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The Behaviour of Love


From 2016 Man Booker longlisted Virginia Reeves comes a moving and riveting new novel about the head doctor of a mental institution whose marriage and job come under threat when he and a younger patient develop a relationship.
Doctor Ed Malinowski believes he has realized most of his dreams. A passionate, ambitious behavioural psychologist, he is now the superintendent of a mental institution and finally turning the previously crumbling hospital around. He also has a home he can be proud of, and a fiercely independent, artistic wife Laura, whom he hopes will soon be pregnant.

But into this perfect vision of his life comes Penelope, a beautiful, young epileptic who should never have been placed in his institution and whose only chance at getting out is Ed. She is intelligent, charming and slowly falling in love with her charismatic, compassionate doctor. As their relationship grows more complicated and Laura stubbornly starts working at his hospital, Ed must weigh his professional responsibilities against his personal ones and find a way to save both his job and his family.

A love triangle set in one of the most chaotic, combustible settings imaginable, The Behaviour of Love is an incredibly compulsive, poignant exploration of marriage, lust, and ambition from one of America's great young literary talents.

‘Reeves’s theme – as in her debut – is the limits of forgiveness. She’s a superb writer, moving with crisp, swift strokes over the thorny question of how far people ever change’ Daily Mail

Praise for Work Like Any Other:
‘A striking debut about love and redemption, the heavy burdens of family and guilt and learning how to escape them. Powerfully told and lyrically written, there is not a false note in this book. Reeves is a major new talent’ Philipp Meyer, author of The Son
Work Like Any Other is an exceptional novel told in clear, direct, and starkly beautiful language. Virginia Reeves has a gift for bringing to life all the tensions that emerge wherever people, place, and progress collide. I absolutely loved it’ Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds
‘Assured and absorbing…  a potent mix of icy honesty and heart-wrenching tenderness’  Jim Crace
‘Beautifully written, this is an unusual and moving debut’ Sunday Times
‘A slow-burning pleasure. Brutal, beautiful, and to some significant extent, redemptive’  Daily Mail

Photograph by Suzanne Koet

Virginia Reeves is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. Her debut novel, Work Like Any Other, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and Booklist named it to their Top 10 First Novels of 2016. Virginia lives with her husband and daughters in Helena, Montana, where she teaches writing and speech at Helena College. The Behavior of Love is her second novel.

  • Publisher: Scribner UK (May 30, 2019)
  • Length: 400 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781471171963

‘Reeves’s theme – as in her debut – is the limits of forgiveness. She’s a superb writer, moving with crisp, swift strokes over the thorny question of how far people ever change’

– Daily Mail

‘A remarkable case study in the unpredictability of attraction . . . fresh and memorable’ 

– Guardian

‘[An] unsparing study of a marriage as it falls apart . . . beautifully crafted and the tensions in the initial love triangle are handled with microscopic attention’


‘Marital emotion boils within a cool experimental framework  . . . there is not just suffering here—there is also a deep saturation and beauty of experience’ 

– New Yorker

‘Even-handed and sensitive, this psychologically acute novel is a compassionate reflection on the commitments we make, both professional and personal’ 

– Esquire

‘Reeves alternates between Ed and Laura’s perspectives in cunning ways, creating the rippling effect of a rushing river, as love flows and ebbs over a decade . . . exquisite’ 

– Entertainment Weekly

‘Quietly surprising and will make you catch your breath more than once’ 

– Helen Ellis, author of American Housewife

‘As compelling, psychologically complex and unpredictable as a real-life love affair, this book is also a profound statement on the limits of rationality and our societal institutions’ 

– Brian Van Reet, author of Spoils

‘Extraordinarily moving . . . A truly impressive feat of the imagination’ 

– Fiona McFarlane, author of The Night Guest

‘Enhanced by its particular time and place, this unique and uniquely compelling novel explores love, marriage, health, and agency in shifting phases’ 

– Booklist

‘Readers who enjoy complex depictions of the lingering commitments of relationships will be swept away by Reeves’s crisp, powerful novel’ 

– Publishers Weekly

‘A sensitive examination of love, responsibility and compassion’ 

– Kirkus

More books from this author: Virginia Reeves