The Little Book of Heartbreak: Love Gone Wrong Through the Ages - Meghan Laslocky

The perfect anti-valentine: a whirlwind tour through love’s most crushing moments

What’s the best way to mend a broken heart? Forget ice cream, wine, and sappy movies. Journalist Meghan Laslocky advises: Read through the pain. From forbidden love in 12th century Paris to the art of crafting the perfect “I’m over you” mix CD, The Little Book of Heartbreak is a quirky exploration of all things lovelorn, including:
• How serial cheater Ernest Hemingway stole his wife’s job just as their marriage was collapsing
• Kinky spells cast by lovesick men in ancient Greece
• Painter Oscar Kokoschka’s attempt to get over an ex by creating (and having liaisons with!) her life-size replica
• Brooding crooner Morrissey’s personal creed about how romantic love is useless
• The surprising science behind heartbreak and love addiction
• The connection between World War II and what you talk about with your therapist
• Insights into the tricky chemistry of monogamy and infidelity, courtesy of tiny rodents

• And other lessons learned from ill-fated romances, lovers’ quarrels, and hell-hath-no-fury spats throughout the ages

Featuring anecdotes from history, literature, culture, art and music, The Little Book of Heartbreak shares the entertaining, empowering and occasionally absurd things that happen when love is on its last legs.






If you're already cringing at the thought of Valentine's Day being just a few weeks away, this might be just the read for you! Laslocky puts together a casual collection of essays looking at some of the most iconic love-gone-wrong stories in history and literature, not to mention some laughable wooing practices from back in the day. It all made for some quick bites of fluffy & entertaining reading, minus that one bit that made me want to chuck the book at the wall when she refers to people who like / believe in monogamy as being caught up by "a little misunderstanding... or willful ignorance." Whaa? Like monogamy is too big a concept for the brain to take on so it's better we just bow out and make a sampler plate? I don't know, just seemed kinda harsh to knock the non-polyamorous type. But anyyyywaaay...


I really enjoyed the section on literature and the way romance is portrayed (duh, I'm a book blogger, 'course this is gonna get my feelers up!). I especially liked the comparison of different examples from across the world. For example, she points out that much European lit. seems to like to push the idea that romantic, passionate love is dangerous so it's better to go for more prudent, financially comfortable matches. Case in point, one of the most famous opening lines in literature: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. In contrast, she explains, one can look into a fair amount of Asian literature and find passionate couples embracing healthy adventurous sex lives. 


(Sidenote on the lit. section -- the author does drop some spoiler bombs on some classic lit titles, so here's a heads up if you've been wanting to read and want to avoid spoilers for: Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, or Tess of the d'Urbervilles.)


"Ohhh, Alright" by Roy Lichtenstein,

a painting referenced in this book 


While that section was one of the more interesting ones, I think my favorite part was the Music & Art unit. I was particularly intrigued by the stories of composers Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms (focusing largely on his friendship / maybe flirtation with pianist Clara Schumann, the wife of a close friend of Brahms). Laslocky even does a little bit on Leonard Cohen, a favorite musician of mine. 


A fun read for what it is, light fluffy bits of humor and snark, having a laugh at how silly we humans can get sometimes when it comes to our hearts. I will say, one of my favorite lines in this one was "Agony incubates empathy." Good stuff, that.



above: a neat little historical tidbit on the Miss Havisham character

from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations