The Mayor of Casterbridge - Thomas Hardy, Elliot Perlman

This is a real roller-coaster ride. Following the mayor from his drunken decision to sell his wife and infant daughter, to his final act of desperation, is an engrossing tale of perfidy and happenstance. At its moral center is Elizabeth-Jane, the mayor's long lost daughter who bears a strong resemblance to Jane Eyre, another nineteenth century heroine who didn't expect much from life - except the freedom to live in accordance with her own code of honor. There are plenty of plot twists and richly evocative descriptive passages. Dead people turn up, lost letters resurface and forgotten acts of kindness or cruelty motivate characters to act. Like life itself, it moves inexorably to its dramatic and moving conclusion.