Today we are diving into the category of Fantasy Romances! These are a little sparse to choose from the English canon (canon= what we call the collection of all classics), as there aren’t a ton of fantasy books written before the early 1900’s in general that are still well known today, let alone romantic ones. That said I’ve combed through all the lists of classic literature and found three that fit this theme perfectly AND are a good read. Win-win, amirite?
This Central Asian classic (India, Bengal, Persia, and basically every culture in that whole region have their own versions of it) features a beloved wife who is kidnapped by a demon and held for basically a year. Then the hero rescues her, only to have their relationship fall apart at the question of whether she still loves her husband or has instead fallen for her once captor. This story could be described in Western literary terms as “The Tale of Everyman” meets “Hades and Persephone”.
The King of Elfland’s Daughter
This book by Lord Dunsany hails from the 1920’s. That means any similarities between it and JRR Tolkien’s character Lúthien Tinúviel and her love story can’t be because Elfland is a copy of that story- after all, it predates it.
This is a story of an elf maiden and a human man falling in love. Their love is NOT smooth sailing. I feel like I’ve already revealed too much of the plot by saying it has some similarities to Lúthien, so I won’t go any deeper into this. Suffice to say it has elves and magic and two lovers from different worlds who will not find it easy to be together.
Beren and Lúthien
Now that I’ve mentioned them I have to include them again, huh? “Beren and Lúthien” is the first NEW book by J.R.R. Tolkien that has come out in years. Once again his son has combed through piles of old notes and done a bit of judicious editing to bring the story together into one novel for the benefit of the legions of fans of the deceased author.
The story of a human and elf falling in love, I am not so sure of the rest of what happens in this tale. I have read abbreviated references to this, of course, included in the footnotes and appendices of Tolkien’s previous books, but I have not gotten around to this particular full length novel version. I’m really looking forward to reading it, actually!
This month we’ve embarked on a series of romance books, and we come today to the second installment: global romantic literature. I think many of my American readers will have read at least one of the books in my last post, but today we are going to go what may be new territory for you.
Global Romantic Literature
Today we will visit Japan, Russia, and France via some of their books. Be emotionally prepared that things will get pretty rough in these books, because the concept that “Romance=happy cheerful books that always have great endings” is a pretty modern invention, and we are delving into the history of the genre today.
The Tale of Genji
Probably the most globally well known Japanese book- not including famous manga series because that’s sort of considered a different category of story telling in America at least- The Tale of Genji is also really interesting because it was written by one of the earliest female writers in the world. Murasaki Shikibu, like all women of her time, was not allowed to be taught the sophisticated characters called Kanji every book before her was written in. The uneducated and women were restricted to writing in the basic letters of hiragana, which were made to be simple looking versions of complicated kanji- with the association that it was for simple people. The author was one of the first to write an entire novel in the only form of literacy available to her, but the plot was not simple at all.
It follows our main character who goes from riches to rags, plus the women he loved and his affairs, and how much each of his romances sucked. It’s sort of riches to rags to riches meets family drama, and a romance colors every stage of the story because honestly wooing the ladies is just Genji’s favorite hobby.
In modern terms this book might not sound super interesting. But if you are the kind of person who likes to hear all the juicy details of Becky’s on again and off again relationship with Todd who she sometimes dumps to be with Corey, then you might really be into the novel version of that kind of every day drama. In book terms that means if you really liked the love triangle aspect in Twilight this might be right up your alley.
As this one is not a British classic it wasn’t taught in any of the literature classes I took in school, or even college. (Funnily enough “Genji” was, but that’s just because I took a Japanese class in Highschool, for all the good that did me.) That said, it’s definitely a classic- just a Russian one. If you like drama, drama, drama, then this is for you. It’s sort of like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars and Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” all rolled up in one huge drama of affairs and divorce and spurned love.
Le Grand Meaulnes
Called in the English translation “The Lost Estate,” this has become a must read for me. Be forwarned: this French classic is a tragedy. At least I consider it one. All the pieces were lined up for this to be a beautiful perfect happily ever after, but then the characters had to go and ruin it. That’s probably exactly why this is considered a top must read of all French books ever written, according to the French, according to a survey taken of a few French people.Is that complicated enough for you? It gets worse. The plot in this thing twists and turns. As before this has affairs, and heart breaks, and a lot of messiness going on (but the good kind of plot messiness that makes a story juicy, not the lazy plot hole variety at all.)
