Wednesday, March 2, 2011

REVIEW: Travels Through Love and Time by Christine Hall Volkoff

Travels Through Love and Time is an beautiful story, comprised of three separate episodes in the life of one woman.  Although Christine is strong, engaging, and thoroughly likeable as a narrator, as a character she is far more self-conscious, and sometimes even exasperating – but her persistence is an endearing trait. She’s desperate for love, for the intimacy of the physical and emotional connection between two people, but also beset by fear. On the one hand, she must deal with the fear of societal rejection, constantly aware that polite society disapproves of her love for other women. On the other hand, she must also deal with her own fears of personal rejection, painfully aware that opening her heart means opening herself to heartbreak.

Our first step on Christine’s journey is as a young woman in Southern France of the 1960s. Initially annoyed that her private paradise is to be invaded by a family friend, she quickly finds herself falling for their guest, a glamorous movie star who provides her first taste of first love, and then heartbreak. Our journey continues two decades later, with Christine falling for a beautiful stranger outside a Parisian cafe. No longer innocent, yet still too tentative to be considered the seducter, she is slowly taking control of her heart’s journey - although she still struggles with the fear of rejection. Her journey then catches up with us in present day California, with Christine settling more firmly into the role of seductress, falling for a woman half her age . . . who just lost her boyfriend.

This is a book full of love and hope. It’s subtle and romantic (at times, even softly erotic), but also tensely exciting. You can’t help but feel for Christine, and it’s hard not to become invested in each budding relationship. We share her fear of rejection, but we also share the power of her pursuits. Her choices are daring – far more so than I could ever imagine pursing – but also realistic. This is not a story about exaggerated erotic romance, but of a realistic woman making difficult choices. I found myself silently urging her on, anxious to see those risks pay off, and it’s that vicarious thrill that ultimately brings the three stories together. Although she never finds that one true and perfect love with which to share her life, Christine does come to an understanding that we (as readers) cannot help but immediately appreciate:

Love is all about taking risks, and it’s only in braving those risks that the rewards (as fleeting as they may be) have any lasting value. Playing it safe may be comfortable, and may temporarily appease us, but it lacks passion . . . and what’s life without passion?

Well-written, and full of both beautiful scenery and beautiful people, Travels Through Love and Time is recommended not just as a lesbian romance, but as a triumph of the human spirit. I didn't expect it to work so well, or to become so invested in her journey, but I'm grateful for the experience.

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