Her Royal Orangeness's Reviews > The Reinvention of Love

The Reinvention of Love by Helen Humphreys
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's review
Jul 25, 2011

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bookshelves: 2011, author-humphreys, authors-i-heart, hf-19th-century

When I first heard about this book, which was just published last month, I got a bad case of "I want." The author's "The Lost Garden" is one of my favorite books, and "The Reinvention of Love" is about Victor Hugo, the author of another favorite book, "Les Misérables."

"The Reinvention of Love" is set in France in the 1800s, and is based on real people and historical facts. Charles Sainte-Beuve is a book critic, and after reviewing the work of Victor Hugo, he is invited to the author's home. Charles and Victor become friends...and Charles begins an affair with Victor's wife, Adèle. The book explores the lives and complicated relationships of these three characters.

"The Reinvention of Love" is much more a character study than a plot-driven novel.

It is told almost exclusively from the viewpoint of Charles, who is not a very likable character. He's arrogant, pompous, selfish, vain, and critical. He's also irrationally jealous of Victor, who has all that Charles wants - a successful writing career and a beautiful wife.

A few chapters are told in Adèle's voice. She seems like such a lonely sad woman who is a victim of the time period, when women could do little more than live in the shadow of a man. Victor is a background character, and is portrayed as having many of the same character defects as Charles - arrogant and selfish. Is this accurate, or is Charles projecting his own faults?

Jealously, identity, and sexuality are all themes in "The Reinvention of Love" and the author explores each of these in intriguing and thought-provoking ways. Motives and actions are not explained but are left open for interpretation.

The book is well-crafted, and the author employs various writing styles as fits the situation. Sometimes it is beautiful and philosophical; at others times, it is terse and spare.

"The Reinvention of Love" is a unique book that was a complete enjoyment to read. It is a book I would like to re-read to more fully explore the character development and the technique used by the author to present the story.

3 1/2 Stars
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message 1: by Judy (new)

Judy Excellent review, HRO. :-)

Her Royal Orangeness Thanks Judy! :)

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