I was struggling to find a gift for my sister’s birthday. She’s a total bookworm like myself, and books have always been something we’ve connected through, so it only made sense that her gift should involve the written word. I had decided to give her a fiction novel (‘People We Meet on Vacation’ by Emily Henry), and now I was looking for a non-fiction book to even out the gift.
I don’t read as much non-fiction as I’d like, so this was harder. But then I remembered a book I’d recently seen advertised by Dolly Alderton, who had contributed to it. I looked up ‘Conversations on Love’ by Natasha Lunn, and the blurb immediately struck a chord.
This book promised to be an investigation of all kinds of love, not just romantic. But aside from exploring how to find and keep love, it would approach losing love, namely grieving someone. My sisters and I lost our father in 2018, so a book dealing with the impossible subject of grief was a promising thing.
I bought her a copy and then got one for myself, as how could I give someone a book I haven’t read myself yet?
This book depicts itself as a “celebration of love in all its forms”. It began as a weekly newsletter that evolved into a book dedicated to the thing that drives us, love.
It includes essays by Natasha on various subjects related to love, with a large focus on her miscarriage and subsequent struggle to get pregnant, dispersed with interviews. I hadn’t heard of Natasha before this book but had read work by some of the people interviewed, namely Dolly Alderton, Candice Carty-Williams and Roxanne Gay. What’s particularly powerful is how Natasha links subjects; a personal essay feeds into an interview which is then reflected upon. This allows her to explore the subjects on a deeper and more personal level, and remove the distance that can breed in some interview-format books.
It was almost surprising just how many topics can be linked to love. I had worried that the book would focus heavily on romantic relationships, something I’m not too curious about currently as someone choosing to be single. But the sections on romantic love proved interesting as they instead made me reflect on my past relationship and wonder for the future, rather than requiring something present. It was also a small part of the book as a large aspect discussed friendship and grieving, as well as focusing on yourself more than a partner.
I struggled a little to get through the sections on parenthood and marriage, as I couldn’t relate to them in the same way. But the sections I could relate to more than made up for it, and I appreciated that multiple interviews were dedicated to various aspects of grief.
I was also a bit concerned that the book would make me doubt my happiness being single, but instead, it reinforced it. The lessons felt like something I could learn alone and choose to one day apply romantically. I learned a lot from this book and would definitely reread it, perhaps this time skipping the sections that don’t apply to me. It’s as relevant for people who are single as those in relationships.
One of the hardest parts of losing a parent at a younger age is that no one around you understands. That isn’t to undermine the pain of losing a parent other ages, but in my own experience, I struggled at being the first of my friends. No one knew how to help me, least of all myself. I felt so alone, and all I could see was everything I would never have.
I liked that Natasha ensured that every form of loss was approached, not just a partner, but losing friends, siblings, children and even loss of mobility. It allowed me to feel understood but also to see people far along the road I’m on, to see what kind of a future peace I can hope for. It approached each loss with respect and validity.
I read this book on my Kindle and made more use of the highlight function than ever before. Here are 3 quotes from ‘Conversations on Love’ that really stood out:
“I learnt that the loneliest place of all is lying in bed at night next to someone who makes you feel small, with your back to theirs, still hoping they will turn over and put their arms around you.”
“Love is a choice - and sometimes it’s choosing to love someone even when we don’t feel lovingly towards them.”
“Initially grief is the context within which everything else occurs. Eventually that recedes and the loss if relegated to a different role in your head. At first you live in grief, then it lives in you.”
I recommend reading ‘Conversations on Love’ because I guarantee something in it will hit home, whether that’s about siblings, romance, friendship, loneliness, loss, illness or something else entirely. And whatever resonates with you, no matter how small, is worth it because Natasha is a gifted writer that manages to turn words into feelings. She captured moments I didn’t know I felt until I read them in her book. I definitely recommend this book, and it comes with a huge list of further reading that I’ll now be working through.
Let’s hope my sister enjoys it as much as I did!
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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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