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The Republic of Love Paperback – April 1, 1993

4.1 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Paperback, April 1, 1993
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Love at first sight becomes new, as Shields delights the reader with her carefully polished prose.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Fay McLeod and Tom Avery are likable souls: kind to their parents, close to friends and co-workers, dedicated to their professions (she's a folklorist, he's a radio talk show host). But thus far both have been unlucky in love. Fay has never married; Tom has married and divorced rather too often. Participating on the periphery of lives of married friends has begun to pall. They finally meet, and it is a coup de foudre for both, but Fay is leaving that night for a month of mermaid research in Europe. Even when she returns, their affair is jeopardized by upheavals in others' lives. Can a woman of letters find happiness with a spokesman for the commonplace? Stay tuned! This is a most satisfying book, with dimensions of character, details of plot, and insights into contemporary life that sustain reader interest throughout. Highly recommended.
-Marnie Webb, King Cty. Lib. System, Seattle
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 5th edition (April 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140149902
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140149906
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,430,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
"As a baby, Tom Avery had twenty-seven mothers. So he says. That was almost forty years ago." As opening paragraphs go, if this one doesn't make you want to read on, then nothing will. I started reading this in bed one Sunday morning and didn't get up until it was finished.
Fay McLeod wakes up one morning knowing she no longer loves the man in the bed beside her, with whom she has lived for five years. Truth be known, he no longer loves her, either; their relationship had just slipped into complacency and joint commitments. But alone, she finds she really is just one half of an incomplete couple. Where does one find love? How does one remain in love? After all, as the title suggests, it's everyone's right to experience love.
Fay is close to her family; her parents, brother, his family, and her sister. She has many friends, mainly through her absorbing work as a folklorist with a special interest in mermaids. Her work links her to the past, and to fantasy - could she be using that to escape reality?
Before reaching forty, Tom Avery has been divorced three times. He hadn't chosen partners very wisely, but at least he's remained friendly with two of his ex-wives and they are part of his extensive social circle. Without actually vowing to never marry again, he knows he isn't good marriage material, and spends most Friday nights attending singles meetings, supposedly to learn new skills, but in reality to check out availability of potential partners. He also concentrates his energies on friends, associates and his work as the popular host of a midnight to dawn radio program.
Considering his circle, and Fay's circle contained so many people in common, it was surprising they'd never met.
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Format: Paperback
I'm quite a sucker for old-fashioned love stories (having written one myself, as yet unpublished) but it's hard to find good ones. Of course there are mushy and formulaic romance novels galore but they are not what I'm talking about.
As Carol Shields herself writes here, "Love is not, anywhere, taken seriously. It's not respected. It's the one thing that everyone in the world wants but for some reason people are obliged to pretend that love is trifling and foolish. Work is important. Living arrangements are important. Wars and good sex and race relations and the environment are important, and so are health and fitness. Even minor shifts of faith or political intention are given a weight that is not accorded love. We turn our heads and pretend it's not there, the thunderous passions that enter a life and alter its course. Love belongs in an amateur operetta, on the inside of a jokey greeting card or in the annals of an old-fashioned poetry society. Moon and June and spoon and soon ... It's womanish, it's embarrassing, something jeer at, something for jerks."
That's very well put.
So to the story of Tom and Fay in Winnipeg, Canada, drifting through unsuccessful love affairs and marriages until fate makes their paths cross. Both are appealing and I believed in the passion that seizes them. I was a little less happy with the plot machinations. Of course, Shields follows the ancient formula of boy meets girl, boy parts from girl, boy and girl get back together. But she moves her characters around a bit like chessman -- the plot feels a little clunky -- you can see all the moving parts a bit too much. The minor characters in this book don't shine very much -- another weakness.
However, I have to applaud this novel. I read it on a plane and it kept my interest across the Atlantic. Bravo for a serious attempt to tackle love in an adult and intelligent way.
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Format: Paperback
In 1995 Carol Shields won the Pulitzer Prize for THE STONE DIARIES, a masterful novel that put her name at the forefront of the literary world. Three years earlier she gave us THE REPUBLIC OF LOVE, a bewitching novel that deserves as much claim and attention as its more celebrated successor. In this novel, set in a close-knit Canadian community so small that its citizens reluctantly find themselves recycling schoolmates as lovers and ex-spouses as friends, Shields tackles an ambitious task. She takes a subject as elusive, time-honored, and--oh, let's be honest--EXHAUSTED as love and infuses it with plenty of invigorating, modern insight and a great deal of graceful wit.

The novel centers around Fay, a commitment-shy folklorist specializing in mermaid studies and Tom, a late night disc jockey with no fewer than three failed marriages in his hapless past. Each struggles to achieve admission to the republic of love without relinquishing too much hard-won independence. Their small town is one where enviable and ill-fated relationships alike put themselves on involuntary display. This provides each character with a chance to scrutinize the connections that dictate the paths lives will follow as well as the opportunity to examine the tiny tugs of the human heart that disclose truths of existence. In Shields' capable hands the subject of love becomes neither one of pure romanticism nor one of unadulterated cynicism. Employing love as a central theme is something almost every writer has attempted at one time or another, often with little success. In this case, Shields ultimately and triumphantly handles it with the delicacy, tenderness, and passion of someone with the rare ability to see clearly into the core of the human heart and the even rarer ability to describe what she finds there.
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