Books & Literature

Book Review: Conversations on Love, by Natasha Lunn

NON-FICTION: A celebration of love in all its strange and beautiful forms – now a top ten Sunday Times bestseller

Life-affirming and life-changing

In 2017, journalist and writer Natasha Lunn started an email newsletter where she interviewed a writer or expert who had something interesting to say about love, in all its forms.

Conversations on Love is the book that grew out of that newsletter.

Lunn has ensured this work is more than just a collection of interviews. She uses some bravely personal material to tie each of the discussions together, in particular her coming-to-terms with her own miscarriage. It is divided into three main sections: How do we find love? How do we sustain love? and How can we survive losing love? Each of these devolves into poetically titled sub-sections such as The Unbearable Unknown, The Seasons of Friendship, and The Work of Re-seeing. Love itself is given the broadest definition. Certainly romantic love looms large, but within these pages are contemplations of motherhood, sisterhood, friendship, death, loss, sex, loneliness, and selfhood. Through reading the work we go on a journey with Lunn herself, whilst learning surprising things about ourselves.

Some of the interviewees who have contributed to this book include Alain de Botton, who expounds on the psychology of being alone:

“The psychology of being alone is interesting, because it…[depends] on the story we tell ourselves. If you’re alone on a Monday night … you don’t feel particularly bad about it … Whereas if you’re alone on a Saturday night, you can think, what’s wrong with me?”

Dolly Alderton speaks about the beauty of vulnerability in friendships. Diana Evans, author of Ordinary People, discusses how parenthood changes love. Journalist Poorna Bell discusses the challenges and comfort of the sibling bond. Lunn has a knack of asking just the right question, which gives each of the interviewees both direction and space, and allowing the conversation to flow where it may, sometimes ending in surprising destinations. 

If there is one thread through all the writing, it is that of loss and grief. Afterall, every relationship ends at some point, if only with the eventual death of a partner. Life itself is a series of losses. Yet this is not as depressing as it seems. Conversations on Love maintains a sense of faith in the strength of love to sustain through hard times, and beyond the grave. Ariel Levy talks about the horror of giving birth at 19 weeks pregnant, alone, in Mongolia, and having her son die in her arms. In the midst of this unbearable grief, she fell in love with the doctor who treated her.

“Starting on that intense emotional frequency is quite something … when we met I was sobbing and covered in blood. I remember feeling that what everybody else was seeing was a lie and what he had seen was the truth. To everybody else I was childless; to him, I was a mother who had lost a child.”

Conversations on Love is more eye-opening than most of the self-help books currently on the shelves. It is full of wisdom, confronting truths, hope, and humanity. Lunn’s writing jumps off the page with urgency, warmth, and intelligence.

You will not be quite the same after you read it.

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: August 2021
RRP: $35.00

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

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