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This novel, Hardy's last, is quite a delightful tale, almost comical in tone, and its wry, tongue-in-cheek flavor is beautifully realized by reader Robert Powell. It concerns sculptor Jocelyn Pierston and his 40-year quest for the incarnation of the ideal woman. This phantom eludes him as it flits from woman to woman most especially Avice Caro, his sweetheart at 20; then Avice's daughter, Anne Avice, who charms him when he is 40; and finally Avice the third, the granddaughter, whom he courts at 60. Alas, none of these romances reach fruition, and he loses both his artistic abilities and drive and his interest in the old quest. At 62, he can pass for 75, and in his old age he finds an old flame who sees him into his dotage. Hardy classed this work with his "Romances and Fantasies," and it is indeed almost an allegory or fable. Very enjoyable and excellently read, this is a good addition to fiction collections that feature important British writers. Harriet Edwards, East Meadow P.L., NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.