Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Republic of Love” as Want to Read:
The Republic of Love
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Republic of Love

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  2,597 ratings  ·  219 reviews
The acclaimed author of The Orange Fish and Swann writes a delicious, sophisticated novel of modern romance about a folklorist with a penchant for the past who falls in love with a off-beat, spontaneous disc jockey, who's definitely wrapped up in the present. "A touching, elegantly funny, lucious work of fiction".--New York Times Book Review. ...more
Paperback, 366 pages
Published April 1st 1993 by Penguin Books (first published 1992)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Republic of Love, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Jenny Thomas Wonderful writing! Nothing world shattering happens, but I found the book deeply absorbing, funny, with acute observations and beautiful description..…moreWonderful writing! Nothing world shattering happens, but I found the book deeply absorbing, funny, with acute observations and beautiful description.....(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,597 ratings  ·  219 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Republic of Love
Not one of my favorites from Shields, but still enjoyable and reminiscent of Anne Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist. Her chapters alternate between the perspectives of radio disc jockey Tom Avery and folklorist/mermaid researcher Fay McLeod, two Winnipeg lonely hearts who each have their share of broken relationships behind them – including three divorces for Tom and a string of long-term live-in boyfriends for Fay. It’s clear they’re going to meet and fall in love (almost exactly halfway through), ...more
May 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book made me fall in love with romance stories and made me want to go out and read as many as I could find until I remembered that the reason I don't read stories centred around romance in the first place is because 99.9% of them are, in my opinion, crap and uninteresting. This book is obviously in the other .1%. This is how all romances should read, as a real story that takes more into consideration than simply getting two characters together.
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If I had to describe this book in just one word, it would be an "eh." It's not that the book is bad, per se; it's just that I personally felt like it wasn't really about much of anything at all. Basically, two ordinary people living perfectly normal lives are discussed at length; then they meet, and the plot becomes highly improbable. I know it's supposed to be romantic and about love and stuff, but to me, it just went from feeling uninteresting to outright fake. Tom was more interesting to me t ...more
I should start with a disclaimer. I hate fictional love stories. They make me puke. I never read a straight romance. Every time I pick up a romance by a respected not-known-for-romance author, I'm hoping for something better, something deeper, something less treacly. Almost every time I'm let down.

This is yet another romance where the meet-cute happens, of all clichéd things, among children. The heroine is charmingly holding balloons, and kids are clamoring around her. The hero is equally charm
Mar 14, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I really, really wanted to love this book. I loved reading The Stone Diaries and Unless. They had characters that felt real and problems that I became passionately interested in.
The Republic of Love, not so much.
Tom and Fay were lovely people, but as soon as they got together, I lost interest. I skimmed the rest of the book, saw what troubles lay ahead for our hero and heroine and proceeded to check out. Maybe it was Winnipeg. It just seemed so dang dull, but Shields insisted on making it a char
Mar 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful surprise

I had never heard of Carol Shields before reading this book and was delighted to find out such a quiet treasure in its pages. I myself have never been particularly lucky in love and felt drawn to the real fragility that held so many of the romances in this novel together. I suppose it just seemed very genuine to me. A wonderful discovery. I cannot wait to try another of her novels.
Dec 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Whenever I open a book by Carol Shields, I prepare myself to walk into a folksy Midwest version of "The Ya-Ya Sisterhood," starring sassy old biddies who turn scrapbooking a full-contact sport.

I'm not sure where I got the idea that she writes Hot Flash Fiction, but I'm always wrong, and I've never been more pleasantly surprised by a book than I was by her 1994 novel "The Republic of Love.

