Published 2011, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., ISBN 978-1-55468-443-4, 309 pages.
Helen Humphrey’s historical fiction novel, The Reinvention of Love, is the story of an illicit love affair between Adele Hugo, wife of Victor Hugo, and Charles Sainte-Beuve, a writer.
They meet when Sainte-Beuve writes a positive review of Victor Hugo’s poetry and is invited to visit the Hugo home, situate on the same street as Sainte-Beuve. In the beginning, Sainte-Beuve visits in the evenings when Victor is home and spends many a night listening to Victor pontificate about poetry and literature. Adele is often a silent presence.
Soon Sainte-Beuve and Adele meet for innocent afternoon teas, but an irresistible love springs up and they begin to meet clandestinely. Unable to control himself, Sainte-Beuve then commits a gaff which will haunt the love affair forever.
The first chapter of The Reinvention of Love displays a wit which I expected to enjoy for the remainder of this historical fiction novel. Not so. The Reinvention of Love rapidly declines into a pity-party by Sainte-Beuve, much like picking a scab so it never heals. This is intensified by Sainte-Beuve’s rare medical condition, a situation that contents Adele, but precludes traditional relationships.
The majority of the novel is told from Sainte-Beuve’s point-of-view, interspersed with a few chapters devoted to Adele Hugo’s point-of-view. I quite frankly began to find him rather tiresome.
The promising start to The Reinvention of Love unfortunately does not carry through the novel.
Rating: 2/5 Stars (Okay)
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