book lovers, book reviews, books, Emily Brontë, fiction, Greek mythology, John Milton, literature, Memoirs of a Geisha, miscellaneous, mythology, paradise lost, the princess bride, Valentine's Day, wuthering heights
Deep down we all crave a bit of romance in our lives. Apart from our parents, most of our foundational ideas of love come from popular media, be they Disney re-imaginings of beloved fairytales or adventurous tales of filial love. So whatever your plans tonight, spend some time with your first love: solo on the couch or cuddled up with your partner reading aloud.
Here’s a list of my top five romantic stories (not ordered by rank):
Orpheus and Eurydice
Orpheus was a talented musician and poet in the Greek myths, so is it any wonder that romance filled his soul? When his wife Eurydice is bitten by a snake at their wedding and dies, Orpheus descends into the underworld to find and rescue her. There are many versions of this story you can read, but I recommend David Raeburn’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Penguin Classics). Not keen on ancient poetry? Check out the movie What Dreams May Come, starring Robin Williams and Annabella Sciorra, which shares many common elements of the myth.
Paradise Lost by John Milton
I’m not sure I could talk about my favourite Greek myth without speaking of the most prevalent myth of the past millennium, that of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden. Milton’s epic puts the myth into a human context, and the love shared between man and woman is a central theme. What could be more romantic than forsaking your god and paradise for the woman you love?
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
The windswept Yorkshire moors, ghosts, death, violence, and an all-consuming, codependent love affair that spans generations. Wuthering Heights is the quintessential Gothic romance.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Set in Kyoto around the time of World War Two, it is the complex coming of age of young Chiyo who is sold into servitude. The descriptions are beautiful, and Golden’s narrative is so spot-on it’s amazing it was written by a white American man. The unique romance between Chiyo/Sayuri weaves together questions of duty and class, when a life as his mistress is the best she could hope for.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman (the “good parts” version)
We all know and love the ’80s movie starring Robin Wright and Cary Elwes, but trust me, the book is AMAZING. Even with Goldman’s “editing” of S. Morgenstern’s epic (a clever ruse on Goldman’s part), there are plenty of things included here that were left out of the movie. And lets face it, the story is so much better without the Fred Savage frame narrative.