Bits of the lives of the two main characters, Fay and Tom, are revealed in alternating chapters. Fay is a fo
Alexine Fleck
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carol Shields just rocks my world. The only reason why I didn't give this book five stars is that it stopped being awesome when the whole romance thing started near the end. You know it's going to happen, and it's nice for the characters, but I just loved the two of them so much as characters that I didn't want to see them get boring the way couples in books do once they've found each other -- like, their centers of gravity just alter and there they go: insular and boring. I might be talking abo ...more
Oct 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 'literary' novel, but I just found it so dull. The lists of food in a cupboard, clothes in a wardrobe, bored me to tears. There was an anniversary party where she listed most of the guests who attended, most of whom we hadn't met before, so what. The main characters weren't dislikeable, but this story was just so stretched out with pointless detail that I couldn't care whether they got together or not. It seemed less like a love affair, more like two lonely people deciding to make a tentative ...more
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this. It was a 4 up until the last 100 pages and then ramped up to 5 stars! What a beautiful character drive story! The descriptions of Winnipeg were such a major part of the story, the city was a character itself.
Heather Wolowik
I enjoyed reading this book. It took me awhile as I enjoyed the prose and wanted to make sure I was getting as much out of it as I could. To be honest, a book like this I would have normally stopped reading. Not a lot of action....BUT...there was something about these characters that kept me reading. I really enjoyed them and their story.
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: personal
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: _canadian
I didn't really buy it - that ending where everyone ends up in love and together. When Fay broke away from Tom - that was believable, if only because something very similar happened to me, but alas, or hooray, we did not end up together happily ever after. But I did find that sequence of chapters on the breakups the most riveting and convincing.

Unfortunately other stretches of chapters dragged by without engagement or depth. People were ciphers - she has commitment issues, he has commitment iss
Nov 17, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

I'm quite a sucker for old-fashioned love stories (having written one myself, as yet unpublished) but it's hard to find good ones. Of course there are mushy and formulaic romance novels galore but they are not what I'm talking about.
As Carol Shields herself writes here, "Love is not, anywhere, taken seriously. It's not respected. It's the one thing that everyone in the world wants but for some reason people are obliged to pretend that love is trifling and foolish. Work is important. Living arran
Apr 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: carol-shields
For the first third or more of The Republic of Love a Dickensian plethora of minor characters abounds, though performing quite differently from those in a Dickens novel, creating an impressionistic bubbling brook (and sometimes cesspit) of a community's varying experiences with that ever definition-defying and transformative prism: love. And so, forming less of a swaddling second story, they become a pavement the story walks along never to retrace its steps.

The main love story then kicks in, bui
I absolutely ADORED this book. I think I'm becoming quiet the Carol Shields fan! ;-) This is about Tom, a night-time DJ, and Fay, a mermaid specialist (Carol's characters always have the *most* interesting jobs and eccentric interests! *smile*). Both are currently single, Tom after three failed marriages, and Fay, who's never been brave enough to walk the aisle but also has several apparently serious relationships that haven't lasted. And they live right across the street from each other in Winn ...more
Sep 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of very few books I have read that I feel realistically addresses the quirky, elusive, shocking, and sometimes painful subject of love. Perhaps it was the way Shields manipulated viewpoint by allowing the story to be told alternately by both Tom and Fay. Perhaps I loved the fact that the entire first half of the book led up to the meeting of these two protagonists, and that the background knowledge gained about the characters this way allowed their "love at first site" encounter to s ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
I enjoyed The Stone Diaries far more than The Republic of Love but that is not to say this wasn't an decent romance. It is a story about two love weary people named Fay (a folklorist with a mermaid obsession) and Tom (a talk show radio host). Tom has failed marriages behind him and Fay hasn't been able to remain constant long enough to walk the aisle. They meet, but Fay is due to depart for Europe to research her mermaids. Of course they have complications throughout, and the characters were int ...more
*** ARC provided by, in exchange for an honest review***

Every now and then, I like being able to read a book that causes me to think, one that I can truly savor. With that being said, this book of poetic prose was a joy to read and ponder. Unlike some books which are an exercise in the "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am" mentality of our instant gratification-based culture, this book gives the reader a window into the lives of 2 damaged people who find themselves engaged in a restorative ty
Len Joy
Jul 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Tom Avery, a forty-year old thrice-married late night DJ in Winnipeg and Fay McCloud, a thirty-five year old academic specializing in the mythology of mermaids who has had serial relationships but never married, fall in love.

It’s complicated. The age, the marriage history, the academic world, the opinions and advice of family and friends all contribute to the complications. And then Fay’s father, in a seemingly perfect marriage for 40 years decides to leave his wife.

It is a well told story an

I received this book as a digital ARC from the publisher through Net Galley in return for an honest review.

This is the second book written by Carol Shields that I have read.

