This collection of comical, tragic vignettes from history first came onto my radar though a book club with friends. At the time, two of us were going through bad break-ups, and it felt appropriate to connect our shared pains through a literary medium of comic relief. Jennifer Wright is simultaneously communicating the grave seriousness of heartbreak, while poking fun at the absurd lengths to which people have gone to cope with their despair. It’s a delightful read that will make you squirm, laugh, cry, and eventually place you squarely and mercifully in your small, insignificant place in the universe.
Suffice to say this is not a self-help book. It does not explore the level-headed, logical responses to heartbreak that include taking up pottery, maybe salsa dancing, a little wine and chocolate, and wallowing in bed for a week. Wright explores the more ridiculous responses to a rebuff, often indulged by artistic delusions of grandeur (see: Oskar Kokoschka), power (see: Henry VIII) or wealth (see: Anna Ivanovna) and balances the historical element of each account with the delightfully gossipy nature of airing out historical figures dirty, dirty laundry.
If you’re a fair weather history lover like myself (that is, only interested when it’s interesting) and a romantic to a fault, this book will accept you, embrace you, and uplift you. Enjoy!