The Romantic A Novel

Barbara Gowdy




Trade Paperback

320 Pages


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A New York Times Notable Book

Louise Kirk learns about love and loss at an early age. When she is nine years old, her former beauty queen mother disappears, leaving a note that reads only—and incorrectly—"Louise knows how to work the washing machine." Soon after, the Richters and their adopted son, Abel, move in across the street. Louise's immediate devotion to the exotic, motherly Mrs. Richter is quickly transferred to her nature-loving, precociously intelligent son.

From this childhood friendship evolves a love that will bind Louise and Abel for the rest of their lives. Though Abel moves away, Louise's attachment becomes ever more fixed as she grows up. Separations are followed by reunions, but with every turn of their fractured relationship, Louise discovers that she cannot get Abel to love her as fiercely and exclusively as she loved him. Only when Louise comes face to face with another great loss is she finally forced to confront the costs of abandoning herself to another.

Skillfully interweaving the stories of Louise and Abel at different ages, Barbara Gowdy has produced a powerful exploration of the many incarnations of love: a motherless daughter who yearns to be adopted; a husband eternally linked to a wife who has left him; a girl bewitched by the peculiar boy next door; a woman who refuses to let go of a magnetic, elusive man. The Romantic is a story about love in all its exquisite variations.


Praise for The Romantic

"[A] heartbreaking and compassionate novel . . . Gowdy is a miraculous writer. The pages of The Romantic brim over with so much real life they practically breathe."—Chicago Tribune

"An uncommonly fine novel, peopled with three-dimensional characters animated by an emotionally convincing plot . . . [Gowdy] just gets better and better with each work of fiction."—The Seattle Times

"Gowdy's clear-eyed narration gives readers insight into the difficult and extraordinary challenge of surviving maternal abandonment. She presents Louise's needs as bald and raw, and in so doing, the unbearable pain of Louise's dilemma resonates deeply in readers . . . Though obsessive love and romantic desire serve as the story's framework, the tale's foundation is built solidly on the rupture suffered by this child and the way her intense yearning shapes her world. At the heart of The Romantic are questions about loss and love that are, in many ways, unanswerable and anything but romantic."—Los Angeles Times

"Once again, in The Romantic, Barbara Gowdy reminds us of the crucial importance of passion, as her characters negotiate back and forth across the years and across the continent. Louise is a fascinating and complicated heroine and, in Gowdy's lustrous prose, every page of her journey is absorbing and suspenseful. An immensely satisfying novel."—Margot Livesey, author of Eva Moves the Furniture

"Gowdy finds plenty of time to notice those unimportant-to-the-world details that make her writing so lovely. Louise's descriptions of her feelings for Abel are carefully constructed and, at times, flat-out beautiful: 'I imagine holding my hand a few inches above a boulder. It's twilight, summer, growing cool. The boulder gives off the heat of the day. My love for Abel is like the heat between the boulder and the falling night.' Gowdy has found a perfect vehicle for her peculiar talents. Louise remains faithful to her totally doomed childhood love. She might be crazy, she might be exceptionally sane. Gowdy is too fine a writer to tell us."—Claire Dederer, The New York Times

0"Gowdy's prose is lyrical yet matter-of-fact . . . [Her] depiction of unrequited love and familial affection is a memorable one because of the singular way she presents it, and because of its honesty."—The Providence Journal

"Moving seamlessly between Louise's childhood, her teen years, and her present, this novel is a sad, beautiful examination."—Booklist

"In her last novel, Gowdy plausibly depicted life in Africa from the perspective of elephants (The White Bone). Here she returns to the human realm with an equally convincing tale of two young Canadians bound together by obsessive attachment . . . A skillfully crafted examination of love's complications, this is recommended for most fiction collections."—Library Journal

"This novel is as beautifully written as its predecessors, but more traditional than the Canadian writer's usual fiction . . . In reining in her imagination to the limits of a conventional love story, Gowdy has produced her most haunting and sensitive novel to date."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



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Barbara Gowdy is the author of five previous books, including The White Bone. Her fiction has been published in more than twenty countries. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.
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  • Barbara Gowdy

  • Barbara Gowdy is the author of five previous books, including The White Bone. Her fiction has been published in more than twenty countries. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.
  • Barbara Gowdy Sigrid Estrada




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