The story of the main characters, Fay and Tom, was not able to keep reader’s interest into the plot. The narrative just flows without any further engagement.

As in “The Stone Diaries” which won Man Booker Prize Nominee for Shortlist (1993), Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1995), National Book Critics Circle Award (1994), I wasn’t
Jan 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
if you've ever known love at first sight, then this author brings back all the magic of the impulses that invade your every moment when it happens to you. Tom and Fay have already had some experience with romantic relationships: he has had three marriages, She has had three long term live-ins. He seems to commit too easily, she is wary of commitment.
Tom is a late night Talk show host, Fay an authority on mermaids. Not too much in common you might think, but their lives are interwoven with family
Feb 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a positive hopefull book! Full of flawed but likeable 3-dimensional characters, with a usual variety of professions (anthropologist, DJ, computer programmer, lawyer, dry cleaner) and traits (one character has a stutter, not crucial to the plot but just because in real life some people do.) -- Shields builds a believable community of real people whom I would like to know. Set most definitely in Winnepeg, which becomes as real as the characters, rather some generic "Anywhere, USA" background. ...more
I did enjoy this and I found myself reading to the end but the whole idea of it didn't quite work for me. Lots of minor characters who weren't strong enough for me to remember who they all were, some jolting back and forth a few days in the narrative which I found clumsy, some clever writing and some that just wandered around. I lost a level of interest once Fay and Tom got together and never really quite understood them as main characters, particularly Fay who I found it hard to warm to. Winnip ...more
Oct 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a smart romance about two ordinary people who meet and fall in love--at first sight. The first part of the book tells of their lives in alternating chapters. Finally, when one begins to start asking impatiently, okay so when do they meet, they do and a little improbably fall immediately in love. I don't buy that, but Carol Shields was a very talented and funny writer so I liked the book and her likable people. ...more
I loved this book for its treatment of love in a way that was not corny or surreal. This was a book about two ordinary, flawed human beings who brought with them their tangled, messy pasts and somehow ended up happy together. I adore Carol Shield's writing; the words seem to flow effortlessly and I will be reading her other books as soon as I can get my hands on them. ...more
Sue Ann
There was a point near the end of this book that I wanted to hurl it across the room. But since I was reading on my Kindle, I didn't. I especially liked the character of Tom. Interesting how many connections there were between Fay and Tom and I liked the way that unfolded. A good "workout read." ...more
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a lovely novel which celebrates ordinary love between ordinary people. The characters are flawed, not heroic and the book portrays a deep and caring love, sensuous rather than madly passionate. Shields has a nice eye for detail and her characters are well rounded.
Maple Tea
This was the second time I have read this book, wanting to like it each time. Unfortunately, it was just too dull to give a high review.
Apr 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-content
Adult content. A great "Winnipeg" book by a wonderful writer and person (and former professor). I reread this overlooked novel for a CanLit course I'm taking right now.

« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Walk on the Beach: Tales of Wisdom From an Unconventional Woman
  • The Religious Body (Inspector Sloan #1)
  • The Englishman's Boy
  • Miss Benson's Beetle
  • السلطان الفاتح - فتح القسطنطينية
  • La: Sonsuzluk Hecesi
  • Doğa Üstü Sevgi Altı
  • Eyvah! Yine Kızlar Kazandı
  • Kızlar Aşık Olmaz
  • Yasak İlmin Kitabı (Esrarname, #1)
  • La prochaine fois
  • Asıl Adı Atiye
  • 	 Tarihi Liderler ve Aşkları
  • When I Was You
  • The Forest Lover
  • Bachelor Brothers' Bed & Breakfast
  • Snow (St. John Strafford, #1)
  • The Blue Flower
See similar books…
Carol Ann Shields was an American-born Canadian author. She is best known for her successful 1993 novel The Stone Diaries, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as the Governor General's Award. Her novel Swann won the Best Novel Arthur Ellis Award in 1988.


Related Articles

  Mateo Askaripour is a Brooklyn-based writer whose debut novel, Black Buck—which Colson Whitehead calls a “mesmerizing novel, executing a high...
71 likes · 8 comments
“Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve.” 2744 likes
“It's hard work being a person, you have to do it every single day.” 17 likes
More quotes…