Aphrodite's Workshop for Reluctant Lovers
'Wise, witty and wonderfully accurate about the state of modern love'
'A delight; deftly told, light in tone, and both amusing and charming'
'Mordantly witty, touching and perceptive, it's one of those rare books that console even as it tells us the truth about love'
'A wry and witty look at love, quirkily and cleverly observed'
'Sharp, funny and dazzlingly clever'
I love dogs so I’m not being insulting when I say that I think mankind has one important quality in common with them and that’s the capacity to hope. With dogs the hopefulness is mostly connected to tidbits whereas for us humans it frequently seems to concern love. Nothing sums up our quest for lasting passion better than that old expression “The triumph of hope over experience.” Girls still dream of their big day. We marry and divorce and marry again. The divorce statistics rise yet every bride every time, even Elizabeth Taylor, thinks, ‘This time, I know it will be different. We will be different.’
In Aphrodite’s Workshop For Reluctant Lovers Rebecca Finch, the newly crowned Queen of Romantic Fiction, goes off for a weekend in Paris having accidentally left her lover behind on the Eurostar platform and finds she has a wonderful time on her own. When not long afterwards her god-daughter, struck with an attack of pre-wedding jitters, asks for re-assurance, Rebecca finds herself unable to help. Has Rebecca, whose entire life is spent
spreading the joys of romantic love, no wise
words at all for a young woman about to walk up the aisle?
After a few moments’ thought Rebecca’s reply comes, ‘Better luck next time.’
Her god-daughter breaks off her engagement, Rebecca’s own relationship crumbles and she has, what her agent calls a ‘Ratner moment,’ live on national television, advising her readers to stay away from her books as they ought to contain a health warning.
Up on Mount Olympus Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, rages. Divorce rates are soaring, love is being brought into disrepute and she is beginning to lose the respect of her quarrelsome family. It isn’t helping that her son Eros is going through a difficult phase, being careless in his work, shooting off his arrows without even a thought for the compatibility of his victims. So when even Rebecca Finch, a woman who used to be such a credit to Aphrodite, turns her back on love in the most public of ways, the goddess of love determines to take action. Rebecca Finch is to be taught a lesson and love will be shown to triumph once more.
Or so she thinks.
Of course behind the fun lie serious concerns. Like Eros, we too are going through a difficult phase. Whereas for earlier generations passion might have kicked the relationship off, marriage itself was very much about duty, religious belief and financial and social concerns. If you had money and time and social position you frequently found your pleasure outside the marriage. If you were poor, you were a lot more worried about putting food on the table for your family then about whether your husband had affirmed your needs that week.
Divorce was not really an option and if it were, women in particular ended up greatly disadvantaged both socially and financially. Nowadays we all have options and opportunities like never before and with these come much higher expectations, not least of what constitutes a fulfilling relationship. We stay because we wish to, not because society tells us we have to. Equally, leaving has never been easier. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is that most children thrive in a stable family.
But, we say, life is more than just a stretch of transport between the cradle and the grave. We have a right to be happy, do we not?
So what is the answer?
Of course there isn’t one. Or if there is, I don’t know it. That’s the thing; most writers don’t have answers, just an awful lot of questions. In our defence we say that by highlighting the issues, examining the questions with honesty and, we hope, some insight, we help in the quest for answers.
In my more cod-philosophical moments I think of life as a very dirty mural; all each of us can do is scrub away at our particular patch until gradually, a greater whole is exposed. For a writer, stories are the Mr Muscle in our quest for a clearer view.
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