Book review: ‘The Secret Language of Love’

Looking for a good read on Valentine's Day? Here's a book that will make your heart flutter with gratitude for the universal human experience of love.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND IT? The Secret Language of Love is spoken in this gem of a book by Megan Tresidder. All photos by Pia Ranada

MANILA, Philippines – O love is the crooked thing,

There is nobody wise enough

To find out all that is in it.

These verses from William Butler Yeats talk about the elusiveness of the subject of love. No matter how many books, poems, films, songs, and paintings have been created based on it, we still don’t know everything about love and perhaps never will.

But Megan Tresidder’s delightful gem of a book, “The Secret Language of Love,” is a valiant attempt to explore this mysteriously compelling subject once more.

If other books seek to mine the world of love through specific stories, individuals, cultures, and perspectives, “The Secret Language of Love” is more encompassing, dealing with everything from how humans developed the ability to love to various definitions and aspects of love to the different archetypes of love.

Reading it is a pleasure, not only for the cerebral gymnastics but for the visually-delicious pages ornamented with famous paintings of love, photographs, and surreal artwork by Emma Turpin.

Visual compendium of love

As a lover of knowledge, I enjoy books that “set things straight.”

While the record can never be set straight for such a powerful topic as love, Tresidder’s book is enjoyable because it is a comprehensive yet highly readable record of what humans have said about love.

It takes us from the Greek ideals of eros and agape to courtly love in Medieval Europe to the rigid codes of conduct couples had to endure in the 19th century.

It weaves in the most enduring love stories of all time in order to extract from them precious insights about love.

RICH IMAGERY. Love's many forms are wonderfully rendered by the delightful artwork on the book's pages

You’ll read about the Indian romance of the god Krishna and the milkmaid Radha, Tristan and Isolde, Romeo and Juliet, Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw (from Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”), Orpheus and Eurydice, Abelard and Heloise, and many more.

Anyone who has ever loved or is looking forward to love will be able to relate with the second chapter which deals with such experiences as the Symptoms of Love, First Love, Love’s Hesitations, Unrequited Love, Love and Jealousy, and Love Triangles.

These topics are interspersed with tales of love, paintings, and poems that evoke the essence of these experiences allowing the reader to see their situation against the backdrop of humanity’s experiences of love.

Love and everything

Tresidder emphasizes the universal experience of love by connecting it to almost all aspects of life. There are sections devoted to Love and Madness, Love and Laughter, The Music of Love, The Dance of Love, even The Food of Love!

In the chapter Archetypes of Love, Tresidder presents to us forms of love so compelling that their themes resonate across all ages and cultures.

Who has not cried over love separated by death? What does beauty have to do with love? Who is the knight-in-shining-armor? Is there really such a thing as a “one true love”?

While Tresidder isn’t able to come up with definitive answers — after all, can anyone define love? — she talks about the various dimensions and manifestations of love in a way that celebrates its existence.

At the end of the page, celebration is what “The Secret Langauge of Love” is all about.

Every page is a delicious feast for the mind and the eyes, glorifying love in all its forms. “The Secret Language of Love” is a very human book not least because it admits to a limitation in definition yet celebrates even that which it cannot fully understand. –

(The Secret Language of Love is available in bookstores nationwide. The copy reviewed was purchased in National Book Store, Podium.)

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