Read How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance by Marilyn Yalom Online


“Absolutely marvelous…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“[An] enchanting tour of French literature—from Abelard and Heloise in the 12th century to Marguerite Duras in the 20th and Philippe Sollers in the 2“Absolutely marvelous…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“[An] enchanting tour of French literature—from Abelard and Heloise in the 12th century to Marguerite Duras in the 20th and Philippe Sollers in the 21st.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)How the French Invented Love is an entertaining and masterful history of love à la française by acclaimed scholar Marilyn Yalom. Spanning the Middle Ages to the present, Yalom explores a love-obsessed culture through its great works of literature—from Moliere’s comic love to the tragic love of Racine, from the existential love of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre to the romanticism of George Sand and Alfred de Musset. A thoroughly engaging homage to French culture and literature interlaced with the author’s delicious personal anecdotes, How the French Invented Love is ideal for fans of Alain de Botton, Adam Gopnik, and Simon Schama....

Title : How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance
Author :
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ISBN : 9780062048318
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 416 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance Reviews

  • Jill
    2019-05-14 14:35

    So I was led astray by the title of this book How the French Invented Love--doesn't that suggest a sociological explanation of the significance of love in French culture? Now of course, love is important in every culture. But to my romantic American Francophile mind, the French seem to have cornered the market on love. Stereotype or not, it seems to me that the French, both throughout history and today, are much more devoted to the pleasures of love. I was expecting a sociological exploration of this belief. In reading this, I wanted to learn: why do we associate the French so strongly with love? is the French emphasis on love fact or fiction? how do the French treat love differently from other cultures?Unfortunately, this book somewhat broaches these questions but not sociologically. Rather, Yalom, who writes both congenially and informatively, takes us on a sweeping adventure through French love literature. She begins with the tragic story of Abelard and Heloise, whom she names the "patron saints" of French love. From there we discuss Chrétien de Troyes' Arthurian romances and his focus on courtly love before moving to the invention of gallantry during the reign of Sun King Louis XIV. Then we investigate the Romantics' fixation/fascination on love as the absolute purpose of life and finally we explore the more modern cynicism toward love as found inProust and Flaubert's Madame Bovary. Yalom does not limit herself to heterosexual love either--lesbian and gay relationships are well-covered. What I found most interesting about this chronological expedition through French literature was the oscillation between periods of romantic attitudes toward love followed by periods of jaded attitudes toward love. A lot of French love literature is motivated by backlash toward these ideals.While this book left me with a long list of French love stories to seek out, I didn't get the answer to my most pressing questions: do the French actually love differently? and if they do, why? This omission was somewhat assuaged by Yalom's inclusion of several personal anecdotes on French love. She tells charming real life stories of French lovers that are so utterly French in character that I can't help but believe that l'amour à la française is not merely imagined but truly exists. Here's a LONG list of French works focused on love that Yalom has inspired me to read as soon as possible:The Lais of Marie de France The Princesse de Clèves Les Liaisons DangereusesManon LescautThe MisanthropeThe Complete Claudine: Claudine at School; Claudine in Paris; Claudine Married; Claudine and AnnieIndianaMadame BovaryCyrano De BergeracRemembrance of Things Past: Volume I - Swann's Way & Within a Budding GroveThe LoverSo obviously that list suggests that you probably shouldn't pick this book up if you're not looking to add even MORE books to your already towering TBR pile. The Francophile in me, however, can't wait.

  • Sydney Young
    2019-05-02 17:34

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, having been fascinated with the French and French literature and culture since I pilfered Angelique off of Mom's bookshelf when I was too young to read it (what an American sentiment!). I then proceeded to find and buy all the books in the series, and later managed to study law in France for a summer. I believe that a number of French concepts in those books greatly influenced my life for the better. I have always sought out French classics but, of course, have not been able to read them all, despite my Literature major in college. I now have an even better understanding of the important French literary contributions (novels, letters, author histories, and even some movies) to the French ideals of love from its inception through its ups, downs and all arounds. Thanks Marilyn Yalom for listening to your literary agent and writing this important work, and for treating all the evolutions of love so passionately and thoroughly. Your epilogue was just right; I now have a new item on my bucket list, when I return to Notre Dame one day. I also will definitely read one of your favorite books: "La Princess de Cleves"and look forward to it. (Thank you to the publisher for allowing me a preview of the book.)

  • Ashley
    2019-05-05 18:31

    I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins through a First Reads giveaway, thank you!I was slightly mislead by the title How the French Invented Love and maybe even a little by the description. This book is a quick review of the major novels about love, affairs, sex, desire, and anything related that Yalom felt described the time in which they were written. With stories about their authors and her own personal stories in between, this gives us a picture of France for the last 900 years or so. While this wasn't what I was expecting, it was still a pleasant surprise!When I read the title, I took this to mean Yalom was going to discuss how the French had influenced love through the rest of society. I didn't read much, if anything to that affect. This book was all about the history of love in France, whether that be people who were born in France or moved there to take part in their forward thinking views.Regardless, I loved reading all the different ways in which people loved each other, particularly those chapters on love that were not familiar to me. These included the chapters on the existentialists, women's affairs, and marriage hundreds of years ago. I think one of the biggest things we can take away from this book is that love works differently for everyone. What makes one happy doesn't necessarily make another happy. What we need to accept as a society is to each his own!

