Stephen B's Reviews > The Republic of Love

The Republic of Love by Carol Shields
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it was ok
bookshelves: _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 issues. But no one seemed to gain understanding of why they were like this, beyond mystical allusions to 27 mothers, and mermaids... somehow. Yes yes, I get Fay is supposed to be the mermaid, and somehow Tom is the lonely sailor on endless empty seas - - - but mermaids lure sailors to their death - I'm not sure how death fits into the overall story, unless it is death of the individual.

Hah. The father should've kept running, BiBi too. But no they all come back to the fold - driven by the fear of loneliness, or aloneness, rather than any realistic idea of love and commitment. Love as a bulwark against the horror...

Its insidious, feeding on people hopes. In the end it is insistent on the idea of it being the natural and healthy state for people to be together, of people belonging, of being claimed. Of it to be the way to be - happy? Content? Fulfilled? Authentic? - - - way too prescriptive and absolute and exclusive:

“it is impossible for us to live outside the culture we're born into. Our communities claim us from the start, extending a Thousand tentacles of possession, and Fay, a reasonable, intelligent woman, has long recognised that reverence for individualism is one of the prime perversions of contemporary society. It is a logical and foolish. Oh yes. You're bound to each other biologically and socially, intellectually and spiritually, and to abrogate our supporting network is to destroy ourselves”

She lost me here completely in her novel. Actually wrote in the book, "Really!" - I never write in books, it feels faintly blasphemous. But the statement is outrageous. Like many people have a choice. Like being alone is the worst most horrible thing in the world - it's better to be in a shit relationship than none at all? Really? And it's odd she uses the word "abrogate" - it feels like an authorial intervention rather than anything Fay would say.

But I carried on reading with a sense of duty rather than engagement... The novel speaks of someone observing without insight. It does not speak to huge swathes of people who don't fit this lovely little smug niche. It reminds me of one of those Gothic novels held up for consideration in Austin's Northanger Abbey - its fantasy.

EDIT: since read Larry's Party and Unless - this one's definite a dud - these two are brilliant.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 2, 2014 – Finished Reading
January 3, 2014 – Shelved
May 1, 2017 – Shelved as: _canadian

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