cover image The Book of Love: Writers and Their Love Letters

The Book of Love: Writers and Their Love Letters

Cathy N. Davidson. Pocket Books, $22 (302pp) ISBN 978-0-671-70133-8

Delightful and insightful, this collection explores the many varietes of love letters. Divided into six parts--from ``Falling in Love'' to ``Absence'' to ``The End of Love''--as well as several subsections, the book includes writers from Sappho to Stendhal, Walt Whitman to Vaclav Havel. While some missives illuminate famous romances, less expected letters also intrigue: Emma Goldman's plea to a married man (``You have opened up the prison gates of my womanhood''), Civil War soldier Sullivan Ballou's pre-battle message to his wife (``Sarah, my love for you is deathless''), nurse Agnes von Kurowsky's rejection of 19-year-old Ernest Hemingway (``Ernie, dear boy'') and the imprisoned Nelson Mandela's advice for his distant daughter (``never . . . allow anybody . . . to bully you''). Davidson, a professor of English literature at Duke University, prefaces each letter with informative biographical comments that are often as engrossing as the letters themselves. (Nov.)