  • Narges
    2019-05-22 15:30

    Interesting review of 900 years of French literature, culture and outlook towards Love

  • Audra (Unabridged Chick)
    2019-05-06 17:24

    I'm a Francophile and I love reading; I love romance and I love -- for the most part -- the dramatic tensions that come with romantic stories. Writers on reading bring me joy and I get giddy delight when anyone geeks out about great books. This book is a breezy, accessible look at French attitudes toward love through nine hundred years of French literature. The subtitle of this book -- Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance -- is a little more accurate than the title, I think, although the title is nice and catchy. Yalom argues that the French and French culture swims with a cultural understanding of love, sex, lust, desire, and everything that comes with those feelings due to centuries of literary appreciation of love. Beginning with Abelard and Héloïse, Yalom combines biography, literary analysis, and her own opinions and observations on French life to argue that the vaunted concepts of love -- and the art of the love affair -- were created and perfected by the French. Chronologically, from the Medieval era on to the 21st century, she discusses the great authors and their works with passion and admiration, interspersing her commentary with personal stories and anecdotes. While reading, I was reminded a bit of Pamela Druckerman's Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, which my wife has just finished and won't stopped talking about. Among the many cultural tidbits Druckerman shared was the revelation that French don't believe motherhood has to be a part of a woman's core identity. The concept of the MILF, for example, doesn't exist in France because all women are sexy, whether they're mothers or not. Yalom echoes some of that sentiment in this book as she compares contemporary French cultural attitudes about sex and love with American attitudes. I can't say how nuanced her commentary is -- and I suspect she's referring to liberal urban centers more so than other parts of France -- but it was interesting to see more than one book echo this sentiment.Alas, I am prudish enough that Yalom's admiration for her French friends and their affairs didn't convince me that infidelity is romantic. But I loved her delight in French literature and the authors and books she discussed. Many have said you should keep a notepad while reading as you'll want to begin a list (I have!). Those interested in women in academia might enjoy this as well as Yalom often talks about her professional experience with these writers and works as well as her emotional connection to them.

  • Laura
    2019-04-30 12:36

    I felt privileged to have read this - and by that, I mean that the word "privilege[d/s]" appeared a little too frequently for my tastes (according to the Search feature on my Kindle, it was a mere 15 times, but a few of those times appeared in the same small Kindle window). As this was an ARC, perhaps that's changed in the final version.My bigger quibble was that this was not really about the French inventing love, it was how French literature influenced and/or mimicked the state of love in France, starting with the courtly love of the Middle Ages and ending with the sexual revolution as described by Catherine Millet. In other words, literary social history. Now, that's not bad, but it felt like the title and subtitle were false advertising.As for the contents, perhaps it helps if you've read many (most) of the books discussed (as I have, some in translation, some in the original). It added to my appreciation of how the works in question revealed something about the society at that time, although often I wondered what the "real" French were thinking and doing; literacy being a privilege of the upper classes in the earlier years, would peasants really have been aware of how Cyrano's words affected Roxanne? Or how best to woo a woman? Was adultery as accepted by those in the countryside as it was those in Paris and royal (or semi-royal) circles? These are questions that the author does not address. Obviously there's more evidence and discussion about how the non-literary/average classes feel about things once we move into the 1800s, but even at the end, when the question of Dominique Strauss-Kahn comes up, it feels like there's something missing.ARC provided by publisher.

  • Caroline
    2019-04-30 15:51

    The title of this book is somewhat misleading. This is not an exploration of how the French idea of love has influenced the Western world through novels, films, theatre, poetry, philosophy and art. There is no argument at all to this effect, and the book never strays outside of France to look at the impact of all of this cultural romantic outpouring. What it is, is a history of love as portrayed via French novels, films, theatre, poetry, philosophy and art. And as such it succeeds admirably.It's an interesting read, ranging from the troubadours of the twelfth-century up to the Strauss-Kahn controversy in 2011. It takes in Abelard and Heloise, Lancelot and Guinivere, up to Satre and Beavouir, taking in both heterosexual and homosexual love. I know very little about French literature, but I found this exploration of love via the words of Rousseau, Hugo, Proust and others quite enlightening.What I particularly found interesting is Yalom's argument that to the French, the line dividing love and sex is a very fine one. Whereas English literature is full of chaste lovers, Yalom argues that the French would not consider love without sex as a true, all-encompassing, fulfilling love. As a result, there is a strong current of physical love running through this book alongside the concept of romantic love.As I said, an interesting read, well-worth the time, but the title is misleading. This is not, as the title suggests, an argument as to how the French idea of love has shaped and formed how the rest of the world views and experiences love. I would have given it an extra star had it been.

