rebecca (dir. Ben Wheatley)

RebeccaWhat is it about? Based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier, a young newlywed arrives at her husband Max’s family home Manderley. Whilst attempting to juggle her new role as mistress of the house, she is constantly compared and living in the shadow of Rebecca, Max’s glamourous first wife who tragically died in a boating accident. The housekeeper Mrs Danvers, in particular, seems hell bent on keeping Rebecca’s memory alive.

Why do I want to see it? Du Maurier is one of my favourite authors and Rebecca is one of my favourite books. I’ve seen many adaptations of it and am always curious when a new one is announced. Yet this one seems to be a little different. The choice of director is interesting; I don’t associated Ben Wheatley with gothic, romantic period dramas so it will be fun to see how he tackles the story. Also how this film is described is intriguing me. Both Imdb and Wiki call it a ‘thriller’; a genre I wouldn’t place Rebecca in so I wonder if there will be some deviations from the novel. And if there is, what will they be? Finally, that cast led by Lily James, Armie Hammer, and Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs Danvers makes Rebecca sound promising.


Tenet (dir. Christopher Nolan)

TenetWhat is it about? No idea. I have watched both trailers and still don’t have my head wrapped around the plot. What I’ve guessed so far is that, in order to save the world, John David Washington enters the world of spies with only one word: Tenet. Is that correct? Who knows?

Why do I want to see it? The biggest draw is Christopher Nolan himself. Whilst I find some of his work forgettable popcorn flicks, I always have a good time when I watch them. They’re really good escapist fun. I also have incredibly fond memories of the last Nolan film Dunkirk, which I saw in an almost-full cinema. The gasps, jumps, and general energy from the crowd made it a great experience, and was probably my favourite trip to the cinema in years. I’ve also been a fan of Washington’s since BlackkKlansman so can’t wait to see in a big blockbuster. Overall, with an interesting premise, a great director and lead actor, I can’t wait to check Tenet out.


Promising Young Woman (dir. Emerald Fennell)

Promising Young WomanWhat is it about? Everyone said Cassie (Carey Mulligan) was a promising young woman, until a mysterious event abruptly derailed her future. But nothing in Cassie’s life is what it appears to be: she’s wickedly smart, tantalizingly cunning, and she is living a secret double life by night. Now, an unexpected encounter is about to give Cassie a chance to right the wrongs of the past.

Why do I want to see it? Admittedly this one has already technically been shown: it premiered at Sundance in January and later in Glasgow in February 2020. But it has had such rave reviews from both festivals (plus both critics and the public alike seem to adore it) that I am itching to see it. The trailer as well looks promising: alluring, exciting but giving very little away. Coupled with actors such as Mulligan, Bo Burnham, and Alison Brie whose work I’ve all admired, Promising Young Woman is shaping up to be a really exciting debut film. Wish I could have seen it in Glasgow but fingers crossed I can get my mitts on it soon.


And that’s May’s round up done! I’m back with the Random Book Quiz on Saturday with certainly the funniest round I’ve researched so far. It was a lot of fun to write, so hopefully you enjoy the questions. Until then, let me know what you’ve been reading and watching this month.

The Loving Spirit by Daphne Du Maurier review

Perhaps due to reading some books on the Women’s Prize longlist this year, I found myself craving a good family saga, one which I could get lost in for hours. Coupled with Daphne Du Maurier being one of my favourite writers, her debut The Loving Spirit was the obvious choice. Based on real people, the novel follows four generations of the Coombe family: Janet, Joseph, Christopher, and Jennifer. It opens with Janet Coombe, a young woman in love with the sea. Despite her longing to climb onboard a boat and explore the waters, Janet instead marries Thomas, a local ship builder and starts a family. The next section follows her son Joseph – whom Janet had a particular affinity to – and the novel follows her descendants over the years.

Du Maurier has always excelled at characterisation and The Loving Spirit provides more evidence of that. Janet in particular was an incredibly engaging character; she was brimming with so much personality that it hard to dislike her. Through Janet the reader also explores the Cornish towns, a landscape readers of Du Maurier will be familiar with. She beautifully captures the busy ports and ship-building enterprises at the time, placing the reader right in the heart of the action. In her review of the novel Ann Willmore compares the depictions of Cornwall and Janet and Joseph to Wuthering Heights’ Yorkshire moors and lead characters. An interesting comparison, though it is Du Maurier’s descriptions of the sea and Janet’s relationship that I think more closely resemble the Brontes. Like Janet (and later Joseph) the sea is seen as this wild, passionate, relentless persona; a character in its own right. The mirroring of the natural world and the characters was well done.

