From Romeo and Juliet, to Elizabeth and Darcy, to Bella and Edward, there are many literary couples we frankly hear too much about, especially during the lead up to Valentine‘s Day. Emma Rivers gives her list of five underrated romance novels to get your teeth into.
Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
From the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood is the heartfelt coming-of-age story of Tori Watanabe and his first love at university. Written in 1987 and set in 1960s Japan, the narrative is structured around the nostalgic account of Tori who reflects on his past relationship with Naoko, and how their love, sparked by shared trauma, then changes and develops. I guarantee that Murakami’s poignant story, exploring themes of mental health, isolation and mistrust, will stay with you long after you finish the final page. I urge you to add this to your reading list, you will not be disappointed.
The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje
This beautiful, heart-breaking story follows the account of a mysteriously burned man and his nurse in WWII. The narrative focuses on the fragmentary memories of the patient as he recalls his past in conversation with his nurse, Hana. As we learn about his life, we witness the heavy emotional toll that the recollections take on Hana and those around her. Ondaatje’s Booker Prize winning novel is a haunting, emotional story that explores ideas of nation and loyalty against a backdrop of love, war and death. I cannot recommend this highly enough, have some tissues ready, and enjoy!
The Princess Bride – William Goldman
Okay, so you’ve probably seen the film a million times, but did you know it was a book? Written by William Goldman in 1973, this tongue-in-cheek fairy tale features romance, adventure, torture, fight scenes, poison, and more. The tale of Westley and Buttercup’s romance, Inigo’s obsessive revenge, and Prince Humperdinck’s quest for a subservient wife will have you smiling for days. Fast-paced, exciting and delightfully humorous it is a truly wonderful reading experience. If you haven’t read it, trust me, you’ll enjoy every minute. It’s fun, short and definitely worth your time.
The Price of Salt – Patricia Highsmith
This novel, written and set in 1950s New York, follows Carol and Therese, two women that have a forbidden affair and fall in love. Carol has a family, Therese is pursuing her career, yet neither can resist an affair that will bring chaos into their lives. Exploring love, societal expectations and prejudice, this novel was the first to depict a lesbian relationship with a happy ending. Originally published under a pseudonym for fear of Highsmith being labelled as a lesbian writer, it wasn’t until 1990 that is was republished (as Carol) under her true name and later adapted into an award-winning film.
North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell
Consider yourself an Austen aficionado? Then this book is for you! Gaskell’s North and South follows the story of the ‘handsome’ southerner Margaret Hale and the stoic mill-owner John Thornton, whose relationship, in classic Austenian style, grows from distrust and hate into understanding and love. Written in 1854 and set in the fictional Northern town of Milton, this novel challenges modernity and tradition through its depiction of social conflict and class identity. While any romance is enjoyable, North and South is as much a story of personal growth and empathy as it is one of traditional love. Read it!
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