Updated: Mar 11, 2021
Love Stories to read this Valentines Day!
1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Widely regarded as one of the best novels of Dickens, this story spanning two generations of people traces a love triangle of epic passions against the backdrop of the French Revolution. Searing in its depiction of one of the bloodiest and most enthralling episodes of European history, this novel follows the lives of Lucie, Charles and Sydney as they navigate family secrets, political intrigue and the pain and pleasures of love. With characters as iconic as Madame Defarge and sequences as heart wrenching as the final monologue of Sydney, this is a story that shall forever stand the test of time.
2. An Equal Music by Vikram Seth
A much-contested novel, hailed by some as a powerful ode to the relationship man shares with music and by some as one of its authors weakest works of fiction, this undoubtedly novel of passions is said to be inspired by the authors’ own personal love story. Beginning with a deeply moving Onegin Stanza, this novel traces the adulterous love story of Michael and Julia and the music that unites and eventually tears them apart forever. With some of the most poetic passages of Seth’s literary oeuvre – hate it or love it – this is a novel that must not be missed.
3. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Before penning her bestselling feminist masterpiece, Circe, Classics scholar Madeline Miller had written the quietly devastating story of Achilles and Patroclus. Narrated in first person by Patroclus himself, this novel is a beautiful exploration of sexuality, first love and the ravages of warfare. In the hands of Miller Achilles’ renowned wrath metamorphoses into the uncontrollable grief of a lover, mourning a love that the world denied him forever. Through the eyes of Patroclus, we do not see an alpha male warrior wreaking havoc on the battlefield but a man torn between his love and his long-sealed destiny.
4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
To F. Scott Fitzgerald’s bemused narrator, Nick Carraway, Gatsby appears to have emerged out of nowhere, evading questions about his murky past and throwing dazzling parties at his luxurious mansion. Nick finds something both appalling and appealing in the intensity of his new neighbor’s ambition, and his fascination grows when he discovers that Gatsby is obsessed by a long-lost love, Daisy Buchanan. One of the finest novels on the Lost Generation and the death of the American Dream, this is a cautionary tale of love and lust, steeped in the ravishing effects of a life of excess.
5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The only novel of the second Bronte sister, is also arguably one of the best novels of all the Bronte sisters. Set in the stormy moors of England, this inter-generational Gothic romance follows the life of Heathcliff and his destructive, albeit obsessive passion for the equal parts broken and cruel Catherine. Almost following the structure of a bildungsroman, this is a classic novel about the effects that a life of unrequited love can have on a single man. With prose that is soul stirring and an ensemble of characters who are equally compelling and intriguing this is one classic that has truly stood the heavy test of time.
6. Message in a bottle by Nicholas Sparks
An odd choice for a list largely dominated by classics and modern classics, this story has always been preferred by yours truly over the much adulated The Notebook, by the same author. Following the love story of a young, divorced, single mother and her tryst with a man - mourning the premature death of his wife. Framed with two gut-wrenching letters written to the sea, this is a bestseller that digs into the deeper aspects of forgiveness, acceptance and moving on.
7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Considered by Faulkner to be the greatest novel ever written, this is a classic tale of love and adultery. Anna Karenina seems to have everything - beauty, wealth, popularity and an adored son. But she feels that her life is empty until the moment she encounters the impetuous officer Count Vronsky. The sweeping love story explores the lives of two people who defy the conventions of their age to follow the dictates of their hearts, but can they live by love alone? In this novel Leo Tolstoy, the great master of Russian literature, charts the course of the human heart, interspersed with meditations on agrarian reforms and the beginnings of communism. I am yet to read Madame Bovary, but till the day I do, this will be the definitive story of an adulteress seeking love and identity in a society that is on the brink of change and impending revolution.
8. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
The only title on this list that also doubles up as a thriller, Rebecca, at its heart is the story of a woman seeking love. Maurier deftly subverts the Other Woman trope and gives us a haunting rumination on identity and guile. With severe lesbian undercurrents surrounding the relationship between Rebecca and Mrs. Danvers, not to mention the narrator’s firm obsession with finding the truth about her predecessor, this novel is a strong commentary on the lasting effects of memory in our lives. With lush prose and poetic sequences detailing dreams, this is a fast paced novel that tugs the heart, with pain and lust, just in the right bits.