Let’s talk about love: 9 romantic books
1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Considered by some to be the greatest novel ever written, Anna Karenina is Tolstoy’s classic tale of love and adultery set against the backdrop of high society in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. A rich and complex masterpiece, the novel charts the disastrous course of a love affair between Anna, a beautiful married woman, and Count Vronsky, a wealthy army officer. Tolstoy seamlessly weaves together the lives of dozens of characters, and in doing so captures a breathtaking tapestry of late-nineteenth-century Russian society. As Matthew Arnold wrote in his celebrated essay on Tolstoy, “We are not to take Anna Karenina as a work of art; we are to take it as a piece of life.”
2. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Since its original publication in 1936, Gone With the Wind—winner of the Pulitzer Prize and one of the bestselling novels of all time—has been heralded by readers everywhere as The Great American Novel.
Widely considered The Great American Novel, and often remembered for its epic film version, Gone With the Wind explores the depth of human passions with an intensity as bold as its setting in the red hills of Georgia. A superb piece of storytelling, it vividly depicts the drama of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
This is the tale of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled, manipulative daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who arrives at young womanhood just in time to see the Civil War forever change her way of life. A sweeping story of tangled passion and courage, in the pages of Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell brings to life the unforgettable characters that have captured readers for over seventy years.
3. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Great Expectations is Charles Dickens’s thirteenth novel. It is his second novel, after David Copperfield, to be fully narrated in the first person. Great Expectations is a bildungsroman, or a coming-of-age novel, and it is a classic work of Victorian literature. It depicts the growth and personal development of an orphan named Pip. The novel was first published in serial form in Dickens’s weekly periodical All the Year Round, from 1 December 1860 to August 1861. In October 1861, Chapman and Hall published the novel in three volumes. Dickens originally intended Great Expectations to be twice as long, but constraints imposed by the management of All the Year Round limited the novel’s length. The novel is collected and dense, with a conciseness unusual for Dickens. According to G. K. Chesterton, Dickens penned Great Expectations in “the afternoon of [his] life and fame.” It was the penultimate novel Dickens completed, preceding Our Mutual Friend. It is set among the marshes of Kent and in London in the early to mid-1800s. The novel contains some of Dickens most memorable scenes, including its opening, in a graveyard, when the young orphan Pip is accosted by the escaped convict, Abel Magwitch. Great Expectations is a graphic book, full of extreme imagery, poverty, prison ships (“the hulks”), barriers and chains, and fights to the death. Upon its release, Thomas Carlyle spoke of “All that Pip’s nonsense.” Later, George Bernard Shaw praised the novel as “All of one piece and consistently truthfull.” Dickens felt Great Expectations was his best work, calling it “a very fine idea,” and was very sensitive to compliments from his friends: “Bulwer, who has been, as I think you know, extraordinarily taken by the book.” Great Expectations has a colourful cast that has entered popular culture: the capricious Miss Havisham, the cold and beautiful Estella, Joe the kind and generous blacksmith, the dry and sycophantic Uncle Pumblechook, Mr. Jaggers, Wemmick with his dual personality, and the eloquent and wise friend, Herbert Pocket. Throughout the narrative, typical Dickensian themes emerge: wealth and poverty, love and rejection, and the eventual triumph of good over evil. Great Expectations has become very popular and is now taught as a classic in many English classes. It has been translated into many languages and adapted many times in film and other media.
4. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published in 1934, Tender Is the Night was one of the most talked-about books of the year. “It’s amazing how excellent much of it is,” Ernest Hemingway said to Maxwell Perkins. “I will say now,” John O’Hara wrote Fitzgerald, “Tender Is the Night is in the early stages of being my favorite book, even more than This Side of Paradise.” And Archibald MacLeish exclaimed: “Great God, Scott…You are a fine writer. Believe it — not me.”
Set on the French Riviera in the late 1920s, Tender Is the Night is the tragic romance of the young actress Rosemary Hoyt and the stylish American couple Dick and Nicole Diver. A brilliant young psychiatrist at the time of his marriage, Dick is both husband and doctor to Nicole, whose wealth goads him into a lifestyle not his own, and whose growing strength highlights Dick’s harrowing demise.
A profound study of the romantic concept of character — lyrical, expansive, and hauntingly evocative — Tender Is the Night, Mabel Dodge Luhan remarked, raised F. Scott Fitzgerald to the heights of “a modern Orpheus.”
5. The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern
Bestselling author Cecelia Ahern follows The Gift and P.S. I Love You with the mesmerizing story of a teenaged girl coming face-to-face with grief, growth, and magic in the Irish countryside, after a mysterious book begins to reveal her own memories from one day in the future. Perfect for long-time fans of Ahern, as well as for younger readers coming to her for the first time, The Book of Tomorrow’s strong voice and sophisticated storytelling mark an instant new classic from this already beloved author.
6. The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
The legendary love story, the bestselling hardcover novel of all time, and the major motion picture starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. This is the story of Robert Kincaid, the photographer and free spirit searching for the covered bridges of Madison County, and Francesca Johnson, the farm wife waiting for fulfillment of a girlhood dream. It shows readers what it is to love and be loved so intensely that life is never the same again.
7. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful but love-starved Kitty Fane. When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth and the small but effective society she fought so hard to attain in Hong Kong, she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love.
8. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
One of the most beloved novels of all time, The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough’s sweeping family saga of dreams, titanic struggles, dark passions, and forbidden love in the Australian Outback.
9. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
“Wuthering Heights,” the only novel written by Emily Bronte, is a classic of 19th century literature and is considered by many as one of the greatest romantic novels ever written. Set in Northern England, at the moorland farmhouse known as “Wuthering Heights,” it is the story of Catherine Earnshaw and the love that she shares with Heathcliff. Catherine and Heathcliff are brought together as children when her father brings the young foundling home, following a trip to Liverpool. Meanwhile Catherine’s brother Hindley, becomes jealous of the affections that his father is bestowing upon Heathcliff and seeks to undermine the young boy’s position in the family. When their father dies Hindley allows Heathcliff to stay on at Wuthering Heights but only in the capacity as a servant. The relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff is a tumultuous one, while the two are deeply in love, Catherine will not allow herself to marry him due to his lowly status. The novel follows the lives of the Earnshaw family for many years. “Wuthering Heights” is a deeply tragic tale of unfulfilled desire, betrayal, and ultimately bitter vengeance. This edition is printed on premium acid-free paper and includes an introduction by Mary Augusta Ward.