Labyrinth of Desire: Women, Passion and Romantic Obsession


179 pages
ISBN 0-00-255411-9
DDC 152.4'1'082




Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian Studies at
Concordia University and an avid outdoor recreationist. She is the
author of several books, including The Mountain Is Moving: Japanese
Women’s Lives, Kurlek and Margaret Laurence: T


The editor calls this book “a series of timeless, cautionary clues”
that will interest and help many if not all women. Rosemary Sullivan, in
her opening sentence, suggests that much of this short, lively book
stems from long talks about romantic obsession late into the night with
women in cafés. The talks all followed a pattern, one of longing, love,
and loss. Sullivan’s topic concerns “hunger and longing,”
“desperation and ecstasy.”

Her interest in the topic goes back many years, and her sources include
stories from literature, and personal experience. The writing, like the
topic, is obsessive and compulsive. The opening chapter’s account of
the narrator’s romantic encounter with a stranger in Mexico City is
powerfully moving. Subsequent chapters begin to deconstruct this story
layer by layer. What was the woman really searching for? What are the
prerequisites for this state of mind? She notes that most great love
stories are about adulterous passion, and gives fascinating examples.
Labyrinth of Desire jumps all boundaries of genre. It is drama, comedy,
tragedy, documentary, fiction, and poetry.

Sullivan is the author of prize-winning biographies of Margaret Atwood,
Gwendolyn MacEwen, and Elizabeth Smart. She has published three
collections of poetry and edited six anthologies of poetry and prose.
Her impressive literary output notwithstanding, Sullivan may be
remembered—and most widely read—for Labyrinth of Desire.


Sullivan, Rosemary., “Labyrinth of Desire: Women, Passion and Romantic Obsession,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024,