Monday, October 10, 2011

The Reinvention of Love (Helen Humphreys, 2011)

The Heroine: Adele Hugo, the wife of Victor Hugo, living in Paris during the mid-1800s with her four children. Secretly in love with her husband's closest friend, the journalist Charles Sainte- Beuve, Adele ultimately chooses between leaving her family to be with her lover or suffering through a lifetime of loneliness with her distracted husband Victor. Wise, selfless and intuitive, Adele Hugo is a beautifully rendered character.

The Highs: The narrative in this novel is split between Adele and her lover, Charles. Charles is a character that would perhaps be loathsome in reality (snarky, proud and jealous), but makes the reader feel a sense of empathy towards him on the page. Charles' experiences provide the reader with an interesting sense of Paris in the 1800s, especially within the literary community. All around, Charles is a grounded character that provides a sense of realism to the story.

While I thought this book may be a fluffy tale of romance (though I would not object to that!), The Reinvention of Love is actually quite a serious story made up of strung-together vignettes that forms an overall commentary on humanity and love. For those that enjoy fiction that also includes social commentary and philosophical wisdom, I would definitely recommend this book.

The prose in this book is beautiful, clear and perfectly crafted. Helen Humphreys is clearly an experienced writer with a lot of talent. I am interested in reading some of her other books, based on her obvious skill in this story.

The Lows: I didn't particularly care what happened between Charles and Adele, mostly because of my confusion over the purpose of their affair to begin with. Their affair was not driven by sexual passion, a shared intellect or common interests. I had trouble believing in the legitimacy in their love for that reason.

There wasn't many exciting events in the plot to keep me hooked. The book moves from scene to scene, with no real action to break up the monotony of deep reflections and emotion. While written beautifully, I would have appreciated the loveliness of the narrator's observations more if their were some scenes of great action to generate excitement. I like to feel passionate about the books I read, and this book did not light my fires.

Final Thoughts: While this book was well-written and intelligent, I found it void of passion and excitement. Overall, I enjoyed reading it.

Rating: The Reinvention of Love gets six duels out of ten. 

Buy "The Reinvention of Love" on Amazon here
Connect with the author Helen Humphreys here
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