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The Well-Beloved

3.55  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,009 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
As the last of Hardy's novels to be published, The Well-Beloved has generated great scholarly interest recently. Partly autobiographical, it tells the story of the sculptor Jocelyn Pierston, whose search for the ideal woman in both Portland and London leads him into courtships with a Portland woman, her daughter and her grand-daughter. This edition is the first to recover ...more
Paperback, 328 pages
Published September 17th 1998 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1892)
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May 05, 2011 William1 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 19-ce, uk
As a means of justifying his transient lusts, 20 year-old sculptor Jocelyn Pierston has invented a metaphor--that of the "Well-Beloved." The Well-Beloved never takes permanent home in a single individual woman. First she is here in the buxom laundress, next she is there in the world-traveling heiress, and so on. The book is broken into 3 sections. In the first, predictably, when Pierston is in his twenties, the Well-Beloved is most fleeting. Tripping from one lust-worthy female to the next, then ...more
Sep 17, 2008 Tiffany rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
I loved this book. It gives a completely different approach to love than I've ever read or imagined... not that you love a person, but the spirit of your well beloved will take their shape. It may stay in that form, or for jocelyn, it continually leaves one physical form and inhabits another constantly. Definitely an interesting concept. I find Thomas Hardy a bit hard to read, but he has the most amazing stories. It's definitely worth the read.
After watching Tess of the d'Urbervilles, I decided I’d have to read more by the author Thomas Hardy. What truly impressed me was Hardy’s ability to create such interesting characters and to explore human nature, especially within the confines of the social mores and expectations of Victorian British society. Interestingly, rather than focusing on the wealthy of the period, he focuses on the more common rural class. I love how he gently but harshly criticizes the expectations of Victorian societ ...more
Intellectually I realised I probably shouldn't like this book as much as I did but I really enjoyed it. While the main character was a little silly I thought his idea of the beloved was interesting. I liked it on a spooky level, the idea that women were being possessed by the one he loved who kept moving. It had a touch of a ghost story. The fact that he was in love with something so ephemeral, and yet in reality became so obsessed with one woman he rejected that he became so infatuated with her ...more
Aug 26, 2014 Lada rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Artistic quality of time and the power of love. Three different women in three different periods of the architect Stephen's life. Three Marcias. At 20, 40 and 60. (im)possibility to catch the fugacity of through moment through love experience. An Architect of love, love time. Impossibility to construct a relationship that last through time, never completely the same. An error at 20 retaken at 40 0r 60. Never completely the same.Refreshing look at himself back at the time of errors. Nice little n ...more
Apr 13, 2014 Ali rated it really liked it
The Well-Beloved was Hardy’s last novel – serialised in 1892, and published in novel form in 1897. Following the furore that surrounded the publication of Jude the obscure in 1895, Hardy turned his back on novel writing, and devoted himself to his poetry for the remaining thirty years of his life. The Well-Beloved is a work that Hardy himself revised several times, in 1897 for the novel’s publication, and again in 1903 and 1912. The edition I read uses Hardy’s revised 1912 text.
Coincidently I r
Jan 01, 2011 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah, my well-beloved Hardy! According to the introduction, this was the last novel he ever wrote, before moving on to just poetry, fed up with the scandal caused by Jude the Obscure. It shows, this novel is not as narrative, as intricately plotted as others of his: it really just wants to present a thesis, a preconceived idea: what if a man falls in love over his life with three different women from the same family? However, he falls in love with them while they are young and pretty, even if he i ...more
Isa Kerr
Mar 16, 2012 Isa Kerr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was an absurd premise, yet Hardy came through, as he always does. The star-crossed lover Jocelyn starts out an idealistic young man, yet the long, dull march of time catches up to him in the end. I can't help but think this last of Hardy's novel is a reflection of his life at old age. The conclusion is especially sobering, yet welcomed, for it seems true, the best we can hope for in old age. Like "Far from the Madding Crowd" and "Tess of the D'Urbervilles", this is classic, sobering Hardy. Pe ...more
John Frankham
May 02, 2013 John Frankham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-pre-1900
A splendid late Hardy novel[1897 (revised from a 1892 serialization)], linked in spirit to 'Tess' and 'Jude'. Very interesting stucture as the hero is involved with mother, daughter, grand-daughter, each of them 20ish, in his 202, 40s, and 60s. Semi-autobiographical feel, about the spirit of love, art, and the search for a partner in one's own image.
Mar 13, 2011 Crystal rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This novel takes a look the temperament of a man in search of his perfect woman. Rather than being about that perfect woman it is more about the man who seeks her and his fickle heart. I have a tendency to believe that this novel was somewhat autobiographical of Thomas Hardy from what little I have read about his life.
Jul 25, 2011 Kezia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Lesser-known but well worth the trouble of finding it.
Apr 19, 2014 Robin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This comparatively short novel was first published as a serial in 1892. It is known now in the revised version of five years later, which in a way makes it later than Jude the Obscure and thus Hardy's "last" novel. Typically as to Hardy's body of work, it portrays a tragic romance that challenges traditional sexual morals such as, in this case, monogamy. Added to this is a poetic sense of fate, giving the storyline a touch of magical symmetry, like that of a fairy-tale or a folk legend. At the c ...more
Julian Meynell
I read a Penguin Classic edition that contained not just The Well Beloved, but also The Pursuit of the Well Beloved. But I did not read the original version but only this one. Hardy wrote the book between Tess and Jude, but heavily modified it after the publication of Jude.

