Memoirist Abbott reflects on a lifetime of love, drawing its outlines as a child would draw a picture in the sand, stopping for every delectable contour on her map of love. Arguing that "novels seize the real, just as memoirs seize fantasy," Abbott (The Bookmaker's Daughter, 1991) dwells at length on the books and movies that helped to form her own evolving sense of romance. Her promiscuously ardent appetite for both film and the written word constituted a romantic longing that eventually came to know no bounds, led her into awkward adolescent dalliances, and finally, in 1957, to a passionate year abroad in Paris that would change her life forever. After she resettled in New York, Abbott's professional life flourished, while her marital life withered; she was tortured by the fear that love, which she had imagined as a great liberation, might really be not much more than "wishing to be the thing imagined." She was an idealist in matters of the heart, accused of being too intense, forever searching for a more fulfilling relationship. She commuted, cooked, tended her children, and paid the bills, fighting and finally fleeing the conventions of marriage. Her confession celebrates her "gorgeous mythologies" of love and lovemaking while admitting that bargains with the real world of work and children must be made. Now in her 70s and reunited with her husband, with her children on their own and the turbulent years of her young adulthood very long gone indeed, Abbott nevertheless observes that she still dreams of Tristan and Isolde, and of one day locating their graves in romantic tribute. A candid reverie on love, and the memoir of a woman who is struggling against the odds to reconcile the conflicting demands of fantasy and fact.
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