The Republic of Love by Carol Shields

I cannot begin to think how long ago it was that I first read The Republic of Love by Carol Shields, but when Anne Cater of Random Things Tours got in touch to say she was organising a blog tour for this new edition I had to be part of it, despite my intention to take the whole of the beginning of April off from blogging as I celebrate turning 60 on 7th. It is such a pleasure to rediscover an old book friend.

Published by World Editions, this edition of The Republic of Love with a foreword by Margaret Atwood is available for purchase through the links here.

The Republic of Love

A celebration of love in its many guises, The Republic of Love recounts the heartfelt tale of two of life’s unlucky lovers: Fay, a folklorist whose passion for mermaids has kept her from focussing on any one man; and, right across the street, Tom, a popular radio talk-show host who’s been through three marriages and divorces in his search for true happiness.

Touching and ironic, The Republic of Love flies the flag for ordinary love between ordinary people.

‘Vividly fresh, glittering and spangled with fabulous surprises.’ —The Sunday Times

‘The Republic of Love marries a wide diversity of elements, mythical and modern, ironic and moving, exhilarating and melancholy … a love-surveying story that is enticingly seductive.’ —The Times Literary Supplement

My Review of The Republic of Love

A story of everyday love.

It’s years since I first read The Republic of Love by Carol Shields and I had forgotten just what a magnificent writer she was. Her eye for detail is just perfect so that her readers can visualise every nuance she presents with absolute clarity. It was a total joy to rediscover The Republic of Love. And although this book is some thirty years old, it has a resonance with today’s society that remains as fresh and vital now as it was then.

In essence, there isn’t a great deal of action in The Republic of Love but to say that totally belies the intensity of emotion and the wonderful exploration of what love really is that Carol Shields presents. She has a razor sharp perception of human frailty, desire and struggle so that frequently I found myself nodding in agreement at Fay and Tom’s thoughts and behaviours. I loved too, the gentle, wry and brilliantly witty humour that runs through The Republic of Love. Carol Shields peels back the layers of Tom and Fay’s lives and pasts through perfect vignettes so that the reader understands them completely – even more than they understand themselves.

However, this isn’t just a story of romantic love. Rather, Carol Shields presents aspects of love from filial to sexual, self love to passion so that there is an intensity behind the narrative that is so compelling.

Similarly, The Republic of Love causes the reader to look deep into their own lives, relationships and memories and to wonder how much they really know those they love. Carol Shields sees between the cracks of who we are and reveals as much through what is withheld as she does through what is said. This is especially affecting as the lives of minor characters are uncovered.

The Republic of Love is a book to savour and I really appreciated having it back in my life.

About Carol Shields

Carol Shields (1935–2003) was born in the United States, and emigrated to Canada when she was 22. She is acclaimed for her empathetic and witty, yet penetrating insights into human nature. Her most famous novel The Stone Diaries was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, along with the Governor General’s Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Happenstance was praised as her tour de force, masterly combining two novels in one. The international bestseller Mary Swann was awarded with the Arthur Ellis Award for best Canadian mystery, while The Republic of Love was chosen as the first runner-up for the Guardian Fiction Prize. In 2020, the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, a North American literary award dedicated to writing by women, was set up in her honour. Her work has been published in over 30 languages.

14 thoughts on “The Republic of Love by Carol Shields

  1. I’ve fallen in love with Carol Shields too: she really is an excellent observer of human frailties and the lies we tell ourselves. I haven’t read this one, I’ll look out for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carol Sheilds is one of Canada´s best writers. I love everything she has written and met her a couple of times. She looks life squarely in the eye. I remember laughing out loud while reading Larry´s Party. A great review and I’m pleased to see that a new edition is available. Have a wonderful birthday!!

    Liked by 1 person

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