Critical Study by Robert Nagle

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

This annotated critical study consists of 6 different sections.

Seven Reasons to Love My Heart, For Hostage

First, the novel's setting (Paris in 1919) was an interesting and exciting time to be in Paris. The 1919 peace conference brought all kinds of people to Paris – including the U.S. president who lived there for six months!

Second, this novel provided a nice glimpse of early 20th century France. There are great depictions of art salons, brothels, passenger ships, Parisian theatre, hotels, morgues and street sellers. There are also wonderful descriptions of the Brittany region and coast.

Third, we get a glimpse of courtship and sexual mores of the time. We get a sense of what is normal and what would invite gossip and scandals.

Fourth, the depictions of youth and passion give this novel a universal appeal. Almost all of us can identify with the passion and heartache of abandoned love.

Fifth, the level of wit and social commentary in Hostage deserves comparison with a novel like Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray. There are lots of funny and surprising moments.

Sixth, the novel was written by a Pulitzer-winning poet, and a poem actually becomes part of the plot. But the prose style never seems intrusive or overwritten or flowery.

Finally, the novel seems to be written with a certain amount of historical distance. A middle-aged poet is writing about the passions of youth and a world he explored twenty years ago. The conversations and the narrative's ideas are infused with the wisdom of someone who has had time to reflect on how special those few years in Paris really were.