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The Romantic

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  1,059 ratings  ·  81 reviews
From the author of The White Bone, a piercing novel of passionate attachment and of the fear and freedom of letting go

Louise Kirk learns about love and loss at an early age. When she is nine years old, her former beauty queen mother disappears, leaving a note that reads only—and incorrectly—“Louise knows how to work the washing machine.” Soon after, the Richters and their
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Hardcover, 305 pages
Published May 1st 2003 by Metropolitan Books (first published January 1st 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,862)
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Lia
I can never decide if I like the word "poignant". The sentiment appeals but it sounds half-swallowed, and upon hearing it all I can think of is my high-school Latin textbook explaining that gn in Latin (eg "magnus") is pronounced as in the English "hangnail". But I would use it to describe this story.

Brief synopsis: Louise is ten, and her mother has left. A new family moves in on their street. Louise first falls in love with the mother, Greta, then a year later, the son, Abel. A dozen years late
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sisterimapoet
I feel spoiled, most of the books I've read lately have been great. I must be heading for a fall.

This was my first Gowdy, and won't be my last. I like novels with central child / adolescent characters. And this is a good one. The novel was so much better than the title, cover or blurb suggested.

I liked the way we jumped about in time. Knowing where we were heading well before we got there. I liked the hope and the futility carefully combined. I could relate to each and every character, most clea
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Malcolm
Even at her most mediocre (not that she does mediocre) Barbara Gowdy is a star – and this is sheer brilliance. This is a soulful tale of lost and semi-requited love, of passion, of attachment, of a cheatin' heart and a fickle lover, and of the banality that surrounds us and most of us miss. Gowdy's inventiveness, eye for detail, and beautiful style has yet to fail her, while her empathy as a writer for mildly and badly broken people means that even at the lowest points, where ordinarily a reader ...more
Jenna
Sep 06, 2007 Jenna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: disenchanted twenty-somethings with brains
I love Barbara Gowdy's writing style and there are so many great lines from this novel, in particular . . .

"I see myself tied to railway tracks, and the approaching train is being driven by Maureen Hellier." -- Louise

"He scanned me up and down, a relay between my breasts and mouth, as if in these features lay the clues to my integrity." -- Louise

Janet Adams
Jan 17, 2008 Janet Adams rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Janet by: friends
Wonderful simple but layered prose. Emotionally honest and smart without being self-consciously clever. Did NOT find it depressing as some did. Though it was melancholy it was still alive and kicking.
Anika
I read this book for the first time a couple of years ago and I loved it. I had - as always, it seems - expected something different. But that didn't stop me from loving the book. Then, a while ago, I felt the need to re-read it. No reason really. So I did. What is this book about? Love. With a capital 'L'. Re-reading it now, I think I spotted even more love than when I read it the first time. The first time I felt cheated by the unhappy ending between Abel and Louise. This time I did not. This ...more
Sariah
Upon reading the last page in this novel all I felt was a sense of disappointment—disappointment in the story as a whole. In the Romantic, Louise Kirk is abandoned by her mother and left in the care of her passive father. Shortly after her mother leaves Louise becomes obsessed with a boy (Abelard) who has moved in across the street, and he remains the focus of her love well into her adult life. Abelard is just as passive as her father (if not more so) and finds Louise’s love, and the love of his ...more
Mary-Beth
A book about two very damaged people who fall in love, but are all wrong for one another. The main character turns desperate and needy when her vain disinterested mother leaves home abruptly, discarding all of her belongings and her family and leaving only a note behind her. Louise goes on to fall in love with a neighbour's mother and to dream about being adopted by her before falling in love with her adopted son, Abel.

It's hard to connect with either Abel or Louise for me as both of them are s
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Anita Adams
The premise of this book intrigued me. A mother walks out of her nine year old daughter's life, and the daughter becomes totally obsessed and enamored of the mother of a neighborhood child. She wants to be adopted, like the adopted son. She falls in love with the Mother first...then the son. The first few pages seemed interesting enough, but as one gets a little further into the story the reader gets whiplash as the author jumps from one thought to another, one decade to another, and one story t ...more
Pamela
I don't love this as much as I expected I would, but I like her writing, her observations, and I want to read more of her. It doesn't feel as wild a ride as Mr. Sandman felt so long ago, but it is clear that she portrays people who are quirky (Mrs. Carver's inability to talk well, but her psychic and pharmacological interpretations are interesting).

