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The Reinvention of Love follows a young writer in France, Charles Sainte-Beuve, during the Napoleonic years. He becomes friends with Victor Hugo, at the time when Hugo’s popularity and his literary reputation is growing.

However, complications arise when Charles falls in love with Hugo’s wife Adele and they begin having an affair.

To say the least I was expecting more from this novel. The synopsis made it sound so grand and sweeping, as if Charles and Adele would be swept up in the Napoleonic Wars. However, that is not the case – Charles avoids mandatory military service and Adele is sent in to exile with Hugo. So nothing really happens between the two characters, except a brief love affair.

This novel is told from Charles’ and Adele’s perspective, and in the last chapter, Adele’s daughter’s perspective, so I think that limited the storytelling. Charles and Adele weren’t particular interesting characters, as they were continuous obsessed with worrying over the past and ageing. It is becomes clearer further in the book that Charles’ life only revolves around his obsession with Adele, even in his old age.

Humphreys also threw in the mix something I was not expecting – about a third of the way threw Charles explains that he is technically transgender, and although born a man, he has the genitalia of a woman. She writes this in as a way of “splitting” Charles’ character essentially into male and female – Charles the unkept man and Charlotte, the polite, graceful woman.

Overall, this book fell flat. The drama and emotions between the characters felt superficial, which is unfortunate because this had potential to be a great story, especially with the eccentric Victor Hugo involved.

This is the second book I’ve read of Helen Humphreys – the other was Coventry, and I felt the same way I did about The Reinvention of Love, so I don’t think I’ll read any more of her novels in the future.

Rating:

{  } Pretty bad
{x} Tolerable
{  } All right
{  } Exciting
{  } Enthralling

Book 20 out of 60