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Sam Dobson Writes: Favorite Literary Love Stories

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Favorite Literary Love Stories

In honor of Valentine's Day, I'm willing to temporarily give into the hopeless romantic that's buried deep down inside me. While too much of the mushy-gushy stuff will drive me crazy, I do love a good literary romance to pull at my heart strings every now and then. Ladies, get out those tissues, because the books on my list of favorite literary love stories will get your heart pounding and your eyes welling.


1. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks, 1994)
Privileged teenage girl meets impoverished teenage boy and they fall in summer love, but it doesn’t last long. After fourteen years of separation, they meet again only to fall right back into the love they started so long ago. In old age, Allie starts to lose her memory but with the help of Noah, who reads their story to her everyday, it briefly comes back to her.
Why I love it: Where do I start!?! Noah loves Allie so much, that when her family leaves at the end of that first summer he writes her a letter every day for a year and to no avail. His love for her never fades and when her deteriorating health lands her in a nursing home, he goes with her. The whole novel screams romance right down to when Allie’s memory seems to fade completely and Noah spends every day trying to help her remember. What woman wouldn't wish for a man like Noah?

2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813)
A wealthy gentleman, Darcy, falls in love with a young woman far below his social class, Elizabeth. However, both must overcome personal obstacles before they can fully realize the extent of their attraction to each other. Darcy must learn to set aside his pride in order to freely love Elizabeth. Elizabeth must vanquish her prejudices towards Darcy in order to accept his proposal.
Why I love it: Austen’s novel is the classic romantic fairytale with a happy ending. This is the perfect novel for anyone in need of some sappy romance. Just as Darcy and Elizabeth learn to love each other, the reader learns to love them despite their annoying quirks.


3. The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger, 2003)
A love story about a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to uncontrollably and unpredictably travel through time and his wife who has to cope with his frequent, worrisome absences, The Time Traveler’s Wife is captivating. Clare knows Henry for most of her life as he has traveled back to her childhood beginning when she was six years old. Henry first meets Clare when he is twenty-eight years old and they fall instantly in love. No matter how deeply in love they are, marriage to a time traveler is anything but easy.
Why I love it: The sci-fi aspect of this novel turns an otherwise boring, typical love story into something much more intriguing. Henry and Clare make it work despite the inconvenience and danger of Henry’s genetic disorder. Their relationship is strong, even through the heartbreak of multiple miscarriages. Even after he’s gone, Henry still comes back to Clare, traveling to the future, and this curse momentarily feels like a blessing. 

4. The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925)
Taking place in the glitz and glamour that is 1920's New York, Nick Carraway narrates the story of the mysterious and charismatic Jay Gatsby and the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan. It’s a story about young love lost and reunited when Gatsby returns from Europe and buys a mansion close to Daisy's home that she shares with her husband, Tom. He is determined to win her back, but everything gets muddled up with the help of booze, affairs, and guns.
Why I love it: I know what you are thinking and I agree. Daisy is a bitch and this is no fairytale. Although it doesn't end well for Mr. Gatsby, you can't help but fall in love with his charm and determination to win back the love of his life. This classic piece of American literature is a reminder that love can be lethal.

5. Atonement (Ian McEwan, 2001)
In this World War II era story about a love destroyed, Robbie Turner and Cecilia Tallis get only one moment of intimacy in the Tallis family library before they are ripped apart. Cecilia's sister, Briony, mistakenly identifies Robbie as her cousin's rapist, sending Robbie to jail and causing Cecilia to turn her back on her family. Years later, after prison and war, the reader is led to believe that Briony visits her sister to atone for her mistake and discovers that Cecilia and Robbie have reunited. Later, it is revealed that this story was authored by Briony and suggests that in reality both died during the war.
Why I love it: I know this novel is depressing as hell, but Cecilia, true to her feelings, stands behind Robbie despite the charges brought against him. Robbie's feelings for Cecilia never fade; in fact the memory of their moment in the library is the only thing that keeps him going through the war. And if nothing else, Robbie and Cecilia are reunited and happy in Briony’s novel.

6. Ulysses (James Joyce, 1922)
Neither an obvious love story nor an easy read, Ulysses is a story about a man who is on the verge of losing his wife. The epic novel follows everyday-hero Leopold Bloom over the course of a single, normal day. The relationship between Leopold and his wife, Molly, has been strained since the death of their son eleven years ago. Since the tragic death, Leopold’s intimacy with his wife has been nearly nonexistent. Molly’s affair has only added to the complexity of their marital problems.
Why I love it: At first glance, the story of Leopold and Molly may seem farthest from romantic. Despite Leopold’s inability to physically love his wife and Molly’s infidelity, Leopold’s love for her is unconditional. We are left with hope for their marriage with the last episode of Joyce’s epic novel, during which Molly’s thoughts turn to memories of when Leopold proposed, with a positive affirmation of their love. Joyce portrays a very raw and real picture of a marriage plagued by heart break, yet unwavering in love.

7. P.S. I Love You (Cecelia Ahern, 2004)
Holly is married to the love of her life and when he is stricken down by an unexpected illness her spirit seems to die with him. The only person who can pull her out of this ghostly state is the one she lost. Gerry has meticulously left behind love letters, complete with instructions so that Holly may get her life back. Following his written direction, Holly faces her fears, takes a vacation, and moves towards a bright and happy future.
Why I love it: What’s not to love about this heart wrenching story about a love lost? Boat loads of tears were shed while reading of Holly’s heartbreak, yet I couldn’t help but feel hopeful with the lengths Gerry goes to for his wife’s future happiness.

8. Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell, 1936)
This classic love story is everything but a fairytale, in which Scarlet O’Hara is not only pathetically unaware of Rhett Butler’s unwavering love for her, but of her love for him as well. Set in the time of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era, Scarlet and Rhett are faced not only with the harsh realities of the time period, but with a relationship suffering from constant heart break, including the death of their beloved daughter, Bonnie.
Why I love it: Scarlet and Rhett are as dysfunctional as they come, the epitome of a love-hate relationship. Despite the destructiveness of their marriage, Rhett has loved Scarlet since the first night they met. Scarlet, although harshest to those who loved her most, finally realizes that she loves Rhett and resolves to win him back with the final line of the book, “tomorrow is another day”. Maybe Scarlet reminds me of someone I know...
9. One Day (David Nicholls, 2009)
An on-again, off-again love affair, One Day tells the story of two best friends and their turbulent relationship. While it becomes clear that both Emma and Dexter have genuine feelings for each other, there is always something frustratingly in their way (travel, relationships, career change). Over the span of twenty years, their relationship is tested, strained, and rekindled. It’s an emotional roller coaster that seems to give hope when the two finally marry. That hope is crushed by the cruel fate that awaits the happily married pair.
Why I love it: One Day will have you laughing and crying, but most importantly will have you cherishing the love that perseveres despite the cruelty of life. Although a little annoying, Emma proves to be quite charming and Dexter is your typical egotistical asshole. Their on an doff relationship keeps the reader coming back for more. Dexter wins me over in the end  and I cried for his loss.
So, if you don't have a valentine this year, don't worry! Stop by your local book store to pick up one of these sappy novels. Top it off with a good bottle of wine and you've got yourself the best Valentine's date ever! Sounds better than fighting the restaurant crowds out in the real world.

Happy Valentine's Day, love birds!
Sam 

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