Yep it’s that time of year. Time for shops to be filled with all things red and pink, restaurants to release special oyster and champagne based menus (and charge twice their normal prices for the privilege) and me to shelter in my bed and wait for the whole thing to be over.
I’ve never really been one for soppy declarations of love, whether spoken, written or sewn onto the front of a teddy bear, but classic literature is the one exception. As I’ve said before, romance doesn’t grate on me nearly so much when all the language is just that bit more poetic.
And the other thing that will almost always win me around to a love story – a tragic ending. Give me a book with a pair of star-crossed lovers, heartbreak and death and I’m hooked. It’s the Marianne Dashwood inside me I think. A happy ending will barely ever get in involved in quite the same way – Jane Austen aside of course, because no one can criticise Jane Austen about anything ever in my presence (expect Emma, you can criticise away on that one with my full approval).
This post is of course heavy on the spoilers so be warned!
- Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Is love a tender thing? It is too rough, too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.
Sometimes a bit of instalove is forgivable. And that’s certainly true of anything written by Shakespeare. So what if they were thirteen years old and fell in love in the space of ten minutes? How could something that includes quotes like, ‘love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs’ and ‘parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow’ not be considered one of the greatest romances of all time?
- The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
You have short earlobes. Socially and genetically there’s no reason for me to be attracted to you. The only logical conclusion is that I must be in love with you.
Look, look, a contemporary book has made the list! This book is just nothing but sweet from start to finish. I read the whole thing with a big soppy grin on my face. If you want a heart-warming, easy reading romance that will make you believe in love in this cold cold world then this is the book for you.
- Persuasion by Jane Austen
You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.
I’ve limited myself to just including two Jane Austen romances on this list so I thought I should pick the two polar opposites. Whereas Pride and Prejudice starts off with Lizzy and Mr Darcy hating each other and not being afraid to show it, Anne and Captain Wentworth used to be engaged, are still madly in love, but both trying very hard not to show it.
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Love. The reason I dislike that word is that it means too much for me, far more than you can understand.
Anna Karenina is the perfect book to satisfy the drama loving side of me, with the passionate and ill-fated affair between Anna and Vronsky, while at the same time giving a beautifully written account of the ordinary, quiet love between Kitty and Levin. Not as heart-wrenching or memorable but while I was reading it it was their story I was enjoying more.
- Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.
The relationship between Eleanor and Park starts off heartbreakingly cute and ends just heartbreaking, just as a love story should. Maybe not exactly one for the ages – I doubt this will stand the test of time, being held up alongside Romeo and Juliet as romance at it’s best – but for right now, for a tale of modern love, this is as good as it gets.
- Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Just because it’s taken you three years to notice, Ron, doesn’t mean no one else has spotted I’m a girl!
I know, I know, the romance really isn’t the point here, but no matter what JK Rowling says, Hermione and Ron will always be the perfect couple to me. If you’re ever in doubt, just imagine how clichéd the whole series would have been it if was all about Harry and Hermione.
- Atonement by Ian McEwan
Find you, love you, marry you, and live without shame.
Perhaps the most ill-fated love story on this whole list. In this whole 400 page book Robbie and Cecelia get to spend less than five hours in the same room as each other. And then there’s that ending. If you haven’t read this book then what are you waiting for, go and read it right now! In fact, this is the one situation where I might even condone you watching the film instead because it’s just that good.
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The whole world is divided for me into two parts: one is she, and there is all happiness, hope, light; the other is where she is not, and there is dejection and darkness.
Admittedly I haven’t actually finished this book yet. But I just had to include it because already I am that invested in Natasha and Andrei. Oh My God. The most epic of epic love stories. Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined, bloodshed. And I may have just slipped in quoting Veronica Mars, oops.
- Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
That it would always be summer and autumn, and you always courting me, and always thinking as much of me as you have done through the past summertime!
The love story between Tess and Angel Clare is definitely not a happy one, but almost as epic as that of Natasha and Andrei. And in fact, now I think of it, eerily reminiscent of that Tolstoy plot line. It all starts so well, such a sweet simple love. And they’re happily planning their future as farmer and wife when BAM, Tess does one thing wrong and he turns out to be the biggest jerk the world has ever known. Seriously, my hatred for Angel Clare knows no bounds. When really I suppose it’s not his fault, it was just the way women were treated at the time.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.
There could be no other winner for me. Lizzy and Darcy are the original OTP. Their love story, the initial hatred, the slowly coming to understand each other, the separation and disapproval of his relatives, will be copied for generations to come. But never ever equalled.