Magazine article The Spectator

Love Lies Bleeding

Magazine article The Spectator

Love Lies Bleeding

Article excerpt

Love lies bleeding THE TRIAL OF TRUE LOVE by William Nicholson Doubleday, £12.99, pp. 269, ISBN 0385608705 £11.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848

A writer, John Dearborn, known as Bron, persuades a publisher to commission him to do a book about love at first sight. Bron is obsessed with Paul Marotte, a physician living in Amsterdam who one day in 1889 sees Kate Summer on a bridge and instantly falls in love, decides to paint professionally and they join Gauguin and others at Pont-Aven. And then one misty morning by a river down in deepest Devon Bron, too, sees a girl on a bridge and he knows exactly what Marotte felt.

Flora is no unworldly Kate. Everyone's enjoyed her, including Mick Jagger and David Bailey, and she has husband problems. Now she's through with love. Yet when Bron suddenly quotes Lauren Bacall's famous lines from To Have and to Have Not, 'You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve?', she immediately quotes the lines that follow. A beauty who reveres that great movie is no more 'through with love' than Woody Alien was when he sang those same words in Everyone Says I Love You. But for this romantic moment Bron might have given up the pursuit, but now his fate is sealed and it's impossible not to sympathise with such a foolishly gallant gesture.

Bron flies to Amsterdam to meet Freddy Christiansen, the acknowledged authority on Marotte, where Flora lives with her husband. Bron is surprised to find Freddy knows Flora well and their friendship grows rapidly when he confesses his love for her to him. Freddy, an urbane Svengali figure, offers advice and Bron makes progress with Flora, even suggesting that she permit him to make love to her as a present for his 30th birthday, but when she agrees he's obliged to button her up, as she's soon in floods of tears.

The book, which always teeters on the brink of the enjoyably ridiculous, now tips over disastrously into the absurd. …

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