However, some characters didn’t work for me. Whilst admittedly Christopher has the most satisfying storyline in the entire novel, a lot of the time I was quite bored during his chapters. The plot seems to flirt dangerously close to melodrama, especially combined with the dramatic, Heathcliff-esque way Joseph’s section ended. Given the novel started out with a young couple getting married in a small seaside town, The Loving Spirit veers into soap opera territory remarkably quickly. Despite the dramatic plot, Christopher didn’t seem to have much of a personality especially in comparison with his father and grandmother. It did feel as though Du Maurier enjoyed writing about the first two characters and the last one Jennifer, but Christopher was just the bridge to get to the final chapters. For such a dynamic plot, Christopher felt like a very weak character and he seemed to get lost in the narrative. Another character which didn’t work for me was Philip. He is the main antagonist in the story and that was it. Right off the bat, it was apparent he was ‘the bad guy’ and continued to be one-note throughout. He just simply wasn’t developed and felt like wasted potential, considering he is in conflict with his own family.

Is The Loving Spirit one of my favourite Du Maurier novels? No. It doesn’t have the twists and turns of Rebecca and Jamaica Inn nor the sweeping romance of Frenchman’s Creek. Nor even the sheer inventiveness of something like The House on the Strand. Yet the book is an enjoyable family drama, and an impressive debut. Seeds of those later works were already being sown and there are aspects of each of them in The Loving Spirit. It isn’t the first Du Maurier I would push into peoples’ hands, but if they are already a fan of hers I can definitely see them enjoying it. With interesting characters and beautiful descriptions of the Cornish landscape, it is hard not to get sucked in.

The Loving Spirit is published by Virago and you can find more information here.

Random Book Quiz Round 6: Poetry

Yes it’s another Saturday, which means another round for the Random Book Quiz. This time we are focusing on poetry. This round is fairly straightforward: I have given you a snippet of a famous poem and the date it was published, all you need to do is work out who the poet is. As always there are 10 questions to have a go at, plus I have left last week’s answers below if you want to see how well you did.

Enjoy and let me know how you get on!

1. ‘For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?’        (1915)

2. ‘Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.’       (1834)

3. ‘Day after day, night after night,
Laura kept watch in vain
In sullen silence of exceeding pain.
She never caught again the goblin cry:
“Come buy, come buy;”—
She never spied the goblin men
Hawking their fruits along the glen:
But when the noon wax’d bright
Her hair grew thin and grey;
She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn
To swift decay and burn
Her fire away.’           (1862)

4. ‘We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.’      (1966)

5. ‘Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.’    (1965)

6. ‘I said
“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek’     (1842)

7.  ‘I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:’    (1818)

8. ‘7 April 1852
Went to the Zoo.
I said to Him—
Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you.’   (1999)

9. ‘But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.’    (1983)

10. ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;’     (1609)


Answers for Round 5

  1. Virginia Woolf (The Hours)
  2. AA Milne (Goodbye Christopher Robin)
  3. Hans Christian Andersen (Hans Christian Andersen)
  4. Jane Austen (Becoming Jane)
  5. Mary Shelley (Mary Shelley)
  6. William Shakespeare (Shakespeare in Love)
  7.  Truman Capote (Capote)
  8.  Oscar Wilde (Wilde)
  9.  Beatrix Potter (Miss Potter)
  10.  Zelda & F Scott Fitzgerald (Midnight in Paris)

Mini Book Haul May 2020

Somehow I have managed to blog about books for nearly 3 years without ever doing a book haul. Not a single one. Yes, I know, I know – I am a terrible book blogger *slaps wrist*. The strangest part is that I actually enjoy reading others’ book hauls. I find a lot of books I normally wouldn’t have, and I like getting to know the reasons why a person chose a particular book. Is it a favourite author? Or did the plot or even the cover pull them in? It’s always interesting to see what makes different readers tick and draws them in. So I’ve decided to do a book haul albeit a mini one – I got 3 books for my birthday and I’m sharing them today. They’re all fairly different, and if you have read any of them let me know. I’ve included the reasons why I wanted it, so you can tell me if my expectations are on point or totally wrong. But without further ado, I’ll jump into the books:

Weather – Jenny Offill  

WeatherWhat is it about? Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree. But this gives her a vantage point from which to practise her other calling: as an unofficial shrink. For years, she has supported her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but then her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. Sylvia has become famous for her prescient podcast, Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: from left-wingers worried about climate change and right wingers worried about the decline of western civilization.

Why did I pick it? The main reason I chose Weather is because it is on the Women’s Prize shortlist. I’ve already read two from the list – The Mirror & the Light and Girl, Woman, Other – and this was the next one I was intrigued by. It seems a very quiet, character-driven novel which I enjoy, plus the layout interests me. It seems to be made up of snippets of Lizzie’s life and thoughts; vignettes rather than a concrete plot. Novels with similar structures have been a bit hit-or-miss with me in the past, but it will at least be interesting to see how Offill tackles it. It’s also quite short, so I’m curious if the narrative fits the length or if it just leaves me wanting more.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer – Patrick Süskind 

PerfumeWhat is it about? In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: to the fleeting realm of scent . . .

Why did I pick it? Perfume has been on my radar for years. It is regarded as a modern classic and even made the BBC’s The Big Read Top 100, outranking both Bleak House and Ulysses. So it does have a lot of fans. Again, despite the plot sounding more dynamic than Weather, it seems very character-driven. I also enjoy a good thriller, so I’m hoping this novel combines both those elements. I’m also aware of a movie adaptation starring Ben Whishaw, plus a German series on Netflix which is based off the novel. I’ve not seen either of them but the series does sound interesting, so I want to read the book first then watch it.

The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando – William J Mann

The ContenderWhat is it about? This seems really obvious but here is the blurb from the book: The most influential movie actor of his era, Marlon Brando changed the way other actors perceived their craft. His approach was natural, honest, and deeply personal, resulting in performances most notably in A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront that are without parallel. Brando was heralded as the ‘American Hamlet’; the Yank who surpassed British stage royalty Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, and Ralph Richardson as the standard of greatness in the mid-twentieth century.

Why did I pick it? Most people know I adore Classical Hollywood cinema, and of course Brando was prevalent in that era. I have seen some of Brando’s films – the aforementioned Streetcar and Waterfront for example – but not enough that I have any in-depth knowledge of his work. Similarly, I know only a little of his personal life, such as his troubled childhood, his rejection of the Best Actor Oscar, the abuse he inflicted on the Last Tango in Paris set, but nothing in great detail. I’m hoping Mann’s biography changes that, and considering it is over 700 pages I will probably learn a lot about the legendary actor. It will also be interesting to see how Brando is discussed in a post MeToo world. Last year I read a biography about Marilyn Monroe and loved it, so I’m hoping this continues with The Contender.


And that is it – my first ever book haul! Like I said, if you have read any of these books let me know your thoughts on them. All of them I’m keen to get to, so hopefully I will be sharing my thoughts on them very soon.

Birthday Book Tag!

Today is my birthday which means I get to do the Birthday Book Tag. I saw this on Anna’s Book Nook a couple of months ago and was really eager to do it, so here I am.

I’m having a fairly chill birthday; I’m making some afternoon tea for brunch later complete with a glass (or two) of prosecco. After that, I pretty much have the day to myself. So I’ll probably read or watch a film – I have so many on my TBR and TBW shelves that I really need to make a dent in them. Plus all the new books and films I’ve received as presents.  But I shall stop rambling on and answer some questions:

1. Count your birth day along your bookshelf and then subtract your birth month. What book does it land on?

Goodbye to BerlinGoodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood. Which I have never read (oops). From my understanding this is the inspiration for the musical Cabaret, and that is pretty much all I know of the book. If that is even right; let me know down below if it’s not. I picked it up because Berlin is one of my favourite cities, I really like learning about German history, plus I enjoyed Isherwood’s A Single Man. So I figured a book set in Weimar Germany ticks all those boxes. Just writing about it here makes me tempted to pick it up, so it will be getting bumped up the TRB ASAP.



2. If you could spend your day with any fictional character who would it be and why?

That’s a hard one, there are so many. I feel like the March sisters would be a lot of fun, or maybe Jay Gatsby since he knows how to throw a party. Either of them would be cool to hang out with for a day.

3. Find a book that takes place in the season you were born in.

The Secret GardenI’ve picked The Secret Garden but any childhood favourite would do. For some reason spring makes me think of children’s books, and just cosy, warming reads. Perhaps because spring feels like a new beginning or a fresh start, so I think of books that have a sense of hopefulness. Admittedly, I think The Secret Garden spans across more than just springtime but the many descriptions of the natural world also makes me think of this season.




4. Find a book that is the colour of your birth stone. 

The Emerald StoneI have absolutely no books with an emerald cover but Google tells me The Emerald Stone by DJ Loomis does, so there we have it. Saying that The Secret Garden cover has a ton of green, but not sure if that counts as emerald.







5. Is there a series with the same number of books as your age? If so what is it.

Again I have to Google this as I have no idea. I highly doubt there’s many series with 28 books.

