I'd been looking forward to reading this book and so when I sat down with Kindle in hand, I had high expectations. The further I read, though, the less entranced I became and it's fair to say that this is a long way from being my favourite Hardy novel. When the story was about Elfie and Stephen, I found it charming but when Stephen left the plot to be replaced by Knight, I found that I had little care for what happened to either of them. Elfie's behaviour began to feel unnatural and try as I might, I couldn't like the character of Knight. I rarely give up on a book so when, three months on, I found the half-finished novel on my Kindle, I decided to give it a second chance.
I suppose the reason for my disappointment is that the thing I love about Hardy's writing is how he evokes the countryside, the setting of each scene and the way that even the minor characters such as innkeepers and domestic servants are richly portrayed. A Pair of Blue Eyes feels to be much more about the twistings of the plot than some of his other tales, with the results that to my mind, some of the themes feel laboured. And after all the machinations, at the end, we are deprived of the treat of seeing how Elfie deals with her rejection by Knight, to be merely told of it third-hand and in a very rushed manner at that.
I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Hardy fan and thankfully there are still one or two of his lesser-known works that I have yet to read but when I have exhausted those, I don't think this will be one that I return to re-read.