Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Are you in the mood for lurve?

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme from the Broke and the Bookish ties in to yesterday’s homage to St Valentine, the patron saint of love, beekeepers and the plague and asks us to list our top ten love stories in books.   I have deliberately avoided including Romeo and Juliet or anything from Austen or the Brontës because, frankly, that would be just too obvious.  So, turn up the Marvin Gaye or the Barry White (or Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin if you're feeling a bit European), settle down with a long-stemmed rose, a glass of champagne and a box of soft-centred chocolates and, in no particular order, we have:

1.         Hero and Leander.  Hero is a priestess who lives on the European side of the Hellespont.  Leander lives on the other side.  Every night, he swims across the strait to be with his beloved, guided by the lamp she sets in the window of her tower.  Then, one dark and stormy night (is there any other kind in literature?), the winds blow her lamp out, the waves toss him about, he loses his way and he drowns.  In her grief, Hero hurls herself from her tower and also perishes.  Ovid, Marlowe and de la Vega all wrote versions of this myth and Shakespeare alludes to it in four of his plays.

  2.       James Bond and Teresa di Vicenzo.  In Fleming’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, having been asked by Marc-Ange Draco, head of the Unione Corse, to romance his suicidal daughter Tracy (Teresa), everyone’s favourite womanising secret agent actually does fall in love and 007 and Tracy get married after he destroys Blofeld’s Swiss hideout, Piz Gloria.  Blofeld manages to escape and, shortly after the wedding, he murders Tracy in a drive by shooting.  Altogether now………we have all the time in the world, time enough for life to unfold…...

3.         Aragorn and Arwen Evenstar.  She was more than 2700 years old; he was 20.  He fell in love with her and 30 years later, they got engaged.  This would be yucky and wrong anywhere other than Tolkien’s Middle Earth but she was an Elven princess so the 2,680 year age gap is absolutely fine.  Über-cougar!  We all know how it ends.  He becomes King of Gondor, she opts for mortality.  They get married and, in the fullness of time, die.  Aaah.

4.         Othello and Desdemona.  Let’s leave aside the inconvenient detail that he kills her for a second.  She agrees to marry a black man in medieval Venice, in a total rejection of the racial conventions of the time and loves him right up until the moment he smothers her.  He loves her with such a passion that, having defied her powerful father to marry her, he is driven mad with rage when he suspects her of infidelity.  Ignore the unacceptability of his response, feel the raw emotion. I prefer this Shakespeare love story to Romeo and Juliet whom I find a little bit nauseating and childish.  So there.

5.         Lord Emsworth and the Empress of Blandings.  No mere bagatelle, this love story.  Lord Emsworth’s prize porker, the Empress of Blandings, is, it is fair to say, the true love of his life.  She has won the Fat Pigs class at the Shropshire Agricultural Show and is constantly under threat from Lord Emsworth’s rival, Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe.  Emsworth will go to any trouble to ensure the happiness and continued weight of his beloved Empress, including acceding to the demands and caprices of George Cyril Wellbeloved, prince of pig men.  He is even prepared to defy his fearsome sister Connie over the engagement of her daughter Angela to the unsuitable James Belford when Belford teaches him the infallible pig call, “pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey”.  More brilliance from P.G. Wodehouse.

6.         Batman and Robin.  Let’s face it.  If you've read any of the comics from the late ‘40s and the ‘50s or seen the ‘60s TV show or the last two films in the ‘90s movie series, you have to believe there is some real man-love going on between the Camp Crusader and his irritating side-kick.  I know it’s only loosely literary but it’s time to loosen up and “out” Bruce and Dick.

7.         Odysseus and Penelope.  For this to count, we have to accept that Calypso really was holding him hostage as her lover against his will.  I am prepared to do this as it required the intervention of Hermes to free him and so, on this assumption, this has to be one of the greatest of all love stories.  For 20 years, he battles his way home from Troy, rejecting the overtures of Circe, to be with his queen.  She remains faithful for two decades, trusting blindly that he will return and fending off the attentions of the horde of suitors, eager to replace her husband.  That really is love and commitment.

8.         Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane.  Possibly one of the most embarrassing love stories in modern literature, the Wimsey-Vane romance is a thread that runs through four of Dorothy L. Sayers Wimsey novels and several of her short stories.  Their tale begins in Strong Poison, when Vane is on trial for murder and, by the time they are married in Busman’s Holiday, the last full length Peter Wimsey novel, their story is so central that it was described as, “a love story with detective interruptions”.

