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The Romantic

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  1,277 Ratings  ·  90 Reviews
When she is nine-years-old, Louise Kirk’s mother disappears, leaving a note that reads only--and incorrectly--"Louise knows how to work the washing machine." It is not long before a strange couple and their adopted son, Abel, move in across the street. Louise quickly grows close with the exotic Mrs. Richter, but saves her stronger, more lasting affections for Mrs. Richte
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 1st 2004 by Picador (first published January 1st 2003)
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Jan 23, 2008 菁华 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary, novels
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
Aug 02, 2008 sisterimapoet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-2009
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
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
Sep 06, 2007 Jenna rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jun 25, 2007 Janet Adams rated it really liked it  ·  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.
Sep 19, 2007 Sariah rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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
Sep 07, 2012 Anika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 28, 2011 Mary-Beth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, romance
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
Anita Adams
Nov 03, 2013 Anita Adams rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Sonia Reppe
Feb 07, 2008 Sonia Reppe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: coming-of-age, 5stars
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.
Chastity Davis
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 20, 2010 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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.
May 09, 2009 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Louise's love for bright sensitive self-destructive Abel is told in a surprising interesting way.
Mar 20, 2017 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I quite enjoyed this novel, perhaps 3 1/2-4 stars. I had a hard time putting it down, and the story was a good one. Louise is the narrator, both as a 10-year, growing into her teens, and also as an adult, in a dual-narrative style. I didn't love the narrative, actually. We know from the beginning that Louise is going to fall in love with Abel, and that he is going to die, but the story is built on emotions, growth, learning about love, defining who you are, being a girl and woman in the '60s and ...more
Mar 02, 2015 Pamela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 22, 2012 Jamey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Amanda Mageras
Sep 25, 2015 Amanda Mageras rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Several years ago in a rustic cabana in Nicaragua I read this book. I was sunburned and covered in mosquito bites, the cabana was hot all day and night, and yet I was transported into the sad but curious world of Louise Kirk.

Spoiler alert! This book is a tragedy, but it promises to be right from the beginning really. The character feels a bit hopeless and desperate, but passionate and fleshed out.

I only had a few days left before I returned to the states and stopped using a bucket and sand as a
Feb 05, 2017 Megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really didn't know how to review this book. Some days I wanted to give it four stars, some days 2. These are beautifully written and flawed characters. The timeline jumping is unpleasant but in the end makes sense... I think. The pace of the book is slow, which often turns me off, but Louise kept me coming back. I don't think I ever really understood Able... maybe I wasn't supposed to. I think I would recommend this... maybe just to get someone else's opinion. I will read another Barbara Gowdy ...more
Tamoy Chung
Dec 21, 2014 Tamoy Chung rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah B.
May 22, 2011 Sarah B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canlit, my-library
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
Jan 12, 2014 Chequer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 30, 2009 Vivienne rated it liked it  ·  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.

-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,
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
Mar 22, 2009 Louise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Gail 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
I gave this book 3.5 stars.... I liked it but I didn't....nearly stopped reading it at one point but did finish it. I didn't care for Abel as a child and certainly not as an adult ....not someone I would want to know so I can't imagine why Louise was so besotted with him. I sometimes found the way the story jumped to a different era without warning a bit confusing.
The title is certainly apt...Louise lived in a dream world imagining so many romantic and somewhat ridiculous ideas.
Overall, I found
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
Dec 21, 2015 Jenny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing was very good and the characters well drawn. Unfortunately, I didn't like or empathize with the main character at all. In fact, I found her unpleasant and difficult to spend time with. I'm not somebody who requires that characters be likable, as that is a burden especially placed on female characters, but I do require them to be interesting. Unfortunately I found this character tedious, prone to making the same mistake over and over again, and I just didn't find that in and of itself ...more
Jessica Malice
Apr 11, 2012 Jessica Malice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: loved
This was maybe the third time I've read this?
I adored it as a young person (I vividly recall picking it off the library shelf based entirely on the cover, then considering myself so lucky to have found something to which I related so well. But I had grand notions of being an impulsively behaved poet of some vaguely more-than-human variety).
As a less-young person there are still things about it that I find thrilling, but my now more pragmatic mind clearly observes thoughts, philosophies and behav
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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.
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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.” 5 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” 5 likes
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