  • Natalie E. Ramm
    2019-05-09 20:41

    How the French Invented Love is a non-fiction book of epic proportion! Not in size but in length of time that it covers. Marilyn Yalom takes an in depth look at love in fiction and poetry over a period of 900 years, starting circa 1100 AD through the 20th century, and she even touches on the 21st century! It is amazingly informative without being pedantic or boring. Her literary examples were the kind that really stick with you and encourage you to explore texts that you normally wouldn’t (unless you were in a French Literature class). My reading list is ever growing…Yalom is American but is extremely invested in French culture. This gives her a unique perspective that helps us understand how French literature and culture (which is so different from American) molds how the French think about love and romance (and why it’s such a different view than what Americans have). As a feminist, an academic, and a woman devoted to her husband of many years, Yalom is a kindred spirit. She can’t help but add her own views of love in the texts she chooses to present and the way she discusses them. Yalom is a romantic who worries about the present and future of romance but without being accusatory.This book touches on heterosexual and homosexual romance through history which is fascinating! I wanted to learn more about homosexuality in a historical context, but had no idea that I would do so in such an interesting manner and so soon. This book focuses mostly on France, but does discuss the literature and laws of England at the same time.

  • Emily
    2019-05-08 18:45

    As the wife of a Frenchman, I was very curious to read this book. It will be very enjoyable for history and literature lovers as Yalom traces French history and literature relating to love from the times of the troubadours up to the present day. Yalom gave a comprehensive overview of literary movements in France and I have a much better understanding of French literary history. That said however, there is not much more to this book. While I enjoyed the book, one thing I didn't like was all the sweeping generalizations and stereotypes, although I suppose writing a book on "the French" automatically lends itself to generalizations. Anyone reading this book who doesn't personally know a French person will finish this book believing that all French spouses are unfaithful and the French live for pleasure without regard to morals. I know there is a big generational difference regarding infidelity (with the younger generation expecting marital fidelity, in contrast to Yalom's generation), but I still couldn't help feeling that my husband and his friends wouldn't agree with what the author declared French people to believe. The author also name drops a lot and I had the feeling that she included several details just to make us think she's very cultured and important. It really rubs me the wrong way when an author comes across as self-important. That said, Yalom knows her stuff. I really learned a LOT from this book and have added many books to my to-read list. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves French literature, but probably not anyone else.

  • Mikey B.
    2019-05-02 17:49

    Page 252 (my book) attributed to Marie de France who lived in the 12 century“Ni vous sans moi, ni moi sans vous” – “Neither you without me, neither I without you”.Page 155To love excessively, wildly, madly to sacrifice and even humble oneself for love is a radical but not unrepresentative expression of French culture.The ability to love ... a reliable measure of worth.Page 195Love was worth living and dying for. In novels and plays, women and men died of broken hearts, even as the authors recovered and went on to new romances.Page 235[Even after their defeat in 1870] the Third Republic was ready to prove to the world that it was still the home of fashion, food, art, culture, and love.Given the subject matter how could this not be an entertaining book! We are presented by the author with a crash course in French literature – and French figures of literature – and how they espoused any type of romance. We are given the whole gamut – true love, passion, jealousy, adultery, marriage... All this, from medieval times to the present. And it would seem that the French are always ahead – although I suspect that the Spanish, Italians, and others would dispute this. There are times where I felt the author was off-track. For instance in the last chapter “Love in the Twenty-first Century”, to quote “Premarital sex, living together ...are ousting old-fashioned lifetime marriage”. Really – these behaviors were in acceptance forty years ago (starting in the 1960’s).Interestingly she brings up the fact that a few hundred years ago it was “quietly acceptable” for aristocratic women to seek affairs outside of marriage (probably because most marriages of that era were arranged), but not acceptable to experience sexual pleasures before marriage. In our day and age it may be “more acceptable” in general for women to seek “affairs” before marriage and “less acceptable” after marriage. I will end this now and do not wish to open up a discussion on the double standards surrounding male behavior! And I do not imply any moral judgement on the use of the word “acceptable” – what adult people do in their bedrooms (or elsewhere) is their business.I am not particularly familiar with French novelists, but this Proust fellow strikes me as tremendously tormented.From page 267“No other writer renders the misery of love so compellingly.”And I always thought that existentialism and love were incompatible, but apparently not, for the author discusses the intertwined lives of Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. And who can match Gustave Flaubert’s “Madam Bovary” for cynicism. But then came “Cyrano de Bergerac” to resurrect romanticism from the sordid gutters!Some varied quotes from the book. Some wonderful and some less so – this is love after all, where emotions are never in neutral!Page 109Amour-passion – the kind of love you would hope to experience at least once in a lifetime.Page 114Sentiment, feeling, emotion never disappear.Page 122Who does not treasure the belief in a soul mate? Who does not wish to find someone to love, with the hope of being loved in return?Page 126 from Nicolas Chamfort (1741 – 1794)“Love, as it exists in society, is only the contact of two epidermises”Page 126Love engaging the heart as well as the bodyPage 134 Julie de Lespinasse (1732 -1766)Had “the good fortune of loving and being loved”Page 140 [Julie de Lespinasse] captivated through her mind and speech.Page 205Neither the romantic nor the hedonist is a fully satisfying ideal.Page 233[Even after the cynicism of Madame Bovary] romantic love, like bulbs buried underground in the winter, was only waiting for the proper atmosphere to flower again.

