There are rules of love, languages of love and codes of love. Everything turns around the magical word ´love´ but it might have different meanings and stir different associations for each and every single human involved in the process of love as such. We associate to love either social conventions - marriage, partnership - or strong feelings and commitments - honesty, openness. We want love to last, at least as long as a fairy tale, and when we, or one of us is out of love, we are heartbroken, a phenomenon which can be describe accurately in anatomical/medical terms.
Hannah Persaud debut novel The Codes of Love opens with a quote from Kahlil Gibran, On Marriage: `Love one another, but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your soul`. What is the bond about, actually? Being committed legally - through marriage - with shared bank account, the same family name, a mortgage? Depending on one another physically? Requesting absolute fidelity? Living for and through one another? How can you trace the map of your heart adding other people to the chart, but without keeping them against their own will.
Ada - Ryan - Emily are part of a triangle in the making. Dominated by an aggressive father, Ryan married the adventurous Emily as his first love. In their early 40s, he´s a successful architect, she´s teaching literature, they have two teenage soons and the secret of an open marriage. Emily´s idea, never fully accepted by Ryan. Emily and Ryan do have different needs that time did not change: she´s more sexual, he is more on the intellectual committed side. The fact that their marriage relies on an apparently stable set of rules, translating easily into codes made of fine everyday agreements does not protect any of them from the final countdown of the failure. In fact, it is the failure of a convention that gives further life to (probably) just another code (of love).
This is what we are witnessing in The Codes of Love: the end of a marriage that might make many envious, where physical trepassings are accepted in the name of an out-of-time commitment and mutual respect. For Ryan, who´s suddenly having a committed adventure with the independent and never committed Ada, Emily´s code of love was frustrating as he will openly tell her in one of their fights: ´Did you ever feel guilty for the pain you caused me as I watched you gallivating around?´ On the other hand, Emily suspects Ryan is having more than an adventure and is becoming unsecure and jealous - wasn´t it one of her rules to not sleep more than once with someone? Between Ryan and Emily the code of love is becoming a game of lies and a nasty display of power. Apparently, there are some limits to the open canvas of their marriage. The relationship erodes ´layer by layer, like rust´.
On her side, Ada is playing her own independent game: manipulating more or less consciously both of them, never losing herself. She´s excited about the unexpected and the adventure, but once she and Ryan are buying a cottage in Wales, there is no more excitement and the adventure has no present.
What the intricacies of the relationships setting and unsettling in The Codes of Love reveals for me is the confusing multiplicity of commitments that never set for one, in fact: the commitment for an emancipated life - as Emily looks back to her relationship choices she said ´I´m just pushing for the same freedom that men have claimed for years´ - the commitment of independence, the commitment of adventure, the commitment of monogamy, the commitment of intellect overriding the instinctual desires. Each and every one of this commitments are breaking apart in million little pieces, and out of the shards new love paths are created, not necessarily code-bounded.
The writing flows in an uncomplicated way, like the lines of a building on the architect´s chart. Besides the three main characters, the other protagonists of the story are rather episodic and without a defined personality (for instance, I would have been curious to delve a little bit more into Emily´s sister story). The natural environment recreated - the Wales setting - suits perfectly the inner wildnerness of the characters.
The cover deserves a special mention, for the excellent visual rendition of the story.
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Rating: 4 stars