Leaving aside Mills and Boon, we could probably all think of eight traditionally ‘romantic’ books, with brooding heroes like Mr Darcy, Mr Rochester and Heathcliff. But for a change, here are some rather more quirky books about love, with no Byronic posturing in sight.
The 1989 Booker winner about an aging butler, full of unspoken love and repressed longing. In this review from the Guardian the protagonist, Mr Stevens (played in the film by Anthony Hopkins is described as “so burdened by propriety that he lets the love of his life slip through his fingers.”
When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki. Immediately he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo, adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire.
A quirky Rom-Com about genetics professor Don Tillman, who struggles to have a serious relationship with women. With a friend’s help, he devises a questionnaire to assess the suitability of female partners. His plans are set off course when he meets Rosie, who does not fit many of Tillman’s criteria, but becomes a big part of his life.
A 1985 novel about enduring love by Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Márquez. In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated. As he rises in his business career he has many affairs, -yet his heart is reserved for Fermina. When her husband dies, Florentino purposefully attends the funeral, ready to declare his love for Fermina again, nearly sixty years later.
A story set between different worlds and times, especially Elizabethan England and early noughties New York. Ben and Kate meet at a party and fall in love. They start to build a relationship together – however, when Kate she goes to sleep she often wakes up in London, in 1593, as Emilia, the “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Kate’s actions as Emilia have an effect on the whole of history, so altering her present reality. The world and time are a shifting puzzle, changing as she sleeps, and Kate can’t stop feeling she has an important part to play – especially when she meets a little known Elizabethan playright – ‘Sad Will’.
Another time-travelling story, where a woman and a man meet in a Chicago library. Clare clearly knows Henry and has done many years, while Henry doesn’t know Clare at all. We find out that this is because he has been travelling from his future to her past, and in that past they fell in love, so he hasn’t yet met her in his own present. Confused yet?
‘The Magician’s Assistant’ is a love story and a portrayal of reinvention. A gay magician marries the woman who has always adored him – but after his sudden death, she finds that the family he said were wealthy and dead, are in fact something completely different – poor and very much alive.
The youngest daughter of Mexican rancher, Tita has always known she would remain single and care for her aging mother. When she falls in love, her mother insists that her sister must marry the man, Pedro instead. But through birth, death, and the Mexican Revolution, her love for Pedro endures. The only way for Tita to express her emotions is through cooking – and each chapter starts with a recipe.
Do let us know if you read, or have already read and enjoyed these recommendations – or let us know your own quirky romantic favourites.