9.         Lancelot and Guinevere.   A cautionary tale of the destructive power of love, Lancelot and Guinevere fall in love, despite Guinevere being married to King Arthur.  According to several Arthurian romances, including Le Morte d’Arthur,  for years they try to maintain their honour and purity by avoiding each other until, one night, they break and become lovers, cuckolding Arthur.  Soon, two of the other knights of the Round Table, Agravaine and Mordred, discover and reveal their affair to Arthur who is forced to have Guinevere burned at the stake.  Lancelot mounts a rescue attempt which precipitates the breaking of the Round Table and the fall of Camelot.

And, finally, one unrequited love…………..

10.       Quasimodo and Esmerelda.  This is heart-rending stuff.  He is the gentle but deformed hunchback who lives in Notre-Dame cathedral.  She is a beautiful gypsy girl.  Despite his kindness to her as she is hunted by Frollo, the Archdeacon and Quasimodo’s adopted father, she remains repelled by his ugliness and does not love him, even though he continues to protect her.  In the end, Esmerelda is captured and hung by Frollo.  In his grief, Quasimodo murders Frollo and runs away from Notre-Dame.  He searches out Esmerelda’s body in a graveyard and dies holding her.  The Hunchback of Notre-Dame ends with the excavation of the site years later.  The excavators find their bodies entwined and, when they try to separate them, Quasimodo’s bones crumble.  Go on, read the book and then try and tell me you didn’t shed at least one tear.

And now, over to you.  Which bookish couples (or triangles – I’m no prude) float your love boat?


Bev Hankins said...

Yay for Peter & Harriet! And Lancelot & Guinevere (who I forgot...). Thanks for stopping by mine.

Bev Hankins said...

And now following. I could not resist after reading your "About Me" and the reason for the name of your blog. :-)

Two Bibliomaniacs said...

Great list and great commentary! Aragorn and Arwen. Also, I've always wanted to read a James Bond novel, but never know where to start.

Holly said...

Great choice on Odyseuss and Penelope! Anyone else would have given Odyseuss up for dead after a couple of years but she was willing to wait an eternity.

And as for Arwen and Aragorn-talk about your may/december romance!

Lyndsey said...

Hahaha, are they our only music choices to accompany reading your list?!?! Seventies cheese - awesome :) Love your choices of classics - how did I forget Odysseus?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

You called Arwen an Über-cougar... haha. That's hilarious.

Book Nympho said...

Wow, I thought I was well-read until I saw your list! I haven't heard of half of these...but that just gives me some more books to add to my reading list!! :)

Willa said...

Fantastic list!! Love this: "2680 year age gap is absolutely fine. Über-cougar!" What a great way to describe it, you made me smile :-)

Check out my list at Wicked Wonderful Words - i am your newest follower.

Anonymous said...

Aragorn & Arwen <3 <3 Love that one

Eileen said...

"Über-cougar!" LOL, it rhymes. I'll have to borrow that someday.

LBC said...

I love that you call Arwen an uber-cougar. Awesome.

Here is my list:http://hawthornescarlet.blogspot.com/2011/02/this-weeks-topic-at-broke-and-bookish.html

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

Hmm... I'm not sure if I'd agree with Penelope and Odysseus! Maybe I just brought too modern of an interpretation when I read The Odyssey, but I didn't think Odysseus really wanted to leave Calypso, and took his sweet time getting back home.

JaneGS said...

I think Iago is one of the worst villains of all time, doing what he did to Othello and Desdemona.

At least Lord Peter and Harriet had a happy ending.

Never liked Lancelot and Guinevere--always sided with Arthur in that triangle.

Love your addition of Quasimodo and Esmerelda.

Another fun list!

Falaise said...

Bev - thanks for stopping by and commenting. I enjoyed your list also.

Twobibliomaniacs - I would be inclined to start at the beginning with Casino Royale. If not, then maybe Goldfinger, You only live twice or From Russia with Love might be decent starting points. Don't start with the Spy who Loved Me or Octopussy - they are very atypical.

Holly - Odysseus and Penelope tend to depend on your view of his stay with Calypso. I know some bloggers are far less forgiving of this than me!

Lyndsey - It's Valentine's - cheese is almost obligatory.

Avid Reader - thanks!

Falaise said...

Book Nympho - am glad to have given you some ideas.

Willa - thanks for the comment. I will certainly check your list out.

1girl - thanks.

E.L. Fay - please do - I'm glad it tickled you.

LBC - I will check your list out soon.

Kim - I can certainly see where you are coming from. maybe I have been too forgiving.

Jane - I agree with you on Iago and Lancelot/Guinevere.

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

Aragorn and Arwen were fine, but for for me the true love story in LoTR was Faramir and Ewoyn, hands down.

Orhedea said...

Ah,Lancelot and Guinevere... I picked Tristan and Isolde)