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Review of "The Little Book of Heartbreak"

By Meghan Laslocky
Plume, 2013
Review by Christian Perring on Jul 29th 2014
The Little Book of Heartbreak

This curious book has lots of short chapters about different historical cases of heartbreak, and how loss has been represented in music, art and literature.  There's a little bit of science in there too.  It is a sort of high-brow bathroom book, to be read in short bursts, and not necessarily from beginning to end.  It isn't really going to be much help to those who are currently suffering from a broken love match, but it has some interesting chapters.  Laslocky writes from a personal point of view, and she's very chatty in her style, but she has read some scholarly books to get her information.  She gives more detail about Heloise and Abelard than you will find in most brief descriptions, and even if some of her wording about them is anachronistic, it manages to be light-hearted without being ridiculous.  The book lurches from topic to topic, including the ancient Greeks, Nick Cave, Brahms, John Bowlby's attachment theory, mix-tapes, Mary Wollstonecraft, brain scans, Roy Lichtenstein, Madame Bovary, and much more.  Sometimes Laslocky digresses in telling people's stories, but the digressions are mostly interesting.  I hadn't previously known that the artist Egon Schiele had been imprisoned for painting an underage girl, Tatjana von Mossig.  That helps to explain some of the difficulties in his relationships with his partner Valerie Neuzil.  So readers should find some nuggets of information here that will surprise them, and much of the book is entertaining.  This isn't a particularly deep or insightful analysis of heartbreak, but it might be a useful starting place for those wanting to think more about it.

© 2014 Christian Perring



Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York