Thursday, September 27, 2007

Miriam Goderich's breakup books

My stepdaughter was recently going through a bad breakup with her boyfriend and in need of solace. The usual clichés and verbal palliatives weren’t having much effect and I was trying to come up with things she could do to take her mind off the creep as well as support my contention that we’d all been there and most of us recover fully (which, by the way, she didn’t believe at all).

We’d already gone through the sad music (Nick Drake, anyone) and depressing movies catalogues and I decided to dip into my “necessary books” list to see if I could pull together 10 titles that would do the trick. As all bookworms know, there’s nothing like the comfort to be found in the pages of a book. The list I finally came up with allows for a certain amount of wallowing, but mostly it’s meant to inspire – ‘cause what’s more inspirational than turning pain into art:

1. CHERI and THE LAST OF CHERI by Colette. The French do bittersweet love affairs better than anyone else (also see Charles Aznavour).

2. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway. You wouldn’t think the macho writer could make doomed love so heartbreakingly tender.

3. LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Makes you cry, laugh and hope. Oh, and the prose is worth a Nobel Prize.

4. WRITING A WOMAN’S LIFE by Carolyn Heilbrun. Empowerment for when you’re ready to stop dating idiots.

5. FIRST LOVE AND OTHER SORROWS by Harold Brodkey. Hmmm, the title says it all.

6. LAUGHABLE LOVES by Milan Kundera. Because every doomed love affair has great reserves of irony and humor (even though you may not get either for a couple of decades).

7. BELOVED INFIDEL by Sheilah Graham. After reading what she went through with F. Scott, you’ll be thinking your own life’s not so bad.

8. THE FEAST OF LOVE by Charles Baxter. Because he writes so beautifully about the tiny, luminous moments that make up being human and alive.

9. THE SHIPPING NEWS by E. Annie Proulx. There’s always a second act.

10. CONSIDER THE OYSTER by M.F. K. Fisher. For when you’re ready to get off the couch and reclaim your mojo.

What are your favorite breakup books?


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  3. Welcome back to the blogosphere!

    "Turn, Magic Wheel" by Dawn Powell is my favorite break up book. It's about the two ex-wives of a famous writer, the first wife, and gal he left the first wife for, who come together when one if them is dying.

    The scenes between the two rivals are a revelation.

    You can read all about this book in my review on

  4. "Cherie" and "The Last of Cherie" are terrible choices because these stories turn on the assumption that older women after menopause become sexually repellent and should have no more need for sexual relationships. Maybe that was that case in France at the turn of the century but it certainly isn't today!

    I read these stories in my 20s and thought they were poignant. When I started a relationship with a much younger man in my late 40s I read them again and found them terrifying. By now, more than a decade later, my much younger man needs bifocals, but we're still doing great.

    There are lots of reasons relationships break up, but the woman getting older is NOT one to harp on.

  5. I recently read FLIRTING WITH FORTY by Jane Porter. This book deals with a woman who divorces and struggles to distinguish herself as a sexy woman as opposed to "just" being a mother and divorcee. This book is probably most appreciated by women (breaking up or not) in their thirties/forties. It's a geaat read and almost serves as a "self-help" book rather than fiction.
    Welcome back to the blogosphere!

  6. I loved Patrick McCabe's 'The Dead School.' You observe the lives of two men as they head towards an inevitable collision and tragedy. Both men are unlucky in love for entirely different reasons, and the ending is not at all cheerful or hopeful. But the story is such a funny and unlikely mixture of tragedy and comedy and, at least for me, so believable and compelling, that I read it straight through, both moved and entertained.

  7. "Kill him/her dead," by, ahem, not sure. Hiya!

  8. Euripides' Medea... ;-)

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