Title: The Well-Beloved
Author: Thomas Hardy
Publisher: Wordsworth Classics
Publication Date: 2000 (1892)
Source: Bought Copy
The Well-Beloved completes the cycle of Hardy's great novels, reiterating his favourite themes of man's eternal quest for perfection in both love and art, and the suffering that ensues. Jocelyn Pierston, celebrated sculptor, tries to create an image of his ideal woman - his imaginary Well-Beloved - in stone, just as he tries to find her in the flesh.
Powerful symbolism marks this romantic fantasy that Hardy has grounded firmly in reality with a characteristically authentic rendering of location, the Isle of Slingers, or Portland as we know it. Overt exploration of the relationship between erotic fascination and creativity makes this novel a nineteenth-century landmark in the persistent debate about art, aesthetics and gender.
I am a huge fan of Hardy's works, and The Well-Beloved proved no exception. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of the aesthetic, and is an interesting study on gender through consideration of the different women in Jocelyn's life, and his approach to them. While perhaps not the best or most memorable of his novels, it still represents the culmination of his study into the idea of the 'perfect', and its pursuit. I love that this volume contains both the final novel-version of the work and its earlier, serialised form. It makes an interesting comparison. One for established Hardy fans. I don't feel this is a good place to start if you are new to his writing.