  • Megan Chance
    2019-04-25 18:37

    I was expecting a rather more scholarly treatise here, but this book is not really that. It never really enters into the conversation posed by the title--instead, Yalom looks at French literature through the centuries, summarizing the books she's chosen, talking a bit about the authors and their lives. While there is some talk of how these books reflected French culture, she doesn't really draw conclusions, nor does she talk much about how they influenced the culture, or if they did (with a few exceptions), or what made the French what they are when it comes to love, women and sex. She does make some very interesting points about French attitudes toward love and sex as compared to American attitudes, but she never explains why the French are that way. Having said that, Yalom raises some interesting questions (though I'm not sure she does so deliberately), and opens some doors in terms of providing insight into another culture. It's an easy book to read, very conversational, with many personal anecdotes, and so it should appeal to a non-scholarly audience. I wanted a bit more, but I enjoyed what was there.

  • Margaret Sankey
    2019-05-09 18:37

    Taking as a starting point the observation that classic English novels *end* with the main characters marrying, but that French novels *start* there, Yalom, a feminist French literature scholar leads a tour of the key books and their linkage to French tolerance of personal arrangements (I usually show the photo of the Mitterand mistress and wife at his state funeral to my 20th century Europe class and they are stunned)Brits and Americans find bizarre. Does reading Dangerous Liaisons and the Princess of Cleves as standard high school literature make French people inherently sexier? I don't know, but I can't imagine American parents protesting Sarkozy's attempted removal of them from the curriculum the way French people jumped at it. Yalom finds juicy linkages between the fictional and the real--Julie de Lespinasse, Elisabeth LaBas, George Sand, Andre Gide and Colette and same-sex tolerance in Paris, Marguerite Duras and colonialism, Emma Bovary and celebrity culture, the changing view of Strauss-Kahn. And I think about my beautiful certain age mother reducing the men of the Au Printemps shoe department into dazzled sycophants.

  • Tatiana
    2019-04-28 16:27

    As a Francophile and avid reader of cultural history, I found this book perusing my library's ebook selection and what a treasure! It is a literary history of the French concept of love from the chivalry code that started in medieval France to the current cynical view of love in twenty-first century French culture. At first hesitant that this book would read more like a tome for a comparative literature course (the author does teach at Stanford after all), Marilyn Yalom's writing style of very approachable and easy to follow. She weaves stories of lives, books, and her own personal history, creating a wonderful look of this evolving concept of love. In fact, I loved her writing so much, I am now seeking her backlog, which also follows the history trail of some of our cultural norms. Do pick this book up of the subject interests you even in the slightest. You may even get some good recommendations on French romans by reading it!

  • LemontreeLime
    2019-05-11 14:26

    The surprise of this book is it's really a cross century examination of French literature. And I don't remember who said it or where i read it originally, but in France if you want to change the world, all you have to do is write a novel. Their fiction has more power than the government over it's people. And this book really made that clear just how close the culture is linked to its written words. I never thought about how much the atmosphere of romance was also linked into their books, until Yalom pointed out which books were taught in high school and earlier - A Princess of Cleves and Dangerous Liaisons. Here in the States, we read Tom Sawyer and the Scarlet Letter. Wow if that doesn't answer a ton of questions, and knock some things into perspective, I don't know what does. Good work, brave writing. REALLY brave writing. Looking forward to Marilyn's next book, which I will definitely plan on reading now.

  • Diana
    2019-05-01 16:23

    Stopped reading this book when I wasn't even halfway done because of the multitude of annoying sidebar statements about her personal opinions or life anecdotes, many of them barely relevant to the topic or surprisingly sexist. Here's where I had to stop: "I've heard enough personal stories in my life to know that some people, mostly men, get their sexual highs by manipulating, abusing, or beating up on women." This was the second or third blatantly sexist statement based on "personal stories" in a book written by a literary scholar. I just can't take a researcher seriously when this is what is considered credible data. The author's blatant sexism being magically reinforced by her buddies is neither scientific nor credible in those terms, and it devalues the book as a whole.

  • Jaret
    2019-05-04 16:31

    From the title of this book, I thought it was going to be a sociological exploration into the romance and courting habits of the French. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was about French romantic literature. There were a few sociological-type personal anecdotes from the author about herself as well as friends and associates. I thought the anecdotes were distracting from what really interested me--the changing views of love and romance in French literature. I found the scope of the literature choices interesting and liked hearing the personal histories of some of the authors. I enjoyed this more as a literary exploration than I probably would have as a sociological exploration. Glad I didn't judge this book by its cover.

