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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

In Love

Alfred Hayes

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase In Love

Title: In Love
Author: Alfred Hayes
Genre: Novel
Written: 1953
Length: 133 pages
Availability: In Love - US
In Love - UK
In Love - Canada
In Love - India
In Love - France
In Love - Deutschland
Una forma di amore - Italia
Los enamorados - España

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Our Assessment:

A- : superior end-of-an-affair tale

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 26/10/2007 Alfred Hickling
Harper's . 12/2020 David L. Ulin
London Rev. of Books . 18/7/2019 Lucie Elven
The NY Rev. of Books . 23/3/2021 Vivian Gornick
The Spectator . 12/3/1954 John Metcalf
Sunday Times A+ 24/1/1954 James MacLaren-Ross
The Times . 6/2/1954 .
The Times . 28/1/2017 Fiona Wilson
TLS . 12/2/1954 Alan Ross
TLS . 15/3/2019 Mark Thompson

  From the Reviews:
  • "(T)he English émigré journalist also produced this minor, noirish masterpiece which combines a plot that prefigures Indecent Proposal with the desolate milieu of an Edward Hopper painting." - Alfred Hickling, The Guardian

  • "Hayes is less interested in melodrama, or even drama, than in the self-deception he seems to regard as unavoidable in adult life. He is a master of the art of aftermath, his characters constantly retreating -- from relationships, from memories, and most essentially from themselves." - David L. Ulin, Harper's

  • "Where My Face for the World to See documents an absence of feeling, In Love gives us feelings in excess. Power, the abuse of it, and the emotions it creates masquerade as 'love'. (...) At its best, Hayes’s writing has magnificent rhythms, modulations, qualifications." - Lucie Elven, London Review of Books

  • "Neither of these damaged souls can abandon the guardedness with which they have long lived. From start to finish their situation is precarious; when its stability is only slightly threatened, each begins calculating their odds. It's on the ground of this loaded combination of pathos and cunning that Hayes's talent hits pay dirt. (...) In Love is my favorite of the Hayes novels, the one that speaks most directly to me." - Vivian Gornick, The New York Review of Books

  • "Mr. Hayes's inverted, repetitive, comma-freckled style is, as you can see, catching. It has a drugged rhythm to it, a lulling insidiousness like a radio playing a long way away. At moments it is capable of rare delicacy of analysis and allows Mr. Hayes to say some true rind cruel things about the pleasure of love. At other times it becomes is compound parody of all the subjective styles : a kind of hysterical Virginia Woolf who's bumped into Raymond Chandler in a saloon run by Gertrude Stein (.....) Despite this kind of twaddle (which admittedly occurs often enough to be annoying) In Love achieves, at its own level, a certain success." - John Metcalf, The Spectator

  • "Within the compass of a book perhaps 30,000 words in length Mr. Hayes has distilled the essence of a love affair (.....) If In Love were the reissue of a minor French classic or a translation from the Serbo-Croat, it would be acclaimed, deservedly, as a 'little masterpiece' (.....) (B)esides being a technical tour de force, In Love is literature: it is a work of art." - James MacLaren-Ross, Sunday Times

  • "Genuine sympathy, among other things, is what's lacking in In Love, a short American novel. A clever performance in its kind, no doubt, certainly a studied one, it reproduces the man's version of a rather dreary and mechanical affair of sexual attraction." - The Times

  • "Mr. Hayes's short novel, quite the best he has written, is a brilliant, bitter analysis of a New York love affair" - Alan Ross, Times Literary Supplement

