It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us. The media shows us two reactions to this little, commercial holiday: 1) the lovey dovey people feeding each other heart-shaped chocolates into their perfect, air-brushed mouths, and 2) single, bitter people, doubling down on the BOGO chocolate at the local grocery store. Many of us, however, do not adhere to that binary system and enjoy reading love stories, bundling up with chocolate and/or a significant other, and taking the holiday as basically an ordinary day with cheap chocolate. By the way, there are some good deals on boxed chocolate when V-Day finally rolls around.
In spirit of the holiday, enjoy the following collection of love-inspired quotes and the works from whence they came. Books don’t have to fall under the taboo heading of “romance” to have a little of the good stuff, otherwise known as love.
Something of an untraditional love story, Anna Karenina follows a myriad of characters and their attempts, successful and not, to fall and stay in love. Anyone familiar with this classic novel knows that while the love story between Kitty and Levin may not be intentionally drawn to the center stage, we as readers find ourselves drawn to the actual truth to their emotions rather than Anna’s less than committed feelings toward her husband. In fact, the union between Levin and Kitty serves as something of an antithesis to the marriage between Anna and Alexi; while the latter married for status, the former married because they, you know, actually care for one another. Of course, the lovey aspect of the novel is not the sole purpose of the story, but it certainly makes up a large portion of it.
Another classic tale of love filled with strife, unrequited (oh wait, yes! requited) feelings, confusion, and heartbreak—we read this stuff because we love it. After years of missing her beloved Captain Wentworth, Anne finds there may just be hope for their love after all. Honestly though, it wouldn’t be much of a story if there wasn’t even a chance. Jane Austen in a lot of ways served as something of a pioneer for female authors; she also opened the door for romance as a genre to be taken seriously.
Not all literary love must fall under the umbrella of romance genre. Obviously, anyone with human contact and less than an all consuming dislike of all who share our evolutionary ancestors knows that. While of course “Les Mis” chronicles the touching love story of Cosette and Marius, one could (and many do) argue that the real love is between Cosette and her adoptive father figure (Jean Valjean, the totally dangerous convict/bread thief). Ever since he met her mother under *unfortunate circumstances* and took on the care of the girl, it’s clear that Valjean would do anything for little Cosette—including risk his life for Marius. Now, that’s some father-daughter bonding.
Another one of those stories where two people are in love, a misunderstanding rends them apart, and then there’s the agony of the wondering whether or not they’ll end up together and live happily ever after… This type of romance literature really made a moment for itself, didn’t it? (See the above shoutout to Jane Austen). But if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. To Mr. Rochester, I will say that trying to marry someone (naming no names!) when you’re wife is alive (albeit crazy, but alive) and locked in a room upstairs, is considered an error of judgement regardless the time period. Or however much your *former* fiancee may love you.
A cohesive collection of stories from a more modern era, “Unaccustomed Earth” follows the lives of of families who have emigrated from Bengali to the U.S. or the U.K. and how they adjust (or struggle to adjust) to their new way of life. These stories are a little less centered on love, but in that way might be more relatable to us as the average reader. This quote in itself speaks to the reader—how many times have you seen a person for whom you have feelings, you make these little, arbitrary connections and, all of a sudden, you’re soulmates! Maybe not exactly, but love makes us into silly critters and what better way to show that than to tell the tales of people trying to adjust to difficult circumstances and still being swept up in the tremulous tides of love?
Twenty-One Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda was what one might refer to as an “unusual fellow.” In addition to the great literary works, spanning from poetry to novels (for which he began amassing fame at the ripe old age of ten), that he produced, Neruda also served as a senator to the Chilean Communist Party. On a more personal note, Neruda was also a big believer in love, though he didn’t have a lot of luck finding it until later in life; after two unsuccessful and potentially loveless marriages, Neruda finally met the love of his life, Matilde Urrutia, who served as his muse for the remainder of his life and career. The collection Twenty-One Love Poems and a Song of Despair was written as a dedication to the love he felt for his third and final wife.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Famous already for its merit, The Fault in Our Stars was catapulted to further fame when the movie was released just a couple of years ago. While the film received some good reviews, the big screen never quite captures the mood of a novel quite as well as the written word can. Two teens, Augustus and Hazel, battle cancer and find themselves bonding over their mutual love of…books. *Wipes tears.* But seriously, this one is a bit of a tear-jerker. The more you fall in love with the story of these two falling in love in spite of their health and against the odds, the more you find yourself hoping that the inevitable is…”evitable.”
If you’ve grown up anytime from the 1920’s to the present you’ve at least heard the name “Winnie the Pooh.” Someone, somewhere out there has done a thorough plot and content analysis of the big yellow bear and his pals, but suffice it to say that if ever you’re in need of a little pick-me-up, throw this on the telly or YouTube—pretty much all these old cartoons can be found on YouTube these days.
Gone With the Wind has been a classic both in novel form and on the big screen for decades. The novel (well, the movie too) follows the story of Scarlett, a spoiled southern belle, her love interest, Ashley (a man—this confuses a lot of 21st century people skimming the beginning of a plot synopsis), and Ashley’s love interest, Melanie. I’m sure you can see where this is going and you’re probably right; Scarlett, being beautiful and accustomed to getting what she wants simply by existing is not happy to be overlooked for a girl she deigns inferior to herself, though we imagine Scarlett found most women inferior to herself. Regardless, Ashley seems to care little about Scarlett’s scorned feelings and the bitter woman relieves herself of her frustration by tormenting other men. Of course, this is a brief, and rather targeted synopsis, the novel itself is rich in a wealth of historical details, deep characters, and heartstring-pulling moments. Scarlett just happens to take center stage as far as Gone With the Wind’s love focus is concerned.