I’ve found a compilation titled ‘Elsie Dunmore Complete Series: 28 Books in One Edition’ by Martha Finley. I’ve never heard of Elsie Dunmore in my life, and I’m not sure if there are more books in this series; this was made in 2017 so more could have been written. But we will go with this. I’m not doing so well on these questions: I think there’s maybe two so far which feature books I’ve actually read.

6. Pick a book set in a time period, world, country you would like to have been born in. 

Harry Potter series, hands down. I would loved to have been a student at Hogwarts and learn how to use magic.

And there you have it! Let me know what your answers would be for the questions!

Random Book Quiz Round 5: Authors in Films

Since my last picture round proved to be popular, I’ve made another one! This time however I’m not asking you to name the film. Instead, these are 10 pictures of actors playing authors – you just need to tell me the name of the author being portrayed. I have also given you the actor’s name and the year the film was released; sadly I can’t reveal the film titles as some give away the answer completely, though I will include them next week. But without further ado, here are the pictures:

  1. Nicole Kidman (2002)




2Domhnall Gleeson (2017)




3. Danny Kaye (1952)

hans christian andersen



4. Anne Hathaway (2007)

becoming jane film


5. Elle Fanning (2017)

mary shelley film



6. Joseph Fiennes (1998)




7. Philip Seymour Hoffman (2005)

Capote - Philip Seymour Hoffman



8.  Stephen Fry (1998)



9. Renee Zellweger (2006)

Miss Potter


10. Alison Pill & Tom Hiddleston (2011 – yes you get an extra point if you name both writers!) 

Midnight in Paris

Good luck and let me know how you get on!



Answers to Round 4

1. George Orwell

2. Anne Rice

3. Ayn Rand

4. bell hooks

5. Daniel Defoe

6. Flann O’Brien

7. George Eliot

8. Hergé

9. John le Carre

10. Lewis Carroll


Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo review

Warning: there will be slight spoilers in this review which deal with disturbing subjects.

I’m probably the very last book blog to review Girl, Woman, Other but I have finally read it! Given the hype this book has had I’m sure everyone knows what this is about: twelve interconnected stories following twelve (mainly) black (mainly) women living in the UK. Through their eyes a story of  the nation is seen.

The stories are told through a stream of consciousness, which at points almost reads like poetry. It has a very lyrical quality to it and there were many passages that were beautifully written. This method also allows Evaristo to explore the characters more in depth, to capture their personalities which really allows the readers understand these people and their lives. Yet, whilst Evaristo deals with the small, personal things, she also tackles the UK at large, highlighting the experiences women of colour across decades. She delicately and effortlessly weaves both the personal and the political into the narrative. How the women interconnect throughout was also brilliantly done. It was fun to see characters reappear in other stories, and seeing events from multiple perspectives. The last two chapters were also excellent in wrapping up these women’s stories and created a satisfying conclusion.

Yet I did have some issues with the book. The most pertinent one is how Evaristo tackles some hard-hitting topics. One woman is gang-raped when a teenager, and another suffers from drug addiction. It is uplifting to see these women overcome their struggles and rise up and succeed, despite the hardships they suffered. And I understand that there are pivotal moments that make people change their lives for the better. But these topics are mentioned so briefly that it seems as though Evaristo is merely dismissing them. For example, the drug addiction and recovery is resolved in less than 3 pages, and the character beats her addiction whilst her family is on holiday. Really? Someone manages to curb their addiction within a month (we’re never told how long her parents away so could be less) with no help from anyone? It felt throwaway, as though Evaristo wanted this character to suffer, decided upon drug addiction but quickly abandoned it in favour of moving the plot forward. Rape was also dealt similarly to this. For such serious subjects, they’re dealt with so fleetingly I wondered if they were truly necessary. Those scenes and how they were handled left me with an unpleasant taste.

A slightly lesser criticism is that some of the characters sounded identical to one another. As mentioned before, the stream of consciousness was a really effective technique, but a lot of the word choice and the flow of the language were similar across the stories. This made the characters seem less individual and blurred into one. If the names hadn’t been repeated throughout, I probably would have struggled to remember who the narrator was. I should point out that this doesn’t apply to all of the characters, some personalities truly shone through just sadly others faltered.

It is obvious why Girl, Woman, Other has achieved the enormous success and critical acclaim it has. How Evaristo has constructed the novel is brilliantly done, and she manages to encapsulate the black, female experience living in Britain really well. There were just some things that irked me in the narrative which stopped me from completely loving the book. Some of the subjects brought up were not dealt with sufficiently; the drug abuse still baffles me. If you’re going to deal with serious topics, then perhaps give them more than two pages in the book. Plus some of the voices could have been stronger. Overall I did like Girl, Woman, Other but don’t love it as much as others.

