Thursday, 20 March 2014

Sofa Spotlight - The Well-Beloved, Thomas Hardy

See what I mean about that cover?! What really shows the age of this book is that on the back the price is 75p! I paid £1.40.

I hadn't heard of this book before I saw it in a charity shop a few months ago. I like the way Hardy writes, it's just the storyline of this one that's a bit weird.

The book is about Jocelyn Pierston (I thought Jocelyn was only a girl's name, oops), a sculptor who is looking for his ideal. He calls the ideal the 'well beloved'  and the well beloved appears in different women at different times. His life's mission is to pursue the well beloved in whatever form she appears, regardless of who he hurts when he leaves them behind to pursue someone else. I translate 'well beloved' as fickle, so does his friend Somers. Somers doesn't have many lines but he is the small voice of reason in the background.

So far not that weird. The weird bit is that Pierston tries to marry three generations of one family. (Not all at the same time though). Avice is his childhood sweetheart and he agrees to marry her even though she is not possessed by the well beloved. Before they can marry Pierston sees the well beloved in someone else and leaves Avice to marry this new love of his life. It doesn't happen and the next thing Pierston knows is that he is twenty years older and Avice is dead. He realises that he undervalued her in her life and should have married her, and then he meets Avice's daughter Anne.

Anne is the image of her mother and Pierston sees the well beloved in her. He tries to marry her, but it doesn't work out. We next meet Pierston twenty years later when he is sixty and just about to meet Anne's daughter Avice who he tries to marry.

It all gets messy and Pierston's actions earlier in the book complicate his plans and eventually foil him. Although I think Pierston is a ridiculous character (sorry Mr Hardy, I know he might have been a self-portrait of you) it did make me think about how if we are ruled by what we want, even with all our best efforts one day our dreams will leave us with nothing. It made me check that my heart still belongs to Jesus and not to my bike or my books. And it made me glad that I know Jesus, who isn't fickle, and has given me something that will last - a place in His eternal kingdom.

Overall I think I did enjoy this book, even if it was just for how tangled up Pierston became at the hands of Anne and her daughter. Worth a read.


  1. I'd never heard of this Hardy before reading your blog. It sounds pretty bizarre! Great to think that we have absolute certain hope in what is to come, because victory has already been won and it doesn't matter how many times we mess up, God is sovereign.

    1. Hi Victoria, it definitely was a strange one! I am very thankful that we can be secure in the hope that we have in God :)