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 daughter and her granddaughter was delightfully ironic. Of all the three "Avice's" I think I liked the 2nd one best. She was not the best educated, but when she came out of her mother's shadow she seemed to have by far the most spirit. Answering back, doing what she wanted, and of course chasing her own beloved. I thought it telling that the narrator didn't use her real name but also referred to her as Avice.
I also liked the brief portraits of the minor characters that came in from time to time.
Of course the fact that one man tried to get it on with mother daughter and grand-daughter is terribly creepy when you think about it. The fact that he failed every time made it amusing rather than sinister.
I've been thinking a lot about growing up and growing old lately and I think this book did a wonderful job of examining this theme, almost more than it did looking at love, infatuation and obsession. I also found that Hardy's style was by far the most beautiful of any of his books I've read so far. It was stunningly visual and personal.
Though quite interesting, cannot really be considered a good novel. Hardy's explanation of Jocelyn Pierston's 'wander-lust' as being a desire for the 'Well-Beloved' is ingenious to say the least. It goes a long way to explain his own attitude and behaviour toward women. The plot - if it can be called a plot - is very poor - almost naive, in its content and scope, and the characters have so little life and personality. (Read earlier edition from library)...Continua