  • Bryn (Plus Others)
    2019-05-11 19:44

    This was a really annoying book! It starts out being just what the title says -- Yalom argues that the concept of romantic love was unknown (at least in the Western world) until the French invented it during the 13th century. Okay, fine, I don't think this is true, but I was willing to read along with it, and the first few chapters are interesting looks at medieval love stories like Abelard and Heloise set into the context of their times. It was a fun mix of things I knew & things I didn't with a good thread running through it. I wasn't sure I agreed with Yalom's conclusions, but it gave me lots of things to think about.As the book went on, though, I started to run into issues:1. Somewhere during the 18th century Yalom drops the historical aspects of her story in favour of straight literary appreciations. She talks about women of the Revolutionary period being "born into the bourgeois milieu" but never tells us how this milieu developed. This is the point, I think, where the book quits even trying to be a cultural history about the French idea of love & starts just being 'Books Marilyn Yalom really likes that are about people in love.'2. Yalom seems to be a Freudian and thus gets really into men picking women to be maternal figures due to "want of satisfactory mothering" in their childhoods, about which I am extremely dubious.3. Yalom is very judgemental of women's physical appearance, saying things like "a Parisian of the upper bourgeoisie may resemble a peasant in the Auvergne only to the extent that a thoroughbred horse looks like a plow horse." I am so horrified to find this kind of 'good breeding' language in a book written this century by a woman who calls herself a feminist that my mind just boggles. Later on she talks about how if a woman works really, really, really hard at it, "it is possible for a woman to keep her sex appeal well into her later years." This is less surprising but I still find it awful.By the end of the book Yalom is no longer eve trying to explore the history of the concept of romantic love, but instead bemoaning the fact that nobody believes in Legendary Monogamous Love nowadays, and people do not get married expecting to be together for fifty years, and then she talks about a bunch of French movies and how many stars she would give them. I see how she was supposedly tying this into 'What do the French think about love now?' but movie reviews are not cultural history! Neither are Yalom's opinions about cosmetic surgery! Neither are her racist comments about how strange and wonderful it is that people of colour identify with French literature!I don't think I will be reading any of her other works.

  • Bookworm
    2019-05-16 20:39

    Eh. I wanted to like this a lot more than I did and thought I would. Bought the book a few months ago and decided to move it to the front of my "to read" list with the rather timely events of French President Francois Hollande's romantic entanglements. The book is not so much a history but rather how love is portrayed in many pieces of French history and literature. Some of it is fascinating and is sure to intrigue people interested those who have an interest in French history, literature, etc. From Lancelot to Guinevere to touching upon the recent escapades of Presidents Sarkozy and Hollande (although not the latter's most recent romantic drama), the author traces love, adultery, affairs, desire, etc. throughout time, both heterosexual and homosexual, although the latter only get a couple of chapters.Yet the book seemed lacking somehow. I expected that we'd get a bit more about how kings and presidents took on mistresses and lovers and perhaps some historical perspective on that. Or at the very least, more of a contrast to what is done now vs. previously or even vis a vis in comparison to what happens in the US (ie Clinton and Lewinsky). Again, these are touched upon, but it is not something that goes more in depth. Instead it's much more focused on portrayals in literature, and perhaps gives the French concept of love a much more "romantic" glow. I understand this is not a sociological study, but I felt there was a LOT more the author could have done with the book.The author ends with a brief discussion of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the sexual assault allegations against him, but maintains the "romantic" discussion of love. While I did not necessarily want or need that dark story to end the book, it would have been nice to also discuss the place of power, wealth, etc. and what it can do to manipulate or influence love matches or otherwise. It's not a bad read, especially if you're familiar with the various references to literature and history, but not being a French expert did not necessarily hinder me. Recommend the library before deciding to buy it.

  • Michelle
    2019-04-26 18:39

    In the UK at the moment, there is a plague of really annoying adverts where some brusque and, frankly, rather rude men addresses the viewer and demands to know if they have been 'mis-sold' (when did that become a word?) Payment Protection Insurance. If only there was a similar campaign for books...This book's title is, at best, misleading, and at worst, wrong. It's not a sociological study of the culture of love in France, but a study of French literature through the ages. Which is still interesting in its own right, but not when I was expecting a whole book about just how Paris became synonymous with lurve (it's even romantic to go there on your own), why French men are so hot, and hence why Jean Dujardin makes me develop a lust-related fever every time I think about him *fans self with book* This book did get me to think about things I hadn't really thought about before (the social construction of love and the 'model of love' we're all conditioned to follow) but this was no thanks to the author as she doesn't push the book in this direction. She should have - it would've been fascinating. Why do we love the way we do? Why do we follow these norms and where do they come from? Yalom would argue they came from literature but, sadly, there is more to life than books. I enjoyed some of the early personal stories she inserts into the text, but as the book goes on they become smug and irritating, and she makes some prudish comments about the age of consent in the UK and France which riled me (we Europeans are so scandalous! We're all banging each other from the age of 8! *eye roll*), and I gave her a serious side-eye at the way she dismissed a discussion of the works of Sade and Houllebecq simply because she 'didn't like them'. That is not a good reason to omit them.All in all, a book that missed its mark, but here's a picture of Jean Dujardin who, unlike this book, never disappoints.

