Books to fall in love with this Valentine’s Day

Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel García Márquez

I think there are very few romance books in existence that spend the majority of their time writing about the love affairs that occur in between the principal couple’s meeting, and finally getting together – and even fewer write about it so mystically and distinctively as Gabriel García Márquez in Love in the Time of Cholera. Perhaps it is the Colombian writer’s trademark style of fantastical realism, so useful here to blend the commonplace aspects of love with those heroic romantic actions we always dream of, but never experience. Maybe it is his unique skill to engage a reader through pages and pages of action-less, speech-less work, and yet still feel as though we are privy to the innermost parts of a character’s life. This superb blend between intensely detailed language and the utter large timescale of the book, that made reading about the intertwining lives of Fermina Daza and and Florentino Ariza so unforgettable.

We start our story with the death of Fermina Daza’s husband, Dr. Juvenal Urbino, one day under extremely bizarre circumstances (think parrots and suicidal chess players). This man’s death marks the last chance for Florentino Ariza, a fellow villager who has harboured a love for the new widower for over sixty years, to finally proclaim his affection for her one last time. In an ironic turn of events which involves a half-centenary ago flashback to the beginning of Florentino’s passion for Fermina, Marquez shows us that the love story within the novel does not just centre around two lovers. Much like life, Love in the Time of Cholera celebrates love in all of its possible forms and manifestations, be it carnal, physical, romantic, or purely a love borne out of convenience and companionship. Most importantly, none of these variants are painted worse than any other, and I closed the pages of this book feeling a sense of liberation about just how many forms of unique affection we come across in our lives.

Through Florentino’s ceaseless search for unity with Fermina, we encounter all of his life’s lovers along with him, from reclusive widows to fourteen-year-old students and all the rest in between. Márquez’s often brashly unrealistic plot seems to both poke fun at such an unrequited, transcendent love, whilst equally letting us involve ourselves as deeply as we like in the very idea of it. To experience Marquez’s world of extreme and fantastical love is not something you want to miss out on.

 

Words by Megan Harding

A Room with a View

E.M. Forster’s A Room with a Viewis one of my favourite novels, a story I had fun reading. Forster’s work mostly depicts the Edwardian upper-middle class in a satirical, extravagant manner, but since it’s Valentine’s Day I thought I would look closer at the relationship between Lucy Honeychurch and George Emerson in the novel. Forster celebrates love as a means to oppose what was expected of wealthy young women in light of the contrary ideologies and influences of English Conservatism and socialism in Edwardian England. At the end of the novel, Lucy marries her equal.

The story begins in Italy. In a t00-English hotel, Lucy and her cousin Charlotte meet Mr Emerson and his reserved son George. Lucy and George become increasingly close during the trip away, resulting in the infamous kiss in the field of violets in the Italian countryside. Charlotte instantly objects to the notion of a relationship between the two.

The second half of the novel is set in Surrey. Lucy gets engaged to Cecil Vyse, a well-to-do man whom she does not love. In the idyllic English countryside, George comes back to Lucy’s life when his father moves into a house across the street from Lucy’s family home. The two parts of Lucy’s life she wants to keep apart – the passion she briefly experienced in Italy with George and the ‘proper’ way of life in England – merge, resulting in emotional turmoil for Lucy.

Forster’s novel celebrates love between equals. In the end, what is expected of Lucy is seconded to her love for George; she breaks off the engagement with Cecil and is inspired by Mr Emerson to act in the way she truly wants to, away from the influence of her family and social class. This is truly a lovely story, and the love Forster creates between these two characters presents the progressive nature of Edwardian England; if we were to compare this to Wuthering Heights, when Catherine chooses what is expected of her over the love she feels for Heathcliff, we can see the development of feminist ideas in matters of love perfectly.

Words by Caitlin O’Connor

Essays in Love – Alain De Botton

“The problem with needing others to legitimate out existence is that we are very much at their mercy to have a correct identity ascribed to us. If, as Stendhal says, we lack a character without others, then the other with whom we share our bed must be a skilled intermediary or we will end up feeling deformed and misrepresented. But do not others, by definition, always distort us – whether for better or worse?”

