How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance

Marilyn Yalom

Harper Perenial, 2012

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra

How the French Invented Love is an entertaining and masterful history of love 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.


A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2012: Nonfiction

Shortlist for the First Annual Book Award by the American Library in Paris

Shortlist for the Phi Betta Kappa Society Christian Gauss Award

“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 enthusiasm is highly contagious.  Readers will want to run to the library and stay there for a year, reading everything she deconstructs.”
Publishers Weekly (starred)

“By the end of the book, it is hard not to feel both breathless and dowdy.  Am I living sufficiently in my passions?  Shouldn’t my husband be making more declarations?  Perhaps the French are onto something.”
Wall Street Journal

“An amiable tour through changing French attitudes toward love during the last millennium… Engaging.”
New Yorker

“Marilyn Yalom’s new study, How the French Invented Love: Nine hundred years of Passion and Romance, reaches beyond the stereotypes by focusing on literature, making an erudite, elegant, and charming case for France’s love “invention.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“Cultural historian Yalom traces the French view of love through the literature and history of the country via the lives of significant figures, both real and imagined, especially writers and their characters.[A]serious,scholarly work, even as Yalom lightens the tone by inserting asides that illuminate her own wry view of the world. This superbly realized and wonderfully engaging work of analytical cultural history creates a class by itself.”

“The author employs an enjoyably downright style, blending in her own experiences in France over the course of 60 years as well as the personal stories of French friends… Her first-person confidence gives this an engagingly informal tone.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Both erudite and playful, written from the head and heart[…] Yalom herself is one of the book’s greatest charms as she looks back, not only at French literature, but also at her own experience of it. Personal memories and glimpses of her French friends and their complicated love stories ground the book in life rather than the mere printed word. Her personal stories captivate and help us experience her intellectual tour though her eyes and heart, as well as her brain. Reading How the French Invented Love brought back memories of the best professors of my intellectual life. Better yet, the story is told in the wise and witty tones of a close, intelligent, and warm-hearted friend.”
Wellesley Magazine

“Seductive and fascinating. Marilyn Yalom is the perfect companion for this delightfully tour de l’amour.”
Diane Ackerman, author of One Hundred Names For Love.

“Mailyn Yalom is a charming guide on an exploration of desire, romance, sex, and passion a la francaise.  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 seduce you.”
Ellen Sussman, author of French Lessons.

“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, author of Risking Who One Is: Encounters with Contemporary Art and Literature.
"Absolutely marvelous… lively and learned… Marilyn Yalom’s book is distinguished contribution to our experience of great literature, as well as an endearing memoir.”
Diane Johnson, author of Lulu in Marrakech and Le Divorce