This book reminds me too much of "Leaving Las Vegas." I can only be angry at Abel, but alcoholism is a disease, anything that is addictive is, and go
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Madeleine
Argh! Barbara Gowdy can write so beautifully but this! This infuriated me. Louise is less a character than a wad of tear-soaked tissues and Abel just a Tortured Artist Type. She tells you the outcome on the first page, so she lacks the element of surprise to overcome the wafer-like characterizations and predictable plotting. There are beautiful passages, but somehow those served only to make me angrier at the rest.

Two stars because I have such a strong reaction.
Tamoy Chung
Read this novel a few times before and loved it each time.

For a romance it is the perfect combination of dramatic events that were woven with words that you may have to re look in order to understand. The story line is stunning, absolutely lovely. It doesn't have the excitement of an action film, but anticipation to see if Abel & Louise would end up together overall. She does not shy away from controversial themes, and the times Louise & Abel share together makes you want to cry, no all
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Sonia Reppe
Sure, the love interest, Abel, is annoying in his ultra-sensitive, too-frail-for-life way, but these chapters with him drinking himself to death are short and interspersed into flash-backs of Louise's life, so they were tolerable. The point anyway was Louise, not him. I really liked the writing and the way I was brought into the experiences of the main character Louise.
Lisa
I'll be honest. At first I picked up this book from the library beacause of it's cover. At times the book seemed quite dark but I couldn't put it down. I found the characters enthralling.
Chequer
Barbara Gowdy presents this love story with accurate, amazing characters, complete with flaws, but still a big part of us all. We can love them and there are times we don't like them, but we can identify with them always. All characters are very strong, even with their frailties.

This story, beautifully and intricately woven, shows love stripped down to all of its most brutal forms, then gently and unexpectedly tossed to us to digest. The Romantic is an understanding of human behaviour and emotio
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Margaret
Louise's love for bright sensitive self-destructive Abel is told in a surprising interesting way.
Jamey
Honestly, I don't know what I was doing when I picked this book up. Back when I was around 13 or 14, I borrowed it from my school library purely because I thought the cover was nice and believed it to be a simple young adult romance novel. However, as much as I was wrong, I was right. And once I started reading, I could not put it down.

Although I may have been too young to have appreciated it at the time, I most definitely recognize the beauty of this book now. I am not lying when I say it chang
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Sarah B.
For me, this was a perfect book. Gowdy gave her main character, Louise, so much emotional depth, even when Louise was still a child, that it was effortless to connect with her. The book goes on to perfectly catch the feeling of trying to move on without the person whom you know you are meant to love, and at the same time the feeling of ambiguity toward someone you lost long ago and have successfully learned to live without. But the prose is so beautiful it could have been about nothing at all an ...more
Janet C
I read this book for my 2015 reading challenge as it takes place in my home town.

I like the writing style of the author, but I really disliked the story (it was too depressing for my taste).

I couldn't relate to the characters, AT ALL.

Oh well, another book to check off my list!

I would consider reading another book of hers if the story is a bit more optimistic.
Vivienne
May 30, 2009 Vivienne rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: can't recommend because of the ick factor
Emo. Tragic doomed love. Louise's fashion plate mother abandons her. Louise wants to be adopted by her exotic neighbour but falls in love with her son, Abel. Abel grows up to be a self destructive alcholic. Louise and Abel hurt each other, and other people in their lives.

Positives:
-Excellent writing and good turns of phase.
-Unexpected plot line, even in the sub plots.
-Very well described main character.
-None of the characters are one dimensional.
-Somehow Abel and Louise are appealing characters,
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Louise
Barbara Gowdy has the uncanny ability to make you feel you "are there" in her novels. A story of love, wanting to be loved, heartbreak, forgiveness and relationships that endure through anything.