Girl, Woman, Other is published by Penguin and you can find more information here.

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy review

When people think of comfort reads I doubt many would reach for Thomas Hardy. Yet that is exactly what The Mayor of Casterbridge is to me. It’s my favourite Hardy novel; one whose ridiculous plot never fails to amuse me yet that also lets me have a good cry when I need it. The eponymous mayor is Michael Henchard, who as a young man sold his wife and baby daughter whilst in a drunken stupor. Fast forward 18 years and Henchard is now a successful merchant and mayor; he is also now teetotal. His wife and daughter, Susan and Elizabeth, show up in Casterbridge looking for him, though Elizabeth has no idea he is her father. Over the course of the novel their lives will change irrevocably.

A lot of criticism directed at The Mayor of Casterbridge has to do with the plot; mainly the sheer amount of incidents crammed into one story is ludicrous. It is obvious that this was originally a serial and Hardy was adding a new plot twist into each episode. Despite this, I do think some of those twists work; particularly the ones involving Michael and Elizabeth. They help to build to that final, emotional climax between the father and daughter, a scene that always gets me. Every single time. But some plot developments obviously don’t work. Two that instantly spring to mind is how the love triangle Elizabeth finds herself in is resolved, and how Hardy handles the character of Newson. I won’t go into details for fear of spoilers but those in particular grate on me. The first one is just casually dismissed without a second thought, and the second is so unrealistic it borderlines on being funny. I can’t help but think that people who love soap operas would adore The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Despite the plot, the main reason the novel is my favourite Hardy work is the characters. If those characters weren’t as strong as they were I would probably have DNF’ed it. Elizabeth in particular really resonates me, and did when I first picked the book up. She has a fascinating and satisfying character arc; watching her grow from being self-reliant on her parents to becoming more independent was a joy. As a modern reader, I would have liked her story to have ended differently but overall I still think she is a well-developed character, and one I could have easily read more of. But the main draw is Henchard himself. The stupidity of the plot aside, the novel is really about him coming to terms with his past and attempting to make amends. He is a beautifully written character. His actions throughout are questionable at best (reprehensible at worst), yet as a reader you are rooting for him. He attempts to be a better person and you see that and feel sympathy for him. Of course, this being a Hardy novel, you know this will end in tragedy, making the sadness all the greater whilst reading. You want him to succeed but know he will not.

Hardy excels in character building throughout all his novels, but The Mayor of Casterbridge is his best in my opinion. Perhaps because the plot is so convoluted that you need the strength of the characterisations to pull the reader in. The characters, particularly Elizabeth and Michael, are fully-fleshed out and their development over the course of the narrative was a delight to read. Despite the troubles they’ve either caused or been through, you still want the best for them. There’s also this idea of second chances, of trying to be a better person than you were before, that still resonates to this day, and I think that is also why The Mayor of Casterbridge is so powerful. In some ways it is incredibly old-fashioned but in this regard it still feels relevant; people can read it and understand Henchard’s longing to better himself. Is The Mayor of Casterbridge for everybody? No, absolutely not – I know plenty of people who loathe it. Yet it is my favourite Hardy because of the strong characters, its relevance to today, and of course that ending.

The Mayor of Casterbridge is published by Penguin and you can find more information here.

Random Book Quiz Round 4: Pen Names

Another Saturday means another round of the Book Quiz and this week we are looking at pen names. I have listed 10 real names of writers, and all you have to do is guess the pseudonym they are most known by. I have also included the authors’ birth and death dates (if any) to help you out. As always, the answers to Round 3 are at the end of this blog post if you want to see how well you did. The picture round proved popular, so there will be another coming up next Saturday.

Until then, let me know how well you did with these famous pen names in the comments below!


1. Eric Arthur Blair (1903 – 1950)

2. Howard Allen Frances O’Brien (1941 – present)

3.  Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum (1905 – 1982)

4. Gloria Jean Watkins (1952 – present)

5. Daniel Foe (1660 – 1731)

6. Brian O’Nolan (1911 – 1966)

7.  Mary Ann Evans (1819 – 1880)

8. Georges Remi (1907 – 1983)

9. David John Moore Cornwell (1931 – present)

10. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832 – 1898)


Have fun and good luck!


Answers for Round 3: Film Adaptations


1. Brooklyn

2. 101 Dalmatians

3. Doctor Zhivago

4. Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone

5. Transit

6. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

7. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

8. Call Me By Your Name

9. The Third Man

10. The Birds

How many did you get right?