The book is quite difficult to interpret. My introduction was by Patricia Ingham, which was a fairly conventional pomo-feminist interpretation. The book is about how men view women, at least in part, and the text exists in two
Aug 08, 2011 Keith rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Thomas Hardy fans and scholars
Shelves: kindle
We read Thomas Hardy today because he's still relevant, but perhaps the issues that made him relevant in his time, due to the changing nature of the world, are different than the things that make him relevant in our time. The relevancy of The Well-Beloved, dealing with the superficial nature of romantic love, makes it feel like a novel written for modern times. In my mind, this is the primary strength of the book.

As is so often seen in men of our times, Jocelyn Pierston favors young women. In hi
Aug 09, 2010 Marija rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I find that whenever I pick up a work by Hardy, I know I’ll be reading something good. I’ve read many of his stories, and so far I’ve yet to be disappointed. His “last” novel is certainly not an exception.

I really liked that you get two stories in one with this book. It’s kind of like watching a remake of a film: It allows you to analyze the different takes on a scene, the subtle changes in the plot, and various modifications in the dialogue. In that way, I thought reading this book was a fun ex
Haythem Bastawy
It's a bit of a weird story. A famous sculpture is in search for the well-beloved, or his ideal woman. The well-beloved is represented in the story as some kind of an ethereal being who inhabits women's bodies temporarily which leads the main character to fall in love with a woman, then abandon her for another only to be abandoned too by the other. The first woman moves on and marries someone else and has a daughter with him before she eventually dies. The sculptor who is still single returns to ...more
Jan 13, 2014 Gale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-classics
Atonement By Marriage