  • Wyndy Carr
    2019-05-04 12:45

    While appalled by the lack of “people skills” or “emotional intelligence” displayed by certain world leaders in the news and stiff-upper-lipped British characters in films of Remains of the Day and Sense and Sensibility at Berkeley Public Library, I looked up and saw the title of Marilyn Yalom’s book on my shelf. Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance! Well, YEAH! PLEASE! As the Doobie Brothers sang, “Without love/ Where would you be now?” Yalom’s a senior scholar across the Bay at Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research, but hey, any port in a storm. Plenty of feminist pacifist sensual romantic readers over here in Berkeley. Professor Yalom sure knows her stuff. All the way back to medievals Héloïse and Abélard, to say nothing of Gide, Colette, Molière, Balzac, Sand, Proust, Leduc, and the extramarital affairs of De Beauvoir and Sartre. She unearths epistolatory salonistes like Julie de Lespinasse, memoirs of revolutionaries proud to breastfeed for Rousseau’s theories of “the natural human,” Paris as “the city of love” in the theater during La Belle Époque and everything from the “sentimentally sacred” to Les Liaisons Dangereuses, “perversely profane.”(p.116) Many French, then and now, assume love’s “forthright insistence on sexual pleasure,” (p.xi) rather than Puritanical conflicts. As far back as Courtly Love “became feminized,” it “inaugurated a tradition of French women writers, who took up the theme of love from their own perspective” and “romantic love… predicated on obstacles, there to intensify the experience” including family, religion, society, age differences and marital boundaries. (p.41-42) “Love simply doesn’t have the same moral overlay that we Americans expect it to have.” (p.xii) I agree with her that “I can’t bear to read (the Marquis de) Sade…he makes me sick,” and I’m glad she declares, “I don’t intend to inflict him on my readers…So be it,” (p.127) while charting all the literary and cultural swings from “a story that ennobles” to dissolute libertinage.(p.72) Misogyny is not foreign to France, of course, where Colette’s husband, “Willy” published her Claudine novels under his own name, kept the money and the copyrights after their divorce during her Vagabonde stage career while she was “earning barely enough to survive and often hungry and unwell.” (Wikipedia does, however, trace how “This French feminization of love, with its roots reaching back to troubadour poetry and medieval romance, contrasts markedly with the ancient Greek masculinist ideal.” She posits an internal French paradox, too, between “the obsessive nature of romantic love… its tendency to take precedence over all other human relations” for both men and women and “their Catholic heritage, which has had a notably troubled relationship with carnal desire.” (p.96-97) They, too, have experienced “a malaise …among certain men and women who have become afraid of love” in the 21st Century outside of pornographic or commercialized ideals, but not nearly so much as we have in the United States.(p.346-7) The medium has just changed: “While American films excel in technological innovation, violence, explosions, mystery, animation and science fiction, the French continue to zero in on the intimate space between lovers” in cinema as “the foremost conveyor of romance.” (p.351) Americans traveled thousands of miles to put padlocks on bridges in Paris, where love is continually reinvented and redefined, then kissed and threw away the keys. The bridges may be taboo now according to municipal law, but l’amour never will be.Knox Book Beat, for The Berkeley Times, Wyndy Knox CarrYalom, Marilyn, 2012, How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance, Harper Collins (Perennial), New York NY. () () Marilyn Yalom has an extensive list of scholarly publications, including Blood Sisters (1993), A History of the Breast (1997), A History of the Wife (2001), Birth of the Chess Queen (2004) and How the French Invented Love (2012), which was a finalist for the Christian Gauss Phi Beta Kappa literary criticism award. Her 2008 book, The American Resting Place, contains a portfolio of 64 black and white art photos taken by her son Reid. Her edited books include Women Writers of the West Coast with photos by Margo Davis, Rethinking the Family with Barrie Thorne, Coming to Light with Diane Middlebrook, Revealing Lives with Susan Bell, and Inside the American Couple with Laura Carstensen. Her most recent book is The Social Sex: A History of Female Friendship.Yalom, a former professor of French, was decorated by the French government in 1992 as an Officier des Palmes Académiiques “for services rendered to French culture.” In 2009 she was presented with a Certificate of Recognition from the California State Assembly “honoring extraordinary leadership in the literary arts and continued commitment to ensuring the quality of reading” through her book The American Resting Place: Four Hundred Years of History, “thereby benefiting the people of the City and County of San Francisco and the State of California.” In 2013, she was awarded an Alumnae Achievement Award by Wellesley College, the college’s highest honor.In Print Valentine’s Day talk on book “How the French Invented Love” , Kansas City Star: February 12, 2013 A History of the Wife, by Marilyn Yalom. Harper Perennial Read more Birth of the Chess Queen: A History, by Marilyn Yalom. Harper Perennial Read more Coming to Light: American Women Poets in the Twentieth Century (Women and Culture Series), by Diane Wood Middlebrook, Marilyn Yalom. University of Michigan Press Read more How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance, by Marilyn Yalom. Harper Perennial Read more Maternity, Mortality, and the Literature of Madness, by Marilyn Yalom. Pennsylvania State Univ Pr (Txt) Read more The American Resting Place: 400 Years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds, by Marilyn Yalom, Reid S. Yalom. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Read more

