With Valentine’s Day just around the corner I thought I’d take a look at my shelves for novels focussed on the theme of love. Since I never read books classed as “romance” I’ve opted for books which look at this emotion from different perspectives. Expect to see books about lovers separated by culture and civil upheaval; parental love; obsessive love and unrequited love.
The first group are books I’ve read (links are to my reviews) and the rest are ones that are on my shelves waiting to be read.
We begin with five books I’ve read though haven’t necessarily reviewed on the blog.
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Two young men meet as students at Oxford. Charles Ryder is mesmerised by the glamorous and wealthy Flyte family and their stately home at Brideshead. He spends idyllic summers with the youngest son Sebastian but is powerless when his friend descends into depression and alcoholism. Bruised by the experience, Charles falls into a loveless marriage and then finds temporary solace with Sebastian’s sister Julia. The question readers have to decide for themselves is whether Sebastian was simply the appetiser for the real deal of Charles’ love for Julia or is she second best to Sebastian?
Love by Hanne Ørstavik
Just 125 pages long, Love, is a tense and engrossing tale of a mother and her small son who leave their house separately on a cold night somewhere in the far north of Norway. Neither knows that the other is not at home. The boy loves his mum and wishes fervently that he is making him a cake for his birthday the following day. She loves the child deeply but has other things on her mind.
Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
This is definitely not a novel about love in the hearts and flowers sense. It’s focus is on an obsessive man who forms an attachment to a man he meets when they are both witnesses to a tragic accident.
This is meant to be a very witty novel about the daughter of a wealthy family who wants to marry a very unsuitable man. Her mother wants her to marry someone wealthy. I found it amusing rather than sparkling with wit but it does portray very well how among the rich landed families, marriage was not about love, but rather protecting (and advancing) one’s status and wealth.
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, by Brian Moore
A terrific novel about a lonely down at heel spinster in Ireland who desperately wants to find love and a husband. She lets her imagination run away with her; making a mistake that has desperately sad consequences.
And from my stack of owned but as yet unread books, we have these five novels.
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I’ve owned a copy of this book for more than 30 years but have still not read this tale of young lovers who are forced apart by the girl’s father. She marries someone else but fifty years later they get a second chance to be together. I know it’s a highly regarded novel but I’ve started it twice and abandoned the book each time. Maybe it will be third time lucky?
Maps for Lost lovers by Nadeem Aslam
I can’t remember buying this book and in fact was considering giving it away unread but when I took a look at it in more depth for my Sample Sunday post, I decided it was worth retaining. All I know is that it’s set in the midst of an immigrant Pakistani community in a northern English town where a pair of lovers disappear and are believed murdered. I suspect this is an example of a relationship that runs counter to the culture of their families.
Mother Love by Thorne Moore
This is the second novel by Thorne Moore, an author from Wales whose books I’ve come to enjoy. This is a tale of three mothers and the love they bear for their children. One is horrified to be pregnant again, one who is desperate to adopt and the third who is terrified her baby will be taken from her.
Tender Is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald
I’m not in the fan club for Fitzgerald’s most famous novel, The Great Gatsby. I’ve read it twice and each time felt I must have missed some key point about that book and why it is so revered. Maybe I’ll have more luck with Tender Is The Night , a novel set on the French Riviera which chronicles the marriage of a doctor and his mercurial wife and the disintegration of this relationship. It’s meant to reflect Fitzgerald’s own life with his wife Zelda.
The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini
This debut novel won the 2010 Orange Prize for New Writers with its tale of love against the background of a turbulent time in the history of Zimbabwe. After circumstances split them apart, they are re-united many years later but they are now different people.
This is an updated version of a Top Ten Tuesday post from 2020, reflecting changes in what I’ve read and what is still left on my bookshelves. Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. To join in, just visit her blog.