As we head into 2021’s “Summer of Love”, it’s a good time to stop and ask what exactly we’re looking for. Conversations on Love by Natasha Lunn is an exploration of what love really is. Interviewing people from Philippa Perry to Roxane Gay, Lunn blends the interviews with a series of personal essays.
Lunn is the features director at Red magazine. She began her exploration of love with an online newsletter. In it, she interviewed authors and psychotherapists, philosophers and academics. This was all in the hope of bringing clarity to the mystifying notion of love. Writing everything from individual anecdotes to “the science of sex”, Lunn’s book zooms in and out, in an attempt to unpack the mysteries of love. In this journey, she discovers that love is both personal and universal. Individual experiences—however unique—somehow manage to connect us all.
Lunn’s definition of love metamorphoses throughout her book. It transforms from an abstract fantasy, seemingly ever-out-of-reach, into something so deeply woven within a person, there are moments where they wish they could tear it out. Love begins as a belief system and ends as a reality. Finally, Lunn learns that love is “deeper and darker and bottomless” as it grows. In short, it is a living organism that requires water and nourishment, just as living things do.
Love aside, the book is a reminder of the significance of the interview more generally. Each of its conversations directly correlates with Lunn’s own understanding and development in life. A conversation with Alain de Botton causes Lunn to reflect on her teenage infatuations. Meanwhile, a chat with Dolly Alderton makes her reconsider how best to sustain her own friendships. This book is a reminder of why we ask and print our conversations with others at all. This is not just a journalist digging for a story, but a human being seeking something urgent from another: meaning, purpose, reassurance in life.
In the end, it made me think of two tentative young friends from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, talking to each other and asking each other searching questions. One of them says to the other: “You know, Karamazov, our conversation is a bit like a declaration of love”. Lunn’s book proves this brilliantly. As she writes, Love exists in “the noticing, the forgiving, the reflecting”, but it also exists in the conversations between two searching strangers. Conversations on love are also conversations of love shared between curious people trying to understand the same notion.
Words by Liz Lane
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