On Valentine’s Day the Scottish Writers’ Centre are hosting a Valentine’s themed speakeasy titled ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’ hosted by the brilliant Jim Ferguson! Ahead of tomorrow’s event we’ve decided to dedicate today’s blog post to some of our volunteers’ favourite literary love stories: happy, sad and everything in between.
Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
Most readers, when choosing their favourite of Jane Austen’s wonderful love stories, will opt for Pride and Prejudice. And although I can understand the eternal appeal of Darcy and Elizabeth, my personal favourite is Northanger Abbey. The romance of Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney appears pretty unremarkable today but by the standards of early nineteenth-century novels, it was positively revolutionary. Back then the usual progression of relationships went something like this: boy instantaneously falls in love with girl, calls her an angel to everyone he meets, girl is so grateful for the attention that she agrees to marry him straightaway. Inauspicious and irritating misunderstanding about girl’s virtue optional. (See Frances Burney’s Camilla for a perfect example of this) But in Northanger Abbey Henry doesn’t even think of Catherine until her feelings become obvious to everyone else and the dramatic will-they-won’t-they is thankfully kept to a minimum. But their love story is more than just representative of a historic narrative shift: full of endearing moments, this is an unbelievably cute – and Gothic – love story for the generations.
Words and photos by Rachel Walker
Don’t Tell Me the Truth About Love – Dan Rhodes
If you like magic realist and cheery-macabre tales, Rhodes’ collection of seven short stories might hold the keys to unlocking your strange and twisted heart. The dark simplicity of Rhodes’ style is evocative of Grimm’s fairy tales and folk fables, and at times the text may read just too sad and pensive to be discussing love, but Rhodes’ alternative love stories will tell you the truth about romancing whether you like it or not: love hurts.
In ‘The Carolingian Period’, love hurts precisely because it has passed you by; in ‘The Violoncello’, love hurts because it changes you beyond recognition of yourself; and in ‘The Painting’, love hurts because it becomes an obsession. Nevertheless, at the centre of these gloomy tales of self-destruction and sacrifice exists its funny, tender and vulnerable beating heart: although love hurts, the experience is worth the despair.
Don’t Tell Me The Truth About Love is emotive and brooding, and if you prefer your love stories with light, happy endings that skim love’s surface this maybe isn’t the gift to give your dearest on Valentine’s Day. But that’s not really the point though, is it?
Words by Abigayle Brown
On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan
I picked up my copy of On Chesil Beach in preparation for this post and was faced with pencil scribbled notes, overdrawn asterisks, wonky underlining and dramatically capitalised scrawls of ‘ARGH!’ throughout. When I first read and studied it, I was filled with a desperate hope for the lovers. Despite knowing the ins and outs of the story, it fills me with the same feeling now. From the dramatic blue cover to the visceral descriptions of the Dorset coast, the warm fondness for the protagonists to the infinite hope that everything will be alright in the end. It was all ingrained in my mind and rereading my lovingly thumbed copy proved that neither time nor experience could knock this treasure from pride of place in my mind and heart, as my favourite story of all time. Get the tissues, you’re in for a ride…
Words and photo by Kath Warren
William Shakespeare and Ann Hathaway
The story itself is an old one, and I’ve never really been interested in it. Until one day I read The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy, and found her poem ‘Anne Hathaway’. The poem takes the well known quote from Shakespeare’s will that said “item I gyve unto my wief my second best bed…”, but adds levels of depth and passion to it that had never existed before. The second best bed isn’t a sly dig, some shade thrown from the afterlife, but instead invokes the sort of memory that only two lovers can share.
Words by Andrew Smith
Remember to come along to tomorrow’s event in the CCA Clubroom at 7pm for more literary love. Do you have a favourite love story? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ScottishWriters. We’d love to hear your thoughts!