How the French Invented Love
Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance
By Marilyn Yalom
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780062048318, 416pp.)
Publication Date: October 2012
Oh, how the French love love! For hundreds of years, they have championed themselves as guides to the art de l'amour through their literature, paintings, songs, and cinema. A French man or woman without amorous desire is considered defective, like someone missing the sense of smell or taste. Now revered scholar Marilyn Yalom intimately examines the tenets of this culture's enduring gospel of romance.
Basing her delightfully erudite findings on her extensive readings of French literature, as well as memories of her personal experiences in la belle France, Yalom explores the many nuances of love as it has evolved over the centuries, from the Middle Ages to the present. Following along, step-by-step, on her romance-tinged literary detective hunt, the reader discovers how the French invented love, how they have kept it vibrant for more than nine centuries, what is unique in the French love experience, and what is universal.
Marilyn Yalom is a former professor of French and presently a senior scholar at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. She is the author of widely acclaimed books such as A History of the Breast, A History of the Wife, and Birth of the Chess Queen, as well as The American Resting Place: Four Hundred Years of History Through our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds, which includes a portfolio of photographs by her son Reid S. Yalom. She lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband, the psychiatrist and author Irvin D. Yalom.
“By the end of this book, it is hard not to feel both breathless and dowdy. Am I living sufficiently by my passions? Shouldn’t my husband be making more declarations? Perhaps the French are on to something.”
-Pamela Druckerman, Wall Street Journal
“This superbly realized and wonderfully engaging work of analytical cultural history creates a class by itself.”
“How the French Invented Love is absolutely marvelous, so lively and learned....Marilyn Yalom’s book is a distinguished contribution to our experience of a great literature, as well as an endearing memoir.”
-Diane Johnson, author of Lulu in Marrakech and Le Divorce
“Seductive and fascinating. Marilyn Yalom is the perfect companion for this delightfully candid tour de l’amour.”
-Diane Ackerman, author of One Hundred Names for Love
“The author employs an enjoyably downright style, blending in her own experiences in France over the course of 60 years as well as the personal stories of French friends. . . . Her first-person confidences give this an engagingly informal tone.”
“Marilyn Yalom is a charming guide on an exploration of desire, romance, sex and passion à la française. Like a detective on a steamy case, Yalom digs through literature and life, uncovering the mysteries of l’amour. How the French Invented Love will surely seduce you.”
-Ellen Sussman, author of French Lessons
“Marilyn Yalom reclaims her enchantment with love stories from France. She explores the mysteries and complexities of love as they have been bequeathed by the French from centuries of their literature....She goes beyond the recognizable clichés to offer a comprehensive study, a rich psychological and cultural survey.”
-Pierre Saint-Amand, Brown University; author of The Pursuit of Laziness: An Idle Interpretation of the Enlightenment
“Marilyn Yalom combines a witty and conversational style with impressive erudition….[She] is no misty-eyed idealist when it comes to love, or to the French, but her personal involvement in the story is part of the charm of this highly readable book.”
-Susan Rubin Suleiman, Harvard University; author of Risking Who One Is: Encounters with Contemporary Art and Literature
“Enchanting….At the heart of this delicious book is Yalom the reader, whose fascination with the French way of love and pleasure in sharing her enthusiasms is highly contagious. Readers will want to run to the library and stay there for a year, reading everything she deconstructs.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)