I hate Valentine’s Day. I am the Grinch who stole it.
And yet I’m a hopeless romantic. Totally devoted to love in all its glorious and treacherous forms – I just prefer my stories a little more Bronte than Hallmark.
From Catherine and Heathcliff to Emma and Dexter there’s heroes, heroines and a heartbreak of every kind in this list of books about love. Many you’ve probably already read but if you haven’t then you must.
May Cupid bring an abundance of good to you this year and remember that when you receive love it’s always prudent to give a little back.
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.
Lizzy Bennet finds eligible bachelor Darcy arrogant the first time she meets him, and when she hears he has been meddling in her family’s affairs is determined to dislike him even more. Darcy, however, finds himself increasingly attracted to her good looks and lively mind. In the story of misunderstandings that follows, Lizzy is led to question everything she thought she knew.
Persuasion, by Jane Austen.
At twenty-seven, Anne Elliot is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she had been persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortune nor rank. What happens when they encounter each other again is movingly told in Jane Austen’s last completed novel. Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, but, above all, it is a love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy.
With its sensitive depiction of a wronged ‘pure woman’ and its powerful criticism of Victorian sexual hypocrisy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles shocked readers on publication. Its heroine is a poor country girl, Tess, whose encounter with her distant aristocratic relatives – especially the handsome, cruel Alec – leaves her broken and haunted by a secret that could ruin her. A very different man, Angel Clare, offers her salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past, or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte.
Charlotte Brontë’s first published novel, Jane Eyre was immediately recognised as a work of genius when it appeared in 1847. Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. How she takes up the post of governess at Thornfield Hall, meets and loves Mr Rochester and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage are elements in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than that traditionally accorded to her sex in Victorian society.
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte.
Wuthering Heights has achieved an almost mythical status as a love story, yet it is also a unique masterpiece of the imagination: an unsettling, transgressive novel about obsession, violence and death. It begins as a man is forced to shelter at the strange, grim house on the Yorkshire moors during a snowstorm. There he discovers the tempestuous events that took place there years before: the intense love between Catherine Earnshaw and the foundling Heathcliff, her betrayal of him and how his terrible revenge continues to haunt the present.
Made Into Movies.
CLICK TO BUY: The Vow, by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter; The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks; Silver Linings Playbook, by Matthew Quick; The Time Traveller’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger; One Day, by David Nicholls.
The Vow, by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter.
Life as Kim and Krickitt Carpenter knew it was shattered beyond recognition on November 24, 1993. Two months after their marriage, a devastating car wreck left Krickitt with a massive head injury and in a coma for weeks. When she finally awoke, she had no idea who Kim was. With no recollection of their relationship and while Krickitt experienced personality changes common to those who suffer head injuries, Kim realised the woman he had married essentially died in the accident. And yet, against all odds, Kim and Krickitt fell in love all over again.
The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks.
The Notebook is a contemporary love story set in the pre- and post-World War II era. Noah and Allie spend a wonderful summer together, but her family and the socio-economic realities of the time prevent them from being together. Although Noah attempts to keep in contact with Allie after they are forced to separate, his letters go unanswered. Eventually, Noah professes his undying and eternal love in one final letter. Noah travels north to find gainful employment and to escape the ghost of Allie, and eventually he goes off to war. After serving his country, he returns home to restore an old farmhouse. A newspaper article about his endeavor catches Allie’s eye, and 14 years after she last saw Noah, Allie returns to him. The only problem is she is engaged to another man. After spending two wonderful reunion days together, Allie must decide between the two men that she loves.
Silver Linings Playbook, by Matthew Quick.
Meet Pat Peoples. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure him a happy ending—the return of his estranged wife, Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent several years in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat’s now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he’s being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he’s being haunted by Kenny G!
The Time Traveller’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger.
This extraordinary, magical novel is the story of Clare and Henry who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: periodically his genetic clock resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. His disappearances are spontaneous and his experiences are alternately harrowing and amusing. The Time Traveller’s Wife depicts the effects of time travel on Henry and Clare’s passionate love for each other with grace and humour. Their struggle to lead normal lives in the face of a force they can neither prevent nor control is intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.
One Day, by David Nicholls.
‘I can imagine you at forty,’ she said, a hint of malice in her voice. ‘I can picture it right now.’ He smiled without opening his eyes. ‘Go on then.’ 15th July 1988. Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year?
Six ‘Right Of Passage’ Books.
CLICK TO BUY: Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy; Tully, by Paullina Simons; Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier; Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell; The Pilot’s Wife, by Anita Shreve.
Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy.
‘All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’. Anna Karenina is a novel of unparalleled richness and complexity, set against the backdrop of Russian high society. Tolstoy charts the course of the doomed love affair between Anna, a beautiful married woman, and Count Vronsky, a wealthy army officer who pursues Anna after becoming infatuated with her at a ball. Although she initially resists his charms Anna eventually succumbs, falling passionately in love and setting in motion a chain of events that lead to her downfall. In this extraordinary novel, Tolstoy seamlessly weaves together the lives of dozens of characters, while evoking a love so strong that those who experience it are prepared to die for it.
Tully, by Paullina Simons.
Tully Makker is a tough young woman from the wrong side of the tracks and she is not always easy to like. But if Tully gives friendship and loyalty, she gives them for good, and she forms an enduring bond with Jennifer and Julie, school friends from very different backgrounds. As they grow into the world of the seventies and eighties, the lives of the three best friends are changed forever by two young men, Robin and Jack, and a tragedy which engulfs them all. Against the odds, Tully emerges into young womanhood, marriage and a career. At last Tully Makker has life under control. And then life strikes back in the most unexpected way of all …
Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera is a brilliantly crafted, beautifully written story of love and the love-sick. Spurned as a young man, Florentino Ariza has a half century of waiting to fill before a chance to redeclare his love for Fermina Daze comes, when her husband is killed retrieving a parrot from a mango tree. Funny, poignant and heartfelt – enduring and unrequited love have rarely been more movingly expressed.
Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier.
Working as a lady’s companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers.
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell.
The story is set in Clayton County, Georgia and Atlanta during the American Civil War and Reconstruction and depicts the experiences of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner who must use every means at her disposal to come out of the poverty that she finds herself in after Sherman’s March to the Sea.
The Pilot’s Wife, by Anita Shreve.
As a pilot’s wife, Kathryn has learned to expect both intense exhilaration and long periods alone – but nothing has prepared her for the late-night knock that lets her know her husband has died in a crash. As Kathryn struggles with her grief, she descends into a maelstrom of publicity stirred up by the modern hunger for the details of tragedy. Even before the plane is located in waters off the Irish coast, the relentless scrutiny of her husband’s life begins to bring a bizarre personal mystery into focus. Could there be any truth to the increasingly disturbing rumors that he had a secret life?