Helen Humphreys and Words Worth Books go back a long way. Helen read from one of her earlier novels, The Lost Garden years ago in Waterloo and I remember it to this day. Those assembled at the old Waterloo Stage Theatre hung on every word and there was a sustained moment of absolute silence followed by celebratory applause. I have seen many authors read from great books, but never have I been witness to that kind of transformative power.
I've always said that one never goes wrong setting a novel in Paris, and it's the poets who have the tools necessary to make the novels special. Helen's new book is set mostly in Paris, and she's a wonderful poet, so it follows that The Reinvention of Love is spectacular.
Set in the mid 1800's, this is a story of a love affair between Adele, the mercurial wife of Victor Hugo, and Charles Saint-Beuve, a French journalist and minor man of letters. The two gentlemen are comrades and travel in much the same circles, so there is much to conceal, but as with all of Humphrey's fiction, it's the clarity and power of the writing that carries the day.
"Who sees love arriving? Who can gauge the movements one person makes towards another? Movements so slight, so tentative that they are almost invisible. It is impossible to watch love arriving, but it is abundantly clear when it has arrived. I remember that moment perfectly." Her language is unadorned, clear and powerful.
We believed that The Lost Garden was the finest Canadian novel published in 2002, and The Reinvention of Love is in the front rank of work published thus far in 2011. This is a beautiful book. Please don't miss it!