What makes a great love story – one of those novels that leaves you misty-eyed and storm-stirred when you look up from the page? A twisting plot and strong characters are important, of course, but a beautiful love story captures something special about what it is to be human, in all its messy beauty. “Love stories aren’t just love stories – they’re also stories about anger, disappointment, disillusionment, betrayal, healing, happiness, and, ultimately, hope,” said The Notebook author Nicholas Sparks in an interview once. “Love is an emotion of enormous power.”
This week, we asked our new panel of book lovers and bloggers to select their favourite love stories (Anna and I couldn’t resist contributing our favourites, too). Our reviewers were runners-up in our #PickMePrimer competition to find PRIMER’s book reviewer and their entries were so good we decided we wanted to hear their voices in PRIMER, too.
Meanwhile, Sheree, the winner of the competition (and our brand-new book reviewer) has reviewed Three Women, Lisa Taddeo’s hotly anticipated account of the sex lives of (you guessed it) three American women. Elizabeth Gilbert called it “a non-fiction literary masterpiece”. You can see if it lives up to the hype here.
So, what brilliant love story should you read next? Or have you already ticked these off your list?
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
By Tamsien West Babbling Books
Funny, sweet and oh-so-very readable! The Flatshare is a grin-until-your-cheeks-hurt modern romantic comedy. Tiffy and Leon share a flat and a bed, but haven’t met. The story that unfolds features wonderful, nuanced friendships, plenty of comedy, and a really mature exploration of the impact of emotionally abusive relationships.
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
By Rebekah Thomas @somebookspam
Gone With The Wind is more than just another hefty classic people pretend to have read. Set during the American Civil War, the erratic romance between plantation owner’s daughter Scarlett O’Hara and fiery renegade Rhett Butler makes you miss them once the book is over, despite its 1000 pages. Both heartwarming and heart-wrenching, GWTW is a masterpiece.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
By Sheree Strange, Keeping Up With The Penguins
Alcott received lots of hate mail for not pairing up Jo March with the rich, beautiful playboy Laurie (and for marrying her off at all), but I think Jo’s decision to marry Friedrich Bhaer is perfection. Of her own volition, she chooses a man she loves who will give her an interesting life, filled with books, education and politics. Far better than choosing a party animal who threw a tantrum when she wouldn’t marry him and chased after her younger sister to make her jealous…
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
By Natasha Last @tash_reads2manybooks
If you’re looking for an unconventional love story, Tin Man is it. It tells of the bond between Ellis, Michael and Annie, and how sometimes there is room in a relationship for more than two people. A beautifully written literary novel of love, loss and longing. Be prepared to fall in love.
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
By Sarah Combley @se5pe
A young black couple living in 1970s America deal with a false accusation of rape. In this emotional, heart-pull of a story, Baldwin sensitively and beautifully paints the different faces of love – its innocence, its beauty, loyalty and tragedy. A love trying to survive the time, when racial inequality could swiftly destruct it.
Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
By Felicity Robinson
In this evocative story that spans seven decades, Marquez explores the intricacies of love in all its forms – from Fermina and Florentino’s ill-fated teenage passion to the quotidian ups and downs of her marriage to the vastly more reliable Urbino. Can love survive a lifetime together – and apart? It’s a few years since I read this book, but the rich sensuousness of the writing has stayed with me.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Goff
By Anna Saunders
This is less a brilliant love story than a novel about marriage, but I love it so much I had to include it. Fates and Furies is divided into two parts – first, it follows the charmed life of Lotto and then it charts the decidedly less lucky path of his wife Mathilde. This is a beautifully written book that shows how one marriage can seem entirely different to each of the people in it, and that chance and fortune are the real determiners of happiness, success and character.
What’s your favourite love story? Let us know in the comments below!