This novel, which depicts a young man's lifelong search for the feminine Ideal, represents the latter end of Hardy's literary output, as he was turning to the poetic genre. First appearing in serialized form in the London News in 1892, this story was written between TESS and JUDE. By the time it assumed final book form in 1897 it had undergone extensive revision. This is the heart-wrenching story of a passive native of the Isle of the Slingers, just south of London (accessib
Jan 14, 2008 minnie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
This novel is the story of Jocelyn Pierston, a sculptor who is searching for his well-beloved and seems to fleetingly find it in three generations of the same family. This well-beloved isn't just the girl of his dreams with whom he'll settle down to raise a family etc, oh no, it could never be that simple in Hardy's world. Heres a quote to descibe the elusive nature of the well-beloved :
"To his well-beloved he had always been faithful; but she had had many embodiments.Each individuality known a
May 17, 2013 Virginia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
LIke all Hardy novels, this novel has landscape at its centerpiece. However the thematic landscape is far narrower, and more concentrated than most Hardy novels. It concerns the protagonist's moral and emotional odyssey as he confronts the fragility of romantic love. His transformation lies in how he responds to this quality. In this novel like many of his others, Hardy creates some arresting female characters to which the protagonist is a foil. This novel is worth reading if only to meet them. ...more
Laurel Hicks
A strange tale, beautifully told. I am impressed by how well Hardy knew the Bible.
Aaron Arnold
Jun 17, 2016 Aaron Arnold rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2016
19th century novelists spent a lot of time thinking about relationships, and even though society has changed dramatically since then, many of their insights are still useful. My copy of this novel contains two different editions: the 1892 serialized version, and the edited 1897 novel version with a slightly different plot. Both versions offer an interesting look at the costs of obsession: we can't ever truly understand why we sometimes become fixated on certain people, but what do we do with tha ...more
Feb 12, 2016 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I read this in preparation for a group read on Facebook. My rating might change once I see it through other eyes. I feel it to be allegorical and if not, a tale of a terribly self-involved man. His definition of love is puerile, although he can act honorably on occasion.
Aug 14, 2016 Diane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this in a used book store, a Thomas Hardy I'd never heard of. As he is one of my favourite authors, I just had to buy it.

The setting is on the coast, rather than the usual agricultural part of Wessex, which I missed. However, as always, I loved the writing, and the fact that the plot concerns personal relationships, interfered with by happenstance and misunderstandings in true Hardy style.

In an appendix there was a comparison between the original serialized version and the final one, s
Funny little book. Hardy on a bad day, I think.
I found this retelling of the myth of Pygmalion sometimes intriguing and sometimes annoying. When Chris read Jude the Obscure, he said he felt like Hardy was hateful to some of his characters; I didn't sense that when I read Jude the Obscure myself, but I definitely did with this book--hence the "sometimes annoying." In the "sometimes intriguing" column I put Hardy's use of landscape and setting in general (the quarry-island with its layers of human history: perfect). I also enjoyed thinking car ...more
Drew Graham
Jun 16, 2015 Drew Graham rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: me
(Probably 3.5) Acclaimed sculptor Jocelyn Pierston, brought up on an island off the coast of Wessex, is haunted his entire life by the fantastic goddess of the ideal woman who flits from person to person, and never inhabits one corporeal shell at a time. To obtain this elusive Well-Beloved is Pierston's lifelong quest, and as his muse, her image constantly appears in his art. Through the course of his life, he encounters this phantom in several women, but most notably for the reader, he finds he ...more
Oct 11, 2015 Katy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel-length rumination on Hardy's poem "I look into my glass":

I look into my glass,
And view my wasting skin,
And say, “Would God it came to pass
My heart had shrunk as thin!”

For then, I, undistrest
By hearts grown cold to me,
Could lonely wait my endless rest
With equanimity.

But Time, to make me grieve,
Part steals, lets part abide;
And shakes this fragile frame at eve
With throbbings of noontide.
Michael Huang
Jan 04, 2015 Michael Huang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As you grow older, you start to appreciate things that are bitter, you know, tea, leafy vegies (kale, anyone?), and dark chocolate. So it's probably not a surprise I like Hardy's work a lot. This might be my favorite Hardy so far, perhaps because it's the least dark. I guess it's not even a tragedy.
This was an interesting work of Hardy's. There were times the theme of the work reminded me quite a bit of Henry James' writings. Once again I love the way Hardy is able to set a unique scene and make it imaginable to one whom has never stepped foot in that area. The idea of the peninsular island with its' own people and customs was very interesting. I loved the descriptions of the only wooded area on the island, the lightship blinking and the rugged stone nature of the whole island, the cottage ...more
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Thomas Hardy, OM, was an English author of the naturalist movement, although in several poems he displays elements of the previous romantic and enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural. He regarded himself primarily as a poet and composed novels mainly for financial gain. The bulk of his work, set mainly in the semi-fictional land of Wessex, delineates cha ...more
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