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
in a drive by shooting. Altogether now………we have all the time in the world, time enough for life to unfold…... Tracy
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
, 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. Venice
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
and his irritating side-kick. I know it’s only loosely literary but it’s time to loosen up and “out” Bruce and Dick. Camp Crusader
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
, 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. Troy
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?