cover image How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance

How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance

Marilyn Yalom. Harper Perennial, $15.99 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-204831-8

In this enchanting tour of French literature—from Abélard and Héloïse in the 12th century to Marguerite Duras in the 20th and Philippe Sollers in the 21st—Yalom attempts to unravel the mystery of how the French manage their romances, marriages, affairs, and obsession with love and sex. Former professor of French, current senior scholar at Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research, avowed feminist, confessed Proustian, admitted Simone de Beauvoir groupie, the erudite and charming Yalom is the perfect companion. Yalom (A History of the Wife) argues that it’s not only gender-specific traits and roles that are socially constructed, but love, too. For example, Les liaisons dangereuses (the most wickedly erotic book ever written, in Yalom’s opinion) is still on the list of required reading in French high schools. Her passion for French literature is palpable, and the analytical connections that she draws to the love lives of its writers (gay, straight, or just plain neurotic) are edifying and great fun to read. At the heart of this delicious book is Yalom the reader, whose fascination with the French way of love and pleasure in sharing her enthusiasms is highly contagious. Readers will want to run to the library and stay there for a year, reading everything she deconstructs. Illus. Agent: Sandra Dijkstra, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. (Nov.)