Which of these books have you read before? Which would you add to your TBR pile?
Every day somewhere in the world people get married, or start dating. Sometimes these couples will show their love with a lock placed on a bridge or fence to show they are locked together for the long haul. Sometimes they’ll show is by exchanging a wedding ring, or a partnership ring. They might raise children or a dog together, or buy a house together.
But those things happen infrequently, or maybe even only once.
So they will remind each other how much they care with yearly tokens on the fourteenth of February.
Whether with flowers, or chocolates (Fun fact, in America traditionally the chocolates are given by the men to their ladies within straight couples, but in Japan women make chocolates for their man), or even cards that just for this holiday are called valentines, it’s important to make sure your loved ones remember you love them.
I don’t like limiting the holiday just to romantic loved ones, though.
I think it really is essential for couples to do small shows of caring, especially since not everyone feels love the same way and it’s easy to let showing you care get lost in the business of life.
That said, I think it’s especially important to let your other loved ones know you care. Be sure to give a few candies or a card to your friends and coworkers, make a special meal for your immediate family, or take your single friend out for lunch and just spend time with them as a friend- of course remembering not to mention the holiday itself or anything about your own love life to avoid the risk of making them feel like an outsider on a holiday that leaves many broken hearted or feeling hopeless and alone.
Most of all just show you care, to the people you care about.
With a little bit of luck, most people will someday and at some point in their lives fall in love. Maybe not right away, but sometime.
I am one of those people who is not content with the idea of “someday”, and I’d like to fall in love right now, thank-you-very-much. After all, I may be an author- but I am still in my twenties. I have dreams.
Thankfully, this is the month where it isn’t completely disgustingly soppy to read your heart out through the history of romantic fiction. This month we are going to start a series focused on different genres of Romantic Fiction. Up first today we have:
Classical Romance Books
We’ve been going over classical books every Wednesday for the past few months, and today is no different. Here are my top three picks for interesting classic love stories.
Pride and Prejudice
This image matches the exact edition of the book “Pride and Prejudice” that is sitting on my bookshelf at this very moment. I love it. I’m not a fan of everything Jane Austen wrote (in fact this is the only book of hers I would give five stars to) but I still think it’s great. I think it’s a love story that can connect to many people- two people who don’t understand each other and don’t get along eventually come to realize they are actually very similar and end up seeing each other more clearly and falling in love because of it. It’s a messy plot, which I think makes sense because love is a rather messy thing for most people. The very beginning of the book has been called slow by many people; but the thing to remember is that even though the romance itself does not start on page one, family drama worthy of any modern sitcom most certainly does. And I must admit, I like family dramas. After all, I wrote one as my first book.
You can check out many free versions of the classic online or in any ebook market (Amazon, etcetera), or you can find a lot of copies with notes on the plot itself or included historical notes to give you a better understanding of the setting and how it affects to story.
This one is possibly even more famous than the last. Charlotte Bronte wrote a book that is moody and what many find to be a perfect antidote to happy peppy love stories. Jane’s childhood is plagued by abuse and neglect, and then her adulthood is plagued by poverty and heartbreak when she finds the one man she finally falls in love with is unattainable- because he already has a wife?!? Then the plot rambles about a bit in more desperate circumstances until things finally settle down.
I won’t lie, it isn’t the fastest paced book out there. But keep in mind many classical books move super slowly because the authors were paid by the word and had the financial incentive to stretch things out to be as long as possible- kind of like when you have two thousand more words due for your essay but you’ve already covered all your points so you resort to adding junky filler material.
I still think it’s worth a read, especially if most romance stories are a little too grossly cheerful and cheesy for you. You’ll find none of that nonsense in here. I especially recommend this to anyone who loved “Me Before You” and “Me After You”, but keep in mind this one does actually have a fairly happy ending.
North and South
This book delves into a romance between an industrialist- one of the many men of the Victorian era hiring even children to work in factories and paying his workers so little they can hardly afford their daily bread and skipping the expense of any safety equipment in the factories- and the woman who loves him even though she is fighting for worker’s rights and the betterment of the working class. The big divide between their morality would make many think that a romance couldn’t work for them, but do they figure out a way to a happy ever after somehow? Read on to find out.