New York in the 1950s. A man on a barstool is telling a story about a woman he met in a bar, early married and soon divorced, her child farmed out to her parents, good-looking, if a little past her prime. They’d gone out, they’d grown close, but as far as he was concerned it didn’t add up to much. He was a busy man. Then one day, out dancing, she runs into a rich awkward lovelorn businessman. He’ll pay for her to be his, pay her a lot. And now the narrator discovers that he is as much in love with her as she is with him, perhaps more, though it will take him a while to realize just how utterly lost he is.
Executed with the cool smoky brilliance of a classic Miles Davis track, In Love is an unequaled exploration of the tethered—and untethered—heart.
In Love is the NYRB Classics Book Club selection for July 2013.
One of the greatest, bleakest breakup stories ever told.—The New York Observer
Like Raymond Carver at his best, novelist-cum-screenwriter Alfred Hayes addresses the human condition and its heartbreaks with brevity and brutal honesty. In Love was Hayes’s fourth novel, and as the story unfolds, there is a dreadful sense that the middle-aged protagonist is heading for disaster by falling in love with a younger girl who “inhabits a world from which he is excluded.” When a rival appears, in the shape of a millionaire with an indecent proposal, the cynicism and misery of the situation become almost unbearable.
I’ve rarely seen the breakdown of a relationship, in all its banality and pettiness, evoked more vividly. It’s tough, fresh, very lovely, and will stay with you.
—Sadie O. Stein, The Paris Review Daily
A fever chart of an affair records all the fluctuations of feelings which are intimate and intense, expectant and often disabused, cruel and vulnerable, and brings to the heat of passion a cooler scrutiny which comes with its conclusion… . A tour de force.
Maybe the old canard that the best love letters are those written when we are out of love goes for the novel too. If so, Alfred Hayes has written a smashing success. In this, his latest novel, he examines some of the states of mind, body, and soul which accompany love, without falling for all that nonsense about affection, intimacy, trust and all the simple pleasures known to people less sophisticated than the characters in his book.
—The New York Times
[A] noirish masterpiece which combines a plot that prefigures Indecent Proposal with the desolate milieu of an Edward Hopper painting.
In Love is strange, unsettling, cynical and sad. It is a masterpiece. But if you are in love and want to believe, then don’t read it.
—The Times (London)
This is a marvelously well wrought novel; there are not many current books so completely finished in terms of verbal felicities.
A little masterpiece.
Besides being a technical tour de force, In Love is literature; it is a work of art.
—Julian Maclaren-Ross, The Sunday Times
Quite the best he has written.
—The Times Literary Supplement
Moving and convincing … a lyrical, intelligent book.
Hayes has done for bruised men what Jean Rhys does for bruised women, and they both write heartbreakingly beautiful sentences.
—Paul Bailey, The Guardian
A very remarkable novel; altogether outstanding in the unwavering concentration with which it pursues the problem of the reality of love. The story is stripped down to its bare essentials…. Quite unforgettable.
—John Lehmann, BBC