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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (125 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Marilyn Yalom Narrator: Christine Williams Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Spanning the Middle Ages to the present, How the French Invented Love explores a love-obsessed culture through its great works of literature, interlacing the author’s charming personal anecdotes. This fascinating history will particularly delight fans of Alain de Botton, Adam Gopnik, and Simon Schama.

Love occupies an honored place in the French sense of identity, on a par with fashion, food, wine, and the rights of man. A Frenchman or woman without amorous desire is considered defective, like someone missing the sense of smell or taste. For hundreds of years, the French have championed themselves as guides to the art of love through their literature, paintings, songs, and cinema, yet no English book has seriously addressed the subject of French ideas about love. No one has followed the roadmap of French literary landmarks, which explore every nuance of love as it evolved over the centuries—until now.

In How the French Invented Love, acclaimed scholar Marilyn Yalom distills her readings of French literary works and the memories of her experiences in France to discover the central tenets of that culture’s gospel of love. In the process, she examines almost a thousand years of divine culture in search of the intimate moments that reveal how the particularly French concept of l’amour has endured and evolved.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Seductive and fascinating. Marilyn Yalom is the perfect companion for this delightfully candid tour de l’amour.”

    Diane Ackerman, New York Times bestselling author

  • “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, New York Times bestselling author of French Lessons

  • “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)

  • “Cultural historian Yalom explicates Gallic attitudes toward the not-always-so-tender passion…The author employs an enjoyably downright style, blending in her own experiences in France over the course of sixty years as well as the personal stories of French friends.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • 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, National Book Award–nominated author of Le Divorce

  • “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

  • “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

  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2012: Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Gloriavirtutisumbra | 2/14/2014

    " 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. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Alex | 1/10/2014

    " 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. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Justinburt1 | 12/31/2013

    " "For love in its infinite variety refuses to be bound by any outside notions of what it should be. It can take the form of irresistible passion and mutual ecstasy or mental understanding and sweet harmony or disharmonious jealousy and rage, to mention only some of its most notable forms. It can begin with silence, hesitation, double entendre, hidden desire, before finding the words that capture ones feelings. The formal declaration of love can be little more than a whispered "Je t'aime" or a drawnout expression designed to inspire a reciprocal declaration." "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Lauren | 12/31/2013

    " Wasn't my cup of tea, for many reasons. I enjoyed her writing style but not the topic, I know weird. "

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About the Author

Marilyn Yalom is a former professor of French and presently a senior scholar at the Institute for Women and Gender at Stanford University. She is the author of several widely acclaimed books, including A History of the BreastA History of the Wife, and Birth of the Chess Queen, as well as The American Resting Place, which includes a portfolio of photos by her son Reid S. Yalom. She lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband, psychiatrist and writer Irvin Yalom.