It is in this beautifully whimsical tone that Essays in Love depicts the act of falling in love. And all its complexities. When ‘love’ is something so natural in all of our lives, we often overlook the serious impact it has on even the minutest aspects of life. De Botton reflects on a past relation with a woman named Chloe, and seamlessly intertwines philosophical musings on love to make us realise the strange and even erratic thinking that love washes over us.

Reflecting on the full course of the relationship from the fateful beginning, the lustful middle before the inevitable breakup, De Botton deconstructs the relationship up into a serious of chapters that all focus on a different aspect of love. Philosophy is at the heart of the novel, with chapter titles including ‘The Fear of Happiness’, ‘Love or Liberalism’ and ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ – a nod to Nietzsche’s famous philosophical novel of the same name.

The novel’s ability to draw our attention to the impact of love on the human condition is what makes the novel so enduring. It is beautiful, yet thoughtful. Musical, yet honest. De Botton lays everything bare, and in doing so produces a piece of literature that is completely naked; it scratches bare the very truths of society we thought were eternally fixed.

In forcing us to re-examine love, De Botton highlights the beauty of it. It is not simple, but something so utterly complicated, and it is these complications that make it so valuable; if it was easy, it would be meaningless. So, while a novel that revolves as just as much around heart ache as it does love, De Botton’s overall positive portrayal of love and his commitment to highlight of the sheer power of love makes it a perfect read for anyone this Valentine’s Day.

Words by Juliette Rowsell

Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami

Love is synonymous with beauty, and nothing captures such beauty as well Haruki Murkamai’s Norwegian Wood. In a novel that explores the darker and more obsessive side of love, the sheer heartache, delicacy and beauty of the novel can’t help but sweep you off your feet.

Norwegian Wood follows Toru Watanabe following the suicide of his best friend. Kizuki’s suicide impacts all that knew him heavily, and Toru and Kizuki’s bereaved girlfriend, Naoko, try to find solace in silent walks across the Japanese countryside. Unsurprisingly, Toru falls passionately in love with Naoko, but things are complicated after she is forced into a mental rehabilitation centre and Toru finds a blossoming friendship in Midori, a pixie-haired girl from his university. However, don’t expect this to be like any love story that you’ve read before. If you have a fascination with death, sex, and The Beatles’ classic ‘Norwegian Wood,’ then this book is a must read.

The novel captures the complications of love and, in doing so, highlights how we are always at the mercy of love; to try to have power over love would be futile. Combining humour and heartache, ‘Norwegian Wood’ is novel perfect for anyone who has recently experienced an all-encompassing, soul-devouring love to even a heartache. Or for anyone who enjoys bloody good literature, for that matter.

Words by Juliette Rowsell

Rapture – Carol Ann Duffy

But maybe mere prose is unable to capture your feelings this Valentine’s Day. Maybe it lacks the intensity of your love, and you need something in which every word is so concentrated with love, that you feel dizzy from the experience. If so, then look no further than Carol Ann Duffy’s Rapture, her 2005 poetry anthology which brings love to life in ways you’d never have imagined.

The anthology features a total of 52 poems, portraying the progression of Duffy’s love over the course of a year. The sheer scale of the anthology therefore means she covers all aspects of love: from far away crushes to lust to staying up till 3am texting your beloved to love to heartbreak, she leaves no topic untouched. The anthology is, quite literally, a rapture of emotions that cannot fail to enter your life like a hurricane and change everything it its path.

But perhaps what Duffy does best with the anthology is show the sheer obsession of love. In ‘Name’, the narrator describes how even their beloved’s name ‘is a charm’. In fact, ‘I hear your name / rhyming, rhyming, / rhyming with everything’, meaning that loves transcends the realms of rationality to pure erraticism. Love’s effect on our brains is like one of poison, making us think in ways we would never think of when not under its influence.

Duffy is a wordsmith. She takes the everyday and makes it beautiful. The act of texting is no longer just two fingers tapping at a screen, but ‘injured birds’. Their lover is not a person, but ‘a touchable dream’. Every poem is filled with such intensity, that you can’t help but fall in love with the very poems themselves.

Words by Juliette Rowsell

[Complied by Juliette Rowsell]

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