A rich, diverse social and cultural history of the development of romantic love in the West.
From the earliest recorded history to the present, women have bucked convention, subverted stereotypes and willingly risked their reputations, their livelihoods – sometimes even their lives – for love. Throughout this often tumultuous history, they have also recorded their experiences of romance, passion and sex in voices distinctively their own, at once erudite and erotic, which vividly capture the pleasurable as well as the painful aspects of being a woman in love. How did it feel, for example, to be a Japanese court lady, playing a delicate and dangerous game of political manoeuvring and illicit, moonlit assignations? Or to be the object of courtly love, raised to an impossible ideal only to be abandoned, in many cases, by troubadours more interested in vaunting their own skill and flattering their masters than in the supposed inspiration for their songs?
Across nations and eras, women of all ages and walks of life have written of their feelings, passions and regrets in terms ranging from the ardently intimate to the desperately embittered. This rich, diverse and innovative exploration of women’s interpretations of love – ranging from medieval poets to Victorian novelists, through Daphne de Maurier to Sylvia Plath – sheds light not only on the ways in which women over the centuries have responded to conventions of romance, gender and status, but also on the societies in which they moved and the times in which they lived. Writing with emotional sympathy, scholarly vigour and intellectual insight, Pamela Norris breathes life and passion back into the women who have thronged the centuries since Heloise, and illuminates cultures at once distant and – in the profoundly personal passions of the women who recorded them – immediately and movingly familiar.