The 10 greatest romance novels - GulfToday

The 10 greatest romance novels

fault book 1

'The Fault in Our Stars' (left) by John Green. TNS

If you've been missing candle lit restaurant dinners and romantic walks on the beach with your other half, how about bringing the mush back into your life in these pandemic times by curling up with a great romance novel?

Here is a round-up of the 10 greatest love stories told in literature.

10. "The Rosie Project," by Graeme Simsion

Let’s start with something light: a successful relationship usually means adjusting to how someone else sees the world.

This is more of a challenge when that someone is Don Tillman, who cooks exactly the same thing every week according to The Standardised Meal System, calculates everyone’s BMI on first glance, and decides to find a wife by distributing a questionnaire.

Enter chaos in the form of Rosie, who meets none of the criteria but nonetheless, well, ticks his box. Beneath the fun and the fluff there is a quietly profound exploration of the assumptions around autism and what it means to have an atypical — or a typical — brain.

lobe book 3 'Love in the Time of Cholera' by Gabriel García Marquez. TNS

9. "Love in the Time of Cholera," by Gabriel García Marquez

This is a luscious, complicated tale of lingering teenage passion, told by Colombia’s Nobel prize-winning master of magical realism.

Two young lovers, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, are parted by the latter’s disapproving father. Fermina marries someone else; they live separate lives and grow old.

Once Fermina is widowed following an unfortunate incident involving a mango tree and a parrot, they meet again and become a couple. The novel explores what it means to be faithful and the subtle nature of a successful marriage.

8. "Anna Karenina," by Leo Tolstoy

Love and marriage belong in two different boxes in this sprawling, epic account of the married Countess Anna Karenina’s doomed love affair with Count Vronsky.

Her brother’s womanising is tolerated; Anna’s less so. Caught between fierce love, insecurity, hypocritical social pressures and the plodding presence of her husband, she finds it impossible to extricate herself.

scott book An important First edition of 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald. TNS

7. "The Great Gatsby," by F Scott Fitzgerald

What’s the difference between love and obsession? Not a great deal if you’re rich kid Jay Gatsby, standing on your lawn under the stars and sighing after Daisy Buchanan.

This elegant and elegiac novel pairs a decadent moment in American culture with the solipsism of romantic fixation. Gatsby projects his own needs onto Daisy, and the gap between imagination and reality is beautifully exposed.

6. "Under the Udala Trees," by Chinelo Okparanta

One of a number of Nigerian writers to draw inspiration from the country’s Biafran war, Chinelo Okparanta uses the conflict as a backdrop to this love story about two young women.

Making matters worse, Ijeoma and Amina belong to different faiths. Suffice to say, things are complicated.

This is an evocative portrayal of how passion pushes against the strictures of faith, family, class and pretty much everything in its path.

single book 'A Single Man' by Christopher Isherwood. TNS

5. "Middle England," by Jonathan Coe

Do opposites attract, or will marriage between a Remainer and a Leaver always end badly?

This is one of the many questions deftly explored in Coe’s funny, touching novel about Britain before and after Brexit.

While the conventional relationship is between two gently mismatched lovers — university lecturer Sophie and driving safety instructor Ian — it’s the relationship between dreamy novelist Benjamin and his sister that warrants the inclusion here.

Not in a "Game of Thrones" kind of way: Coe’s novel is a reminder that we fetishise romantic love and overlook the significance of other bonds.

4. "A Single Man," by Christopher Isherwood

The opposite of a “happily ever after,” Isherwood’s novel explores what happens when the person you love dies.

The bereaved in question is George, a gloriously prickly professor struggling to get over the loss of his partner, Jim. His isolation is compounded by the homophobia of the 60s.

This concise novel captures the legacy of love and the utter discombobulation of grief, as well as showcasing Isherwood’s laconic brilliance.

jane book 2 An Arabic translation of 'Jane Eyre' at a book fair at Baghdad University. TNS

3. "Jane Eyre," by Charlotte Bronte

From the red room of childhood nightmares to the mad woman locked in an attic, this Victorian novel has lent us some powerful symbols.

It also stands as an enduring love story between the overlooked but fiercely intelligent governess of the title and Mr Rochester, who gradually learns to value what’s in front of him.

2. "The Fault in Our Stars," by John Green

Even while dealing with terminal illness, the teenaged characters in this book pulse with life.

A support group for kids with cancer isn’t the obvious setting for a romance, but this emerges as a tragicomic triumph.

pride book 2 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen.

It’s a hymn to the importance of being in the moment, with a twist at the end that would make a sociopath snivel.

1. "Pride and Prejudice," by Jane Austen

There is a reason this novel is basically synonymous with romance, spawning endless tributes and adaptations over 200 years after it was written: it captures what so many people long for in a relationship.

No, not an ornamental lake and a man in britches, but for someone to see your true value.

Darcy puts aside his concerns over Elizabeth’s lower social standing; Elizabeth moves past his terrible line in small talk.

There’s a beautiful symmetry in the way their relationship sloughs off faults on both sides, while Austen’s barbed prose is a timeless joy.

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