The theme for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish, is ‘Valentine’s Day’. Despite my bah-humbug feelings towards Valentine’s Day (it’s so commercialised), and the fact that really I’m a cynic, and I find couples gushing over each other on social media incredibly tedious, I won’t deny that I love love, and I love the idea of celebrating love – just keep the OTT PDAs to a minimum please.
Love in books can be completely breathtaking, and make you hope for that kind of love. The one that begins on a windswept moor, or with a chance encounter in the street. Or when two people, who’ve known each other forever, finally find it in each other after looking in all the wrong places. It can also make you cry your heart out, and hope you never love like that because it hurts.
So in anticipation of Valentine’s Day this coming weekend, I’m going to celebrate my love of love and share some of my favourite literary loves, many of which end with heartbreak (apparently I’m not a fan of endings that are too happy). These are in no particular order, because I’m rubbish at ranking things. To those of you celebrating St Val’s Day, I wish you lots of love – on every day of the year.
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Set against the backdrop of World War II, there are two love stories for the price of one in this novel. At the heart of it is the love affair between Count Laszlo de Almasy and the married Katharine Clifton – it’s illicit, passionate, and ultimately devastating. The other is that between Hana, a French nurse caring for the English patient, and Kip, an Indian Sikh who is part of a British bomb disposal unit. This relationship is tender and brings together two people who isolate themselves for different reasons, but find solace in one another when it’s needed most.
P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
I’m not big on novels that are straight up classified as ‘romance’. I don’t dislike them, but I don’t exactly gravitate towards them. This book is one of the few exceptions I’ve made in this regard. In all honesty I remember the film better than the book (and I know there are some differences between the two), but I do recall crying a million tears while reading it because love lives on even when the person you love is gone, and that’s really beautiful, but sometimes you just have to let them go.
The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons.
Also set in the era of World War II, The Bronze Horseman is the story of Tatiana and Alexander, whose relationship defies the odds over and over again. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was a crying snotty mess at the end of this one and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to move again. It’s a love worthy of the word ‘epic’, and it would be a dream come true if it could be adapted for either the big or small screen before I kick the bucket.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
My overwhelming thought when I think about this book is ‘ugh’. There’s war (World War II, again – there’s a theme here apparently), there’s a love triangle; there’s hatred that becomes love; there’s a spurned lover; and then there’s the end. If you’ve seen the film adaptation of this and loved the end of that, then you’ll hate the book ending because it’s different. It will make you happy that love can wait for a long time but sad that it sometimes has to wait for a long time. That probably doesn’t make much sense but I don’t want to give away spoilers so I’ll stop now.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Yes it’s a bit of a cliche to include this book, but I have to include it as it’s one of the few books I bother rereading every couple of years. I adore Elizabeth Bennet – she’s so spirited and opinionated that I found it virtually impossible to not become attached to her. Darcy I’m not such a huge fan of, but it’s what they represent together rather than individually that I love – they make each other better. Their relationship doesn’t just end up being about convenience (e.g., she marries for money, he just because he needs a wife); it’s a relationship of mutual respect and understanding – it’s a marriage of equals. Basically this book is Austen sticking it to the patriarchal overlords of her time. But yeah, love too.
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
OK. This one is kinda like Pride and Prejudice but with working class people. The leading lady, Margaret Hale, is similar to Elizabeth Bennet in that she is middle-class with not a lot of prospects and she’s super opinionated; the leading man, John Thornton, is a bit of a jerk like Darcy and he’s also quite wealthy – but he’s not born into money, he’s had to work hard for it. But I ADORE John Thornton and I love that he and Margaret challenge each other so much (because you want to be challenged in a relationship, otherwise how do you grow together?) and in the end, they too make each other better.
One Day by David Nicholls
The only thing I don’t like about this book is that Anne Hathaway was cast in the film adaptation and her accent was terrible. But I still cried like a big baby at the end of it. Basically it follows two people over a period of twenty years, showing where their lives are at on the same day every year – July 15th. They come together, they move apart, they drift past each other like two ships in the night. I don’t feel like I can say too much about this book without giving away any spoilers so I’ll stop now, but I will warn you to have tissues on hand when reading.
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Strictly speaking, I don’t go out of my way to read anything by Nicholas Sparks. The Notebook is actually the only book of his I’ve ever read and will probably remain so until the day I die. Why do I love this one? Because when two people are meant to be together, they’ll be together dammit, and they’ll stay together forever and ever.
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Surprise surprise. Another WWII novel. I like this one because bad stuff goes down, but it doesn’t tear the lovers apart. And then the war tries to tear them apart but take that war! you won’t win because these two will be together whether you like it or not. And then you get to the end and Ian McEwan does what I dream to do one day – he makes the reader hate him and want to burn the book. But you don’t burn it because you live in hope that if you read it again, the end will be different.
The Lavender Keeper by Fiona McIntosh
Oh god. There’s a love triangle in this one and I really can’t decide whether I love the love between Lisette and Luc, or Lisette and Markus – does she choose the French resistance fighter, or the German officer (because, surprise! this is set in WWII as well)? I’m not giving away any spoilers by saying the triangle does not end well, and I did cry on the train as I read the “does not end well” part. Oh, and if you want McIntosh to completely tear your insides out and jump up and down on them, then you should also read The French Promise, which is the sequel to The Lavender Keeper.