From back cover:
"Louise Kirk learns about love and loss at an early age. When she is nine years old, her former beauty queen mother "disappears", leaving a note that reads only-and incorrectly-"Louise knows how to work the washing machine." Not long after, the Richters and their adopted son, Abel, move i
...more
Tricia Dower
Fascinating study of a young woman in love with someone too damaged to love her the way she wants him to. I was interested in how Gowdy handled Louise's perception of Abel's alcoholism; Louise doesn't ever completely grasp that to the alcoholic the bottle will always come before her. She keeps trying to figure out why Abel drinks -- at some point she does say, "You're addicted," but she doesn't seem to truly understand what that means.

As a writer I was interested in how completely Gowdy wraps up
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Melani
Terribly beautiful story of longing and loss

With regard to Gowdy's style, I shall quote another Goodreads reviewer (Janet Adams) who put it so aptly: "Wonderful[ly] simple but layered prose. Emotionally honest and smart without being self-consciously clever."
G. Marie
Until I hit my mid 30s, I'd stick with a book until the very end, regardless of my enjoyment of it or the quality of the writing (granted, I typically do my homework before I begin reading, so I rarely read poorly written books). But as I get older, I feel less obliged to power through. Instead, I set the book aside and pick up another.

This almost happened with "The Romantic." What kept me going? The story, I think. Not one character or another. Not the setting or my ability to relate to anythi
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Danica
The Romantic is the childhood romantic in us, our first real love. Nostalgic and profound. It’s the book that will leave you thinking for hours. Best read whilst listening to Cherry Wine by Hozier and Sparks by Coldplay on repeat.
READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE
Alyssa
This novel I would describe as painfully lovely. Such a simple story but you could really feel the love that this novel contained.
Andrea
Well it's taken me time to think through what I wanted to tell you about this story. This is a book for anyone who can't put aside their feelings for someone no matter who else they love there is one person who will always have their heart and their deepest love, a love that is never matched no matter what that person does. This story had me laughing and crying. It touched me with heart recognition. The characters are all accessible, you have probably known or been one of these people. There is ...more
Judy
My first Barbara Gowdy novel. Tender and raw. There are certain passages that I read and re-read. A work of literary art to be sure.
Erin
Parts of this were brilliant, but it was just missing something. I had a hard time making it through this one. I just couldn't bring myself to care about Louise and Abel's relationship. This was pitched to me as a book about loving someone that was hurting themselves and you couldn't stop it, but it was really a book about loving your perception of a person, rather than the person themselves. It is an interesting theme to address, but Carson McCuller's "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" does a much ...more
Kathryn
I am a fan of things that can be described as tragically beautiful, which is one way of describing this novel.
I first read it when a copy was given to me by my second year writers workshop professor and have since then revisited the novel twice. Each time, the reader is able to extract and appreciate different elements from the plot....I think what I mean to say is, as you grow an learn and love and lose, the plot does the same. So the novel you read the second or third time, changes completely
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Barbara Gowdy is a Canadian novelist and short story writer. Born in Windsor, Ontario, she is the long-time partner of poet Christopher Dewdney and resides in Toronto.
More about Barbara Gowdy...
The White Bone We So Seldom Look on Love Helpless Mister Sandman Falling Angels

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“Life is oblivion erupting, for a brief moment, into nonoblivion in order so that oblivion may proclaim... "I am." The assumption being, that living things are aware enough to make such a proclamation. Let us suppose that they are. Let us suppose that they are, to a degree, self-aware. This makes for the possibility of life recognizing itself, yes, but not as oblivion, only as life. In order for life to recognize itself as a fleeting pulse of oblivion, self-awareness, must be refined into pure awareness, which is observation unimpaired by either ego or preconceptions.” 4 likes
“I think of the emptiness of outer space, and the men in their little pods going up there alone, wives and girlfriends left behind. I think of Abel and me lying on the grass, looking up at the stars, and how great that was, but, still, I was always waiting for him to turn his head. To look at me” 4 likes
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