  • Ameya Warde
    2019-05-16 19:23

    This was really my first introduction to French literature, and it was impressive in its breadth and fascinating in its novelty (for me). what really made this book work for me was the author's voice- academic feminism mixed with a love of and long history with this material, which allowed her to present many problematic pieces and authors in a way that extolled their contributions to literature, culture, and philosophy, without ignoring or making excuses for their faults. (Proust was an -advocate- of pederasty (!), but against homosexuality! Simone de Beauvoir and Satre seduced and had a relationship with one of her (Jewish) high school students, and they basically abandoned her when the nazis came, instead of helping protect her, as most influential/wealthy people did for their jewish lovers at that time, etc.)

  • Alex
    2019-04-24 15:53

    This scholarly and passionate review of love, sex and romance was wonderfully readable. Presenting the idea of love as a cultural inspiration not unlike the literary influences on Don Quijote, Marilyn Yalom shows how romance has changed over the ages and what has remained the same. I take great delight in knowing that the book's author, who can write so passionately about what gives life meaning, is married to one of the best known existential therapists, Irvin Yalom, who writes about loneliness and death and freedom and lack of a predetermined meaning. Can this couple of authors come to be the equivalent of de Beauvoir and Sartre? Let's wait and see if this is another legend in the making. Meanwhile, enjoy the book, it is illuminating.

  • Marck Rimorin
    2019-05-06 18:32

    Picked it up on impulse (noticed how people were staying away from it, lol), but this is a very fantastic read. A long (sometimes meandering), but very entertaining and illuminating crash course on love and amorous relationships from the French POV: how the physical cannot be divorced from the emotional. All this is told in over 900 years of French literary, artistic, and cinematic history. Awesome must-read nonfiction.

  • Nicki
    2019-05-19 17:33

    Think of love. Think of Paris. Think of sweet coffeeshop loves. Thing of burning passion of the unapologetic adulteress. Think the chastity of ancient courts. Think of the poems and the myths and the legends. Think of revolutions. Think of the Gay Nineties. Think of France.Think of love, and read the book.

  • Tiffany
    2019-04-24 18:24

    I was on the fence for the first few chapters - wasn't grabbing me. I'm so happy I stuck it out because it just got more and more and more interesting. So much hidden history, literary criticism, cultural and psychological erudition. Even if you don't give a fig for the French perspective on love, this book is applicable if you're human and have ever felt an emotion for another human.

  • Katie/Doing Dewey
    2019-05-04 16:33

    How the French Invented Love is a history of love in French society, particularly French literature, from around 1100AD to today. The author summarizes classic stories to give you a feel for the era, but leaves out just enough that you desperately want to read the complete work. These glimpses into each era’s literature are spiced up by the addition of true anecdotes from the author’s personal experience in France. Some of these stories are not for the faint of heart, as they include adultery and other even more unusual romantic situations, but there are very few explicit sex scenes included. I would rate this one PG-13.Despite the lack of explicit sex scenes, I would highly recommend this book to all fans of the romance genre. Even as someone who only dabbles in romance, I found the history of the genre and the ways it shaped and was shaped by French culture incredibly fascinating. One of the few downsides to the book was the lack of a clear thread connecting the different eras into which the author divided French literature. She draws few overarching conclusions, focusing instead of analyzing the spirit of each era separately. In a lesser book, the lack of direction might have ruined the book for me; this one drew me in with accessible summaries of classic literature, the spicy real life anecdotes, and the interesting topic. It was hard to put down!A few other likes and dislikes… I loved that the author included some words and phrases in French along with translations. It was incredible how many different words there are for different shades of love and I appreciated her explanations of phrases without direct English translations. Some of these added real insight into the differences between French and American views on love. I was less fond of the way she referred back to authors discussed earlier without reorienting her readers with some descriptors. That oversight meant I did a lot of flipping back and forth to check which author wrote what. Finally, and appropriately for a book involving such focus on the sensual, the physical book itself particularly appealed to me. From the appearance of the cover to it’s canvas-like material to the rough edged pages, the book was as elegant as the French society it portrayed.This review first posted on Doing Dewey.