  • "(A) savage comedy about betrayal. (...) His own disquieted sentences glide through the hands like silk, without strain or snags of style, yet they have the sturdy merits he had praised in Eliot." - Mark Thompson, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In Love begins and ends with the narrator situating himself, a man, "almost forty, with a small reputation, some money in the bank", in a hotel bar at four in the afternoon, chatting up a pretty girl. He tells her a story -- the story of a failed relationship, a love affair he had that went sour and south. He bares his soul, and shines a cold, harsh light on a relationship that just didn't quite work out -- not the ideal pick-up story, one would think (but good enough, to judge by how that works out -- though that's just incidental), but certainly a mesmerizing tale in Hayes' studied, expressive telling.
       Both the narrator and the girl he was involved with remain nameless throughout. It's typical of the carefully revealing novel: some observations are magnified detail, but much remains unsaid and vague. Other characters are mentioned by name -- including Barbara, the girl from her first marriage, who she had when she was still a teen, and Howard, the man who offers her a thousand dollars to spend the night -- but not the two lovers at the heart of the novel.
       He's a writer, struggling a bit with his writing but otherwise managing well enough. He's attracted to her, but remains noncommittal. She, some fifteen years his junior -- "a little too young for me, and a little too desperate", he rationalizes --, was burned by her short-lived first marriage, and is looking for some stability:

I knew that she had wanted what I was not prepared to give her: the illusion that she was safe, the idea she was protected.
       There's the kid, too -- being raised by her mother -- whose future she worries about.
       He's always had it fairly easy, it seems, but has kept emotional entanglement at arm's-length. Comfortable with hotel-room life, his nesting-instincts are clearly underdeveloped (or he's forcefully held them down).
       Howard's offer complicates matters. She jokes about it with her lover, as if it were impossible to entertain. But, of course, it isn't -- not given her situation, not given their situation and his unwillingness to commit.
       He sees that eventually:
     So, little by little, she was being absorbed into another life.
       How far does he want to -- or is he able to -- go, in order to hold onto her ? There's not much suspense regarding that: they're a couple that has staked out all their positions -- down to: "the intricate comedy of our reconciliations" -- and the only question about the inevitable outcome is how exactly they'll arrive there.
       From the first, the narrative is tinged with sadness, with even her memory of that first evening together including those drawn-out moments when you know where things will lead, but you haven't gotten there yet, "a trance of waiting, a deliciousness that's somehow sad, too". His look back on the affair isn't cold, but he's unsparing in his account and analysis, peeling back the layers and revealing their failures. It wasn't meant to be, clearly. Neither of them was able to sacrifice or offer enough of what the other demanded, or needed. And hovering over them, then and now, is always the question of: what if ? What if this was that opportunity for love, if he had just been able to give more .....
       In wrapping up his story (and wrapping up the girl he's been chatting up at the bar), the narrator quotes (almost correctly) some lines from George Herbert: "Love bade me welcome, but my soul drew back, guilty of dust and sin." In Love is his story of that almost-possible love, dangled there in front of him, but which he was unable to take hold of.
       What makes In Love such an impressive work is the writing, as Hayes finds the right almost-wistful tone for his narrator, a man bowed to the inevitability of what happened, his account tinged with that slight regret of not being able to be a different man, of not being able to be the man who could have been satisfied with her, and who could have offered her what she needed.
       There's a conversational quality to the narrative -- appropriately enough, since we're meant to believe he unburdens himself all at one go while nursing drinks at the hotel bar -- but even as there's a rambling feel to it, Hayes packs in the information in his well-turned phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. Stylized it may be, but this is also stylish, tight writing, as sometime screenwriter Hayes has a great ear which only occasionally settles just for the screen-ready quip ("I'd have felt sorry for him if there hadn't been such a cover charge") and shows impressive range.
       These flawed characters are convincingly presented, and even as Hayes avoids cheap pleas for sympathy for either of them their story is affecting. It doesn't offer anything like fairy-tale romance, but In Love feels (brutally) honest -- even true.
       A very fine novel.

- M.A.Orthofer, 18 November 2013

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In Love: Reviews: Alfred Hayes: Other books by Alfred Hayes under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       English-born American author and screenwriter Alfred Hayes lived 1911 to 1985.

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© 2013-2021 the complete review

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