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Words of Love: Passionate Women from Heloise to Sylvia Plath [Hardcover]

Pamela Norris
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 Jun 2006

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.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (19 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002571781
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002571784
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 15.4 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,582,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Praise for ‘The Story of Eve’:

‘The ground this book covers is extraordinary: it is both scholarly and readable.’ Fay Weldon, Books Gazette

‘This fascinating book is full of provocative argument, retrospective indignation, and meticulous scholarship.’ Jessica Mann, Literary Review

About the Author

Pamela Norris read English at Bristol University and has an MA in Renaissance Studies. She taught English at the University of Zagreb in Yugoslavia and in Paris, and is now a freelance writer and critic. Her publications include a collection of Victorian women’s poetry, and critical editions of Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen. Her magesterial ‘The Story of Eve’ was published by Picador in 1998.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and surprisingly easy to read 24 July 2006
I was given this book as a gift, even though it was not something I probably would have bought myself. As a former literature student, I wondered if there was much to read in this book that I had not already been taught. Surprisingly (not that I am egotistical!) there was. Pamela Norris writes in such a fluent way that Words of Love is easy to read, and more absorbing than you expect. I got particularly involved in the section about The Tale of Genji because I've been reading a lot of Japanese literature recently. The latter sections on Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf shed a little new light on them as female writers - we think we've heard every opinion on them already, but Pamela Norris is thoughtful and refreshing.

I've recommended this to a few friends already, and I'll enjoy picking it up again in a few years, having read a couple more of the books discussed...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and interesting 28 Jun 2006
By Reeta
Love is such a major (and over-used) component of our everyday Western culture that it is surprising that more people haven't written about it in an accessible way. Pamela Norris goes a long way to addressing this. Love is also something that is closely associated with women, however, as Norris shows, women's writing about love has often been neglected. This book is brilliant because you can dip in and out of it reading the chapters first about the books you have read. However it's well worth reading about some of the less major works and it's certainly inspired me to look up The Tale of the Genji as well as the writings of Heloise. A good Christmas present for intelligent female relatives I'd have thought.
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