Love’s Work by Gillian Rose

Last night, or rather this morning, I stayed up far too late finishing Gillian Rose’s Love’s Work. It was recommended by a friend whose literary judgement I have come to unfailingly trust.

Nick Lezard begins his review of Love’s Work thus, “I struggle to think of a finer, more rewarding short autobiography than this.” I might argue for Woolf’s Moments of Being, but it is autobiography only in a loose sense, and Rose’s work stands as equally singular.

I picked Love’s Work without knowing of Gillian Rose’s scholarship (Adorno, Hegel). Although she writes of her cancer, it is not maudlin in any sense, nor particularly sad. Instead Rose writes of her philosophy, or way of looking at life and intimacy. In doing so, the perspective is fresh, icily frank and genuinely insightful. I’ve thought of her words all day and return periodically to check a passage. It is a book that merits rereading.

Some of Rose’s tenacity is clear at the close of the chapter in which she discusses her incurable cancer with plain style and more than a little wit:

I reach for my favourite whisky bottle and instruct my valetudinarian well-wishers to imbibe the shark’s oil and aloe vera themselves. If I am to stay alive, I am bound to continue to get love wrong, all the time, but not to cease wooing, for that is my life affair, love’s work.