Review: The Republic of Love

Review: The Republic of LoveThe Republic of Love by Carol Shields
Published by Penguin on April 1, 1993
Genres: Romance
Pages: 366
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

With a viewpoint that shifts as crisply as cards in the hands of a blackjack dealer, Carol Shields introduces us to two shell-shocked veterans of the wars of the heart. There's Fay, a folklorist whose passion for mermaids has kept her from focusing on any one man. And right across the street there's Tom, a popular radio talk-show host who has focused a little too intently, having married and divorced three times.

Can Fay believe in lasting love with such a man? Will romantic love conquer all rational expectations? Only Carol Shields could describe so adroitly this couple who fall in love as thoroughly and satisfyingly as any Victorian couple and the modern complications that beset them in this touching and ironic book.

I own several of Carol Shields’ novels, but this is the first one I have gotten around to reading. Incidentally, Carol Shields is an alumna of my alma mater, Hanover College. Pretty much our only famous one (unless you count good ol’ Woody Harrelson, who may or may not have actually graduated – I think he got an honorary degree subsequently).

The writing is quite highbrow, full of five dollar words and complicated sentences. This does make a rather nice change from all of the teen fiction I have been reading. For the most part, I really loved her writing style. Every so often, a particular sentence would strike me as a bit over the top, as though big words had been used solely for the sake of using big words.

The narrative of the story moves along at a good pace, especially through the first half of the book. The format of the story, which follows the two main characters in alternating chapters, propels the reader forward, curious to discover how and when they will actually meet. I really loved the thought-provoking ideas about love, serendipity, marriage and being single that are woven throughout this novel. The theme of the interconnectedness of people’s lives and the degrees of separation was particularly fascinating. It reminded me a lot of a slightly darker and more literary version of When Harry Met Sally, only not the plot with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. It called to mind the little insert stories about how people met.

I highly recommend this to literary fiction fans. For those who like easy reads, not so much. This is an excellent novel (thank goodness, since I do own several more by Shields!).

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