Thursday, September 24, 2009

Snapshot Book Review: The Republic of Love

The Republic of Love The Republic of Love by Carol Shields

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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 seem more the result of life circumstances (and an aversion to loneliness) than some sort of romantic ideal. Perhaps I loved the way Shields illustrated other couples' relationship through both Fay's and Tom's eyes. Or perhaps I simply loved Shields' refusal to make the ignorant bliss of courtship as ignorant or blissful as lovers wish it were.

This book was full of realism, and because I believed in its characters, because I understood and related to their their doubts and disappointments, I stayed with them through the slow, lumbering building of the story--which, in the end, was rewarding.

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Rome said...

you're such a skeptic.

Daniel said...


Neen said...

One of my favorite musicals is "The Last Five Years" by Jason Robert Brown, which chronicles the five year relationship/marriage of a young couple, Jamie and Cathy. What is interesting about the way it's put together is that Cathy tells the story from the end going backward(at the beginning of the play she has found a note from her husband saying that he is leaving her), while Jamie tells the story from the beginning of their relationship going forward. They never directly interact save for when the time lines meet at their wedding in the middle of the show. It's really a fascinating show and hits on some of the same things you mentioned in your post. Worth listening to the soundtrack. It's brutally honest about how hard making a relationship work can be, particularly when one person is experiencing work-life success and the other is not.

My mom always reminds me that it is the sum of our experiences (mine and Joe's) and how we've learned to deal with even the most difficult problems together that ultimately determines the strength and depth of our relationship. It's true that courtship isn't always pretty, but looking over the last five years I'd say I've learned more about what it really means to love someone than I ever thought I needed to learn. And if you're really lucky (I think I am), you find someone who wants to learn it all right along with you, good and bad.