of Love Reviews
"Before I read The Geometry of Love, it seemed to me that no
book could ever do what Margaret Visser does. Her visit to St. Agnes
outside the Walls is the experience that all of us, tourists, dream
about and never achieve. She expertly uses the knowledge made available
by modern historical methods but she transfigures it from inside
and, in the process, she redeems the apparently unredeemable, tourism
itself. She brings it back to its almost completely lost origin,
the Christian pilgrimage."
René Girard, author of Things Hidden
Since the Foundation of the World
In the Geometry of Love, Margaret Visser takes one church, Sant'Agnese
fuori le Mura in Rome, and tells us what it means.
The book sets out to make this church—and at the same time
any other church—more accessible to visitors. It is an attempt
to give readers an inkling of the spiritual, cultural, and historical
riches that any church offers. The Geometry of Love is for people
who are not satisfied with dates and measurements, or with texts
that studiously avoid anything that might say what the building
"When certain beliefs are being expressed, I take them seriously
and say what they are, because that is an indispensable part of
the explanation. Sant'Agnese's is a building that is intentionally
meaningful: it reveals itself most fully to people prepared to respond
to its 'language.' "
The Geometry of Love is on the best of the year lists for both
The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. It was named number one
best seller by Maclean's Magazine.
UK reviews for The Geometry of Love:
Wednesday, February 28, 2001
"Margaret Visser makes the journey urgent and necessary, revelatory.
She convinces me that I will learn about architecture and archaeology,
but also something I might have missed about a more elusive subject
– myself...She 'reads' a church as satisfyingly as Ruskin."
reviewed by Jeanette Winterson
Scotland on Sunday,
March 4th, 2001
"I have not read a book like this since, as a student, I struggled
with the multiple layers of symbolism and allegory in Dante's Divine
Comedy. In the vision of The Geometry of Love, the solid brick,
marble and wood dissolve to reveal the underlying meanings of all
things. The church is a ship, a forest, a maze, a paradise garden,
an image of eternity."
reviewed by Robert Irwin
The Evening Standard,
February 12, 2001
"The quietly formidable Margaret Visser...has produced here
another of her great level gazes at why we are how we are. Heretofore,
she has ostensibly concentrated her curiosity, erudition and powerful
gifts of synthesis mostly upon the secular, if profoundly metaphorical,
business of eating. In The Geometry of Love, she addresses faith."
reviewed by Candia McWilliam
February 15, 2001
"This is quite the best guide on how to visit a Christian church
I have ever seen."
reviewed by Digby Anderson
American reviews for The Geometry of Love:
The Publisher's Weekly
Monday, February 26, 2001
Visser, described as "an anthropologist of everyday life,"
has written an enthralling, absorbing, and exquisitely researched
study of what she calls an "ordinary church." ... Visser
brings an obvious love and respect for her subject matter and demonstrates
remarkable depth in her knowledge of the church's milieu - from
details on the origins of the halo in religious art, to the techniques
of mosaic building, to the historical development of virgin-hero
myths. ...For the reader, this is rich and thoughtful armchair traveling
of the best kind.
May 4th, 2001
The Geometry of Love is nothing if not beautifully constructed.
Rather, each new topic arises effortlesssly out of its predecessor.
The Christian Science Monitor
May 24th, 2001
This delightful book is a biography of a church, St. Agnes Outside
the Walls in Rome. Margaret Visser, a onetime professor of classics
who has branched out as an "anthropologist of everyday life,"
has written a guidebook that starts where ordinary guidebooks leave
off. Instead of reporting merely the usual tourist information about
architectural features of the church and its connections with famous
personages, she gives us a profound analysis of it as a representative
of churches, specifically Roman Catholic ones, everywhere.
