L'amour, l'amour, how we suffer for it! For the bibliophile, there is an exquisite torture in reading Marilyn Yalom's How the French Invented Love, a paralyzing sense that there are many French novels, plays, and poems that demand a reader's attention and have not yet received it. Works that could, if granted the chance, change our lives.
How the French Invented Love takes us on a tour of French literature from the Middle Ages to the present—from Lancelot and Guinevere to Rimbaud and Verlaine, to existentialism’s Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. You don’t have to be a Francophile to appreciate Yalom’s passion for the material: each topic, literary mention, and anecdote from her own experience is backlit with joy. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, writing that “readers will want to run to the library and stay there for a year, reading everything she deconstructs.” A promise and a threat—my to read pile is groaning with the additions Marilyn has given me. The good news? I've got five, count 'em, five copies of Marilyn's book on my desk. If you'd like to read How the French Invented Love, please leave a comment below with the name of your favorite French writer. Bonne chance!
PS: for more on Marilyn, and the French literary je ne sais quoi, check out this lovely feature in Interview.