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The Reinvention of Love (2011)

por Helen Humphreys

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Mostrando 1-5 de 8 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Helen Humphreys is one of my favourite authors. She can spin a phrase that makes you weep with the glory of it, can break your heart in a sentence, change your mood in a paragraph.
The reinvention of love is a book filled with such moments. We are taken to the France of Victor Hugo, cholera, revolutions, and Napoleon, to witness a literary competition wrapped in a love affair.
Every character is carefully explored, every moment enhanced. The story itself, centred around Charles Sainte-Beuve, pulls you along through the tides of history, stopping here and here for a dip into one literary salon or another.
It all makes me wish that I could have lived in Paris back then, smelly sewers and intrigue and all. What a magical time that was!
Let Humphreys take you for an exploration of this time and the depth of human love. ( )
  Dabble58 | Nov 11, 2023 |
This little novel was surprisingly engrossing. The narrative centres on Charles Sainte-Beuve, a poet and critic in mid-189th century France. He falls in love with Adele Hugo, the wife of novelist and poet Victor Hugo. Their affair causes ripples through both of their lives that last a lifetime. It’s hard to describe why this story is so engaging, but I think it comes down to the writing. It is descriptive without being overly flowery, and evokes the literary scene of that period in France, which produced not only Hugo but George Sand, Dumas, Balzac, and others. The social and political atmosphere also play a distinct role, shaping the story as Victor Hugo runs afoul of Napoleon III and his entire family pays the price even as his fame grows. Anyway, at the core of this novel is a love story, and it is elevated because of the players, who reflect deeply on the very nature of love even as they are caught up in its web. ( )
  karenchase | Jun 14, 2023 |
This novel tells the story of Charles Sainte-Beuve's love for Adèle, the wife of Victor Hugo—it was refreshing to read about people and a period I've read less about before. ( )
  mari_reads | Feb 16, 2019 |
This novel tells the story of the unusual love affair between Adele Hugo, wife of the famous 19th century French novelist Victor Hugo, and the journalist and much less well known writer Charles Sainte-Beuve. The bulk of the book is taken up by sections told from their respective points of view as their lives intertwine then separate over the course of several decades. In its essence, though, the novel is really about the effect that Victor Hugo as a giant of French literature and culture for five decades had on those around him, an effect that in some ways damages and even destroys most of their lives. The affair, not unsurprisingly, affects Victor's friendship with Charles, and also tears Adele Hugo apart emotionally as she finds she cannot leave her children for the sake of her lover. Of Victor's four children, only his younger daughter Dede (Adele) outlived him and she was in an insane asylum for 40 years. Her growing dislocation from sanity is probably the saddest thread in the novel. Part of the reason for it was the effect of the tragic death of her elder sister in a boating accident with her new husband, when Dede was still a child. Victor's two sons and Adele follow him into exile in the Channel Isles after he falls foul of Napoleon III and this prevents them from taking places in French society and they waste away their lives. It is almost as though Victor Hugo is a such a colossally bright figure that those around him wither away or burn up. An interesting and slightly unusual novel. ( )
  john257hopper | May 22, 2016 |
Helen Humphreys writes with such a sure hand that she may in fact be hindered rather than helped by choosing to focus upon the brief, infertile, frenzied, but curious affair between Charles Saint-Beuve and Adèle Hugo, the wife of Victor Hugo and mother of his four children. The sepia tone of the writing cloys at times, as though it were merely the result of an Instagram filter. Yet there is certainly something here worth Humphreys’ time and talent. Saint-Beuve is sexually ambiguous, a comfortable cross-dresser with a secret that limits his willingness to explore his own appetites. Adèle is rapacious, and, to me at least, inexplicable. Together their love is a meringue, a swirl of passion, full of air.

The other significant player in this drama is Victor Hugo himself, but like his ego he seems too large for such a trifling affair. Is ‘trifling’ unfair? And if not, who is trifling with whom? Certainly Adèle breaks off relations with Saint-Beuve as soon as her husband learns of the affair and demands its end. The eddies of their “love” continue to swirl for some time, but it’s hard to take it seriously given how comprehensively it ends. Not so much the reinvention of love as the devolution of love.

And then there is the curious section that ties these events to Canada in the form of the deluded youngest daughter of Victor and Adèle, known as Dédé. She escapes the voluntary exile that her father has chosen for his family on the island of Guernsey in order to follow her supposed lover, a British officer, to Halifax in Canada. Her love, however, is even less substantial than Saint-Beuve’s and Adèle’s in that it appears to be entirely imaginary (at least as presented here). Not too surprisingly, Dédé ends her days confined for more than 45 years to an asylum.

Like me, you may find yourself admiring Humphreys’ writing more than the story she has chosen to tell. Which is somewhat disappointing. With madness, cross-dressing, hermaphrodites, adultery, and great poetry and literature on hand, surely there is a gripping story to tell. Perhaps Saint-Beuve’s diffidence has infected his own tale and neutered it (an ironic commentary on his biographical theory of literary criticism if there ever was one). But not a recommendation for this particular story (though I would gladly read another Helen Humphreys effort). ( )
1 vote RandyMetcalfe | Mar 2, 2013 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 8 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
It is a testament to Humphrey’s skill that Victor Hugo should emerge as a mountain of bombast and self-absorbed genius, and yet never overpower in our minds the unimposing figure of Charles.
adicionada por lkernagh | editarThe Globe and Mail, Donna Bailey (Oct 7, 2011)
 
Helen Humphreys has no need to feel insecure about The Reinvention of Love, an entertaining novel at the same time as it is emotionally harrowing. The work is a triumph of lucid, vigorous, suspenseful narrative, a historical fiction that wears the author’s knowledge of the past lightly, a convincing study of character that could be set in almost any civilized era.
 
History, that incubator of stranger-than-fiction stories, provides the plot outline for Humphreys’ intriguing new novel set in the literary ferment of 19th-century Paris. Its focus is the doomed affair between journalist and literary critic Charles Sainte-Beuve and Adèle Hugo, the wife of Victor Hugo, Sainte-Beuve’s friend and neighbour. It’s a tale whose potential scope is as epic as a Hugo novel, given the sensational details. Cross-dressing! Hermaphroditic genital malformation! Social climbing at the court of Napoleon III! Literary rivalries! Insanity!...Yet Humphreys, a nuanced, evocative writer, chooses to fill in the bold outline gently, even pallidly, with pastel hues, alternating Charles’s and Adele’s voices over 30 years....
 
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Le Vrai, le vrai seul. - SAINTE-BEUVE
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In memory of my brother, Martin.
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Marcel Proust, for example, argues that art can transcend the man. I don't see how he can really believe that art is delivered miraculously through the human vessel and not rooted in its material.
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Married to a great man, in love with a man like no other .

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