Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Subtitle: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance
Author: Marilyn Yalom
Publisher: Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: October 23, 2012
It's sort of an accepted truth that the French view love and all its related parts (sex, marriage, etc.) differently than those in the American culture. There's something about the passion and liberties the French culture pour into their expressions of love. In How the French Invented Love, Marilyn Yalom chronicles and dissects the French literature about love through the ages to provide a picture of the French concept of love, sex, and marriage. Her analysis goes from the 1100's with the story of Abelard and Heloise (sort of a French Romeo and Juliet) to the 1700's with La Princesse de Cleves which has had even recent controversy to the writers of the 1900's.
Yalom, previously a professor of French literature, packed this book with insights about tons of literature and cultural attitudes. I alternated between being completely caught up in what I was reading with feeling overwhelmed with information. I, personally, felt this book was quite academic in nature and wouldn't recommend it to a casual reader, for sure. For me the more difficult part was the first half in which Yalom focused on medieval (and other early) literature. I've always found that time period difficult to understand and relate to, and I also know little about French literature or life so that was difficult for me as well. On the other hand, I was fascinated by the attitudes about love as well as the stories that Yalom relayed. One thought that stuck with me was the attitude that true love doesn't exist in marriage. The thought behind it was interesting and could apply today, though I don't believe it to be automatically true at all!
As the book moved on, I found it increasingly easier to follow along, likely because I understand the time frame better but also because I was familiar with and had previously read some of the other works she referred to, especially, for instance, with Madame Bovary and Cyrano De Bergerac as I read both years ago and was able to follow up with some newer, "grown up", commentary and insight. I will say the one downside for me was that Yalom referred to so much different literature throughout the book that even though she discussed them in detail, I'd move on and then forget all about a recent piece she had discussed.
I would certainly recommend this book to those who have an interest in French literature and/or culture as well as to those who enjoy ruminating on the concept of LOVE.
Follow the rest of the tour below:
Tuesday, October 23rd: The Year in Books
Thursday, October 25th: Unabridged Chick
Monday, October 29th: The Written World
Tuesday, October 30th: Doing Dewey
Wednesday, October 31st: Take Me Away
Thursday, November 1st: Oh! Paper Pages
Monday, November 5th: Sophisticated Dorkiness
Tuesday, November 6th: Dreaming in Books
Wednesday, November 7th: Bibliophiliac
Thursday, November 8th: Book Hooked Blog
Friday, November 9th: BooksAreTheNewBlack
Monday, November 12th: missris
Wednesday, November 28th: Much Madness is Divinest Sense