reviewed by Ruth Walker
Canadian reviews for The Geometry of Love:
The Globe and Mail
Saturday, November 25, 2000
from the top 100 list of the year's reviews
"Visser is a bestselling writer with a far-reaching mind, to
whom readers can turn when, convinced of and satisfied with their
own rational view of the universe, they wish to know more about
that mysterious force that holds millions of people around the world
— among them legions of rigorous thinkers, scientists, minds
both scholarly and sceptical — on their knees in adoration
in an 'ordinary' church"
reviewed by Patrick Watson
The Montreal Gazette
Saturday, October 7, 2000
"If the CanLit establishment ever recovers from its trauma
at learning that the world is not flat, its next discovery might
be another unexpected fact: that Canada's best writers are in the
non-fiction field. And they might realize that among the very best
of the nation's writers (if one jumps intellectual and artistic
tariff walls, erected to protect the mediocre) is Margaret Visser.
An award-winning classicist, she has written with conviction and
panache on dozens of topics and her The Rituals of Dinner (1991)
needs only the passage of time to be labeled a classic. Of course,
the CanLit covey has its own complex, if plastic, rules of eligibility,
based on place of birth, length of time spent in Canada and willingness
to tug the forelock. Forget all that. Margaret Visser should be
granted her place as a Canadian national treasure."
reviewed by Donald Harman Akenson
The National Post
September 30, 2000
"Readers familiar with the work of Margaret Visser know her
to be a cultural anthropologist of uncommon skill. She has a wonderful
capacity for taking the stuff of ordinary living – the rituals
around eating, for instance – and making it palatable, indeed
enticing, to the non-specialist. Her earlier books, The Rituals
of Dinner (1991) and The Way We Are (1994), have already ably demonstrated
this. In the very best sense of the term, Visser is a popularizer;
she avoids the temptation to' dumb down,' refuses to reduce popular
ideas to easily digestible morsels and provokes her readers to think
in some new directions. In short, she is the ideal teacher."
reviewed by Michael Higgins
The Globe and Mail
September 23, 2000
"Visser is a best selling writer with a far-reaching mind.
Born in South Africa, raised a Catholic and still declaring a deep
and much reflected-upon commitment to the faith, she has been a
classics professor, a contributing editor to Saturday Night and
a regular essayist on CBC Radio. And she is in love with food. Jesus
Christ and food. Put that together."
reviewed by Patrick Watson
The Toronto Star
Sunday October 22, 2000
"It's a tour of such scope and erudition that is is difficult
to quickly describe what the author has done."
"The Geometry of Love defies skimming. I couldn't. I felt humbled
- much like the Christian pilgrim facing the enormity of the past
reviewed by John Terauds
The Ottawa Citizen
October 1st, 2000
"As a writer, Margaret Visser is a blessing. Anyone who reads
The Geometry of Love as carefully as it is written will have the
necessary equipment to begin understanding not just the historical
underpinnings of a single, small church in Rome, but also the deep,
primal impulses that stir human beings to erect places of worship
and, against the odds, do what it takes to preserve them into eternity.
The subtitle makes clear that this book goes way beyond architectural
and religious history. Visser...has a truly amazing ability to combine
erudition with deep personal feeling. As a reader, you feel you'd
follow her anywhere. Apses? Bring them on! Arcane, multi-century
differences of opinion over where to place an altar? Fascinating!
Etymological deconstructions of the Greek and Latin roots of words
like chalice, pew and epiphany? Who can get enough?
reviewed by Moira Farr
The Calgary Herald
Saturday October 28, 2000
"Visser was prompted to write a book on the meanings of church
adornments by a visit to a tiny Spanish church. A local guide was
showing a Japanese tourist the building, commenting on its various
Meanwhile, the foreigner was staring aghast – 'as well he
might' – at a horrific, life-size carving, painted in brilliant
reds and blacks, of a bleeding, tortured man, nailed to two pieces
Yet, when he wordlessly gestured toward this grotesque artwork,
the guide simply smiled and mentioned the date it was carved."
reviewed by Joe Woodard