In celebration of Valentine’s day and all things romantic, I’ve compiled a list of some of literature’s best love stories. From Margaret Mitchell’s epic saga of unrequited love; to Audrey Niffenegger’s debut tale of time travel that won her a legion of fans the world over, if you fancy curling up with a good old fashioned romantic story; here are some of my favourites.
Gone with the Wind
Perhaps the most epic love story of all time, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind is a tale that transcends time, place and race. The ill-fated love affair between capricious Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara and roguish yet seductive Rhett Butler illustrates the ultimate love/hate relationship and together, the pair embody passion and torment of the most turbulent kind. Unlike most romantic stories, their ending isn’t a happy one, and it takes much misfortune for Scarlett to realise her love for Rhett; by which point, it’s too late. My full review is here.
A controversial love story, but a love story nonetheless, Vladimir Nabokov’s highly contentious novel is best known for its protagonist – middle-aged literature professor Professor Humbert – and his illicit relationship with 12-year-old stepdaughter, Dolores Haze. Often described as an erotic novel, Nabokov’s much lauded text is a claustrophobic and unsettling read, that subtly mocks its readers’ idea of love and bourgeois virtues.
Me Before You
One of contemporary literature’s very best love stories, Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You tells the tale of twenty-six year old Lou Clarke and quadriplegic Will Traynor, whose life was changed forever after a tragic accident. While on the surface the characters have little in common, as Traynor’s main caregiver, Lou takes it upon herself to instil in him a love for life that he’s lost in the aftermath of his injury. A tale of how opposites attract; and how by doing so, one finds hope and the other peace, Me Before You is a bittersweet tale of love and loss that stays with its reader long after the last page has finished.
A Little Life
Heartbreaking from its very core, A Little Life is a story of both romantic and platonic love that tells the story of four friends – JB, Jude, Malcom and Willem, who together are bound by a deep and limitless friendship. As time passes the friendship of the four characters is tested; make-ups and break-ups take place, bonds strengthen, deepen and ultimately break. An all-consuming, in parts emotional, often painful read, A Little Life is heartbreaking and hopeful; it is brilliant, it is beautiful, it is brutal and bewitching. Read my full review here.
The Time Traveller’s Wife
An inconceivable tale of time travel and a love that knows no bounds, The Time Traveller’s Wife is an unforgettable and unique love story that will resonate with readers for years to come. Telling the tale of librarian Henry and teacher Claire, born eight years apart; Chicago based Henry has a genetic disease which causes him to involuntarily travel through time jumping back and forward to different points in his life. One of literature’s most moving and tragic love stories, Niffenegger explores themes of love, loss and displacement in this beautifully written and poignant tales. My full review is here.