  • Norrin2
    2019-05-03 14:24

    I almost never read non-fiction. I’m not sure why. But now I’ve read two in a row. I guess if you’re a good enough writer and the subject is one I’m passionate about – like Jesus or love – I’ll forgive the commitment to the temporarily factual factual at the expense of the eternally truthful. (Wow, I think I just figured out why I prefer fiction.)Anyway, I devoured Marilyn Yalom’s “How the French Invented Love”, which is a non-fiction book about fiction – specifically French literature and how its attitude about love has become so ingrained in the French culture. In America, the concept of romantic love did not become a reason to marry until about 200 years ago. Up till that time what you wanted in a spouse was someone hardy enough to tame the land and make plenty of children to help with that task. But it’s been paramount in choosing a spouse (or a lover) in France for a long time. L’amour a la Francaise is eloquent (think Cyrano de Bergerac) but it is also very physical – and not just for the young. In a recent AARP poll of American and French people aged fifty to sixty-four, only 34 per cent of the French agreed with the statement “true love can exist without a radiant sex life” compared to 83 per cent of Americans.I haven’t read a lot of French fiction (but I’ve moved my copy of Moliere’s “The Misanthrope” to the top of my to-read stack and put Marguerite Duras’s “The Lover” on reserve at the library) but I watch more French movies than American ones because (as Yalom puts it:) “While American films excel in technological innovation, violence, explosions, mystery, animation and science fiction, the French continue to zero in on the intimate space between lovers”, and this book has helped me understand a few things about French cinema that always slightly baffled me before – such as their often blasé attitude about adultery. I think I will read more non-fiction in the future. I see Yalom has written another book called “A History of the Breast” and like I said if the subject is compelling enough. . .

  • Andreia Pania de Almeida
    2019-05-18 12:40

    "Como os franceses inventaram o amor" é escrito por Marilyn Yalom, escolhi esse livro por acaso em um dos meus cafés da livraria cultura no shopping Ibira, e no decorrer do livro me dei conta que ela é a esposa do Irvin Yalom, autor dos livros "Quando Nietzscheh chorou" e "A cura de de Shopenhauer" que são dois livros de drama psicológico intensos que já li e também amei! Interessante acaso!A autora, especialista em literatura francesa, faz um resumo de grandes obras enquanto navega na linha do tempo. Como americana, ela faz um contraponto na abordagem do amor comparando as culturas americana e francesa. O livro não necessariamente responde a pergunta de como o amor foi inventado, mas mostra no decorrer de várias épocas como o amor é retratado nos livros, literatura, filmes e arte em geral. Ela abre o livro com a interessante história de Abelardo e Heloísa, do seculo XII. Uma história de amor com final trágico, onde o monge Albelardo foi castrado por ter se envolvido sexualmente e casado, embora escondido, com Heloísa. A autora mergulha dentro de algumas possibilidades sobre qual era o aspecto social atrás de cada evento, bem como o fato do amor erótico, físico ou platônico, sempre estar presente na cultura francesa. Outra grande surpresa foi ela ter mencionado o filme "O Amante" da escritora Marguerita Duras, um dos filmes que me chamou muita atenção pela sensibilidade em que o erotismo e amor se misturam. E após ler esse livro acabei re-contextualizando a história e tive uma nova perspectiva do filme. Como tarefa, quero fazer uma listinha com alguns filmes e bibliografia que são mencionadas pela autora. Amei o livro e indico para todos que curtem literatura!

  • Laudys
    2019-05-13 16:30

    Disclaimer: I won this book in a giveawayI'll be the first to admit that I don't usually read this kind of book, I generally stick with fiction, but the how could I turn away from such gorgeous cover and enticing subject? Ten pages in and I knew I had made the right choice when I decided to participate in the giveaway. Marilyn Yalom weaves with lush words and so much sentiment what the french have made with love: illusory love, passion, lust, pure love, filial love, tragic love, lesbians, gays, threesomes, lovers, infidelity and everything in between. Every shade of the romantic feeling is reflected within the realm of french writing and Yalom presents us the writers that brought them forward in an exploration of their lives, their style and how they affected the world around them. Her own style is easy to read, peppered with personal tidbits and great words that I don't usually find in books.It's a great, delicious book and I couldn't recommend it enough.(If you notice that it took me almost a year to finish this book it actually was because I had lost it, not because I couldn't stand it or something. And I have no words to explain how empty were those first weeks when I couldn't fall back to Marilyn Yalom's soft, warm words on french literature after I had started reading it.

  • Liss Capello
    2019-04-29 17:52

    This was really interesting, although maybe not exactly what I was expecting out of the experience. Like some other reviewers summarized, I was anticipating a more sociological perspective, while this work is instead an overview of influential French literature around the theme of love. It was still really interesting to me, more so perhaps because a great deal of the literature Yalom discussed was not works with which I was already familiar. Still, there was something evident in the small vignettes she sprinkled through the more scholarly information that suggested a truly unique, French characteristic of love, that was never fully expanded on or explored. It's also worth pointing out that this constitutes a largely Eurocentric overview of love literature. It's also worth acknowledging that the idea of French love supremacy is hardly unchallenged: indeed, most European countries get credited with being the home of lovers (with the exception of the English, poor souls). But the French, Spanish, and Italians, at very least, would have to duke it out for the title in popular conception.