cover image Couples: Scenes from the Inside

Couples: Scenes from the Inside

Sally Cline. Overlook Press, $26.95 (390pp) ISBN 978-0-87951-946-9

In an accessible study of the state of intimate partnerships in Britain, the U.S. and Canada, Cline seeks to redefine and enlarge the definition of couplehood beyond traditional heterosexual marriage. A professor of women's studies at Cambridge University and the author of last year's well-regarded biography Radclyffe Hall: A Woman Called John, Cline explores the contemporary meaning of and motivations for being in a couple. Having set out to study couples of various sexual orientations and races, and with diverse occupations and living arrangements, she also devotes a lengthy and fascinating chapter to the union of artists, such as that of Margaret Drabble and Michael Holyroyd. For two years, Cline conducted lengthy interviews with couples, probing them about their attitudes on love, sex, celibacy, romance, intimacy, marriage, rituals, children and their experience with anger, violence and resolving conflict. Their revealing stories are often engrossing, especially when told by both partners. While Cline's conclusions about the elements that contribute to a successful union are not surprising (communication, commitment, adaptability, compromise, ability to cherish the partner and to be interdependent), they are cogently organized and well illustrated by the respondents. The dedicated reader will learn much from Cline's work, despite its slightly British tone and studious air. (July)