Spanning the Middle Ages to the present, How the French Invented Love explores a love-obsessed culture through its great works of literature, interlacing the author’s charming personal anecdotes. This fascinating history will particularly delight fans of Alain de Botton, Adam Gopnik, and Simon Schama.
Love occupies an honored place in the French sense of identity, on a par with fashion, food, wine, and the rights of man. A Frenchman or woman without amorous desire is considered defective, like someone missing the sense of smell or taste. For hundreds of years, the French have championed themselves as guides to the art of love through their literature, paintings, songs, and cinema, yet no English book has seriously addressed the subject of French ideas about love. No one has followed the roadmap of French literary landmarks, which explore every nuance of love as it evolved over the centuries—until now.
In How the French Invented Love, acclaimed scholar Marilyn Yalom distills her readings of French literary works and the memories of her experiences in France to discover the central tenets of that culture’s gospel of love. In the process, she examines almost a thousand years of divine culture in search of the intimate moments that reveal how the particularly French concept of l’amour has endured and evolved.
Marilyn Yalom is a senior scholar at the Institute for Women and Gender at Stanford University. She is the author of A History of the Wife, A History of the Breast, Blood Sisters: The French Revolution in Women’s Memory, and Maternity, Mortality, and the Literature of Madness. She lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband, psychiatrist and writer Irvin Yalom.
“Seductive and fascinating. Marilyn Yalom is the perfect companion for this delightfully candid tour de l’amour.” (Diane Ackerman, New York Times best-selling author)
"Marilyn Yalom is a charming guide on an exploration of desire, romance, sex, and passion à la française. Like a detective on a steamy case, Yalom digs through literature and life, uncovering the mysteries of l’amour. How the French Invented Love will surely seduce you." (Ellen Sussman, New York Times best selling author of French Lessons)
"Enchanting…. 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." (Publishers Weekly)
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interesting, and a turn on
Yes. The many friends I have who are into pleasure, sex, passion and the history and herstory of romantic love
this book is definitely a turn on. though its not pornographic or vulgar at all. its about juicy and passionate love. Love that has one main purpose: personal pleasure.
The author describes the evolution and the many faces of this juicy and passionate love by analyzing French literature, documents (such as lover letters) and culture throughout the ages.
I have always found the French culture interesting, and attractive for many reasons, so I found the book interesting for many reasons. This book was more about literature than life, for my taste. But it had a good amount of psychology (which is what I really was after).
interesting literary tour of French Romance
I enjoyed how clearly passionate the author is about French literature and French culture, and may need to revisit some of the works she writes about that I read years ago for school without much interest to get a better appreciation for them. I think that's the sign of critical writing and nonfiction, when it makes you want to delve deeper into the subject matter.
Overall the narrator had a voice that was well suited to the subject, and I enjoyed listening to her.
There was something weird going on with the sound editing, like they did a second round of recording under completely different conditions and individual words and phrases were edited into the main track later so you'll occasionally get a lull and then a short phrase that sounds completely different. It was distracting and very noticeable whenever it occurred, but the narrator is strong overall and it didn't happen so often that I couldn't focus on the content.
This is definitely a more literary look at French romance than historical, anthropological, or sociological. Even the section focused more on published personal letters and biographical experience treat the first hand accounts like works of literature instead of historical documents. The author's field of expertise is literature, so there are some times when the historical context or broader analysis would not hold up to more serious academic scrutiny-- her reliance on outdated Freudian psychology in one section, and heavy 20th century bias on sexual identity and homosexuality in another, come to mind as a couple big examples.
It was easier to follow what was happening when listening to the sections in which I had some previous contextual knowledge from other books.