St Valentine’s Day 2022 is upon us, and Books2All has grabbed (hugged?) the chance to get our heads stuck into some slushy reading! Four love-struck members of our team decided to pour their hearts out and share with you their favourite romantic reads of all time. We hope that you fall in love with reading all over again!
St Valentine’s Day 2022 choice 1: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
When I was in my first term at university, my new and brilliant best friend declared that her three favourite books were Perfume, One Hundred Years of Solitude and The Age of Innocence. My 18-year-old self panicked because a) I’d never read any of those (despite having spent the overwhelming portion of my formative and teenage years nose firmly between pages) and b) I didn’t have the faintest clue how I could ever pick three favourites.
I found a £1 copy of The Age of Innocence and was immediately beguiled. (Penguin Popular Classics, a 90s innovation by the publishing giant where you could buy the most enduringly popular classics for a quid. Sadly the range is no longer produced, but several still grace my shelves.)
Newland Archer (rich, handsome, charming) is engaged to sweet society darling, May Welland, to the delight of Old New York society. But when May’s cousin, Countess Olenska – as bewitchingly beautiful as she is mysterious – returns to the city, she completely captivates Newland. He becomes a man torn between love and duty, the embodiment of the conflict between doing what we want and the right thing. His final decision is a supreme act of love that affects all three of them forever.
The devastating love triangle has stayed with me all these years. Is it a noble thing to give up the one you love for duty? Or is the pursuit of love, despite the obstacles, its ultimate demonstration? And if you know that someone doesn’t love you, is it right to make them stay? Big questions indeed.
When Newland receives from his son, much later in life, a strange communication from his dead wife, it’s impossible not to feel moved. And Newland’s reaction to the message, seated on a bench in Paris (of course!), is the most poetically, tragically romantic scene I’ve ever read. I’m not entirely sure whether Wharton’s achievement is a love story or an anti-love story, but it’s an incredible one that’s firmly in my top three favourite books.
St Valentine’s Day 2022 choice 2: Love letters of Great Men by Ursula Doyle
Heroes and heroines, lovers and the heartbroken, have long expressed themselves in words on the page, thus evoking our sympathies and captivating our imagination. The modern age has made the reality of sending romantic notes more readily available, although text messages can be as easily forgotten as they are written. Not so long ago, the only way to proclaim our love was through heartfelt letters, especially when distance was involved. Some of us may still recall receiving a few handwritten love letters ourselves!
Love, of course, is a great leveller – sparing scarcely anyone the pains and joys of romance. There is some comfort in reading Love Letters of Great Men, where the great and good have been smitten too. This unusual book travels back through time to share with us love letters written by famous men from history, including Beethoven, Mark Twain, Pierre Currie and Mozart. The intimate letters touchingly reveal how deeply they love, miss and long for the object of their love.
Doyle’s book shows these famous figures made honest and intimate in ways that can still inspire us today. We may no longer write lengthy letters by hand with a plume, but it is beautiful to see that our human feelings have not changed, just the method of expressing them. In the words of John Keats, “Your letter gave me more delight than anything in the world but yourself could do….”
St Valentine’s Day 2022 choice 3: So Lucky by Dawn O’Porter
This quite recent St Valentine’s Day read captured my attention from start to finish. I read the whole thing in three days because I just couldn’t put it down! The story follows the lives of three women as they navigate the worlds of motherhood, marriage and men. At first glance, these women appear to have it all: Ruby has a fantastic career and a beautiful daughter, Beth has just started a family with her husband, and Lauren is about to marry the man of her dreams. But looks can be deceiving…
Ruby is struggling with the pressures of life, Beth is trapped in a loveless marriage, and Lauren is hiding a huge secret.
I love So Lucky because it discusses life and relationships honestly, which can get lost in some romance novels. I really felt like I knew every character personally. These women’s stories feel real and relatable, reminding us that love is often raw and unfiltered but also wonderful. Somehow this book reminded me that St Valentine’s Day isn’t all about red roses and chocolates, although those are beautiful gifts. It should be a celebration of love and spending time with people who make you happy.
St Valentine’s Day 2022 choice 4: The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
I might have been in school when this classic of Russian literature was first recommended to me. After reading only the first few pages, the words began forming vast scenic images in my mind: a steam train journey in some far off place from a time of horses and noblemen. As I continued to read, I found myself daydreaming long after putting it down, intrigued by the ideas put forth.
The Idiot tells the story of Myshkin, a noble Russian prince, who finds himself among his mother’s distant family after being taken for a fool by the Russian aristocracy. Without giving too much away, the book deals with murder, class, love and compassion as the central character contends with growing feelings for a sharp, intelligent, yet damaged young woman.
Dostoevsky’s classic is a work of exquisite beauty, featuring complex characters who are both comical and tiresome. It captures the mood of the period, yet remains timeless.
I have read somewhere that Dostoevsky regarded his creation as one of his favourite works, where, through his protagonist, he attempts to explore the human qualities of Jesus Christ.
Thank you for visiting our blog. Our vision here at Books2All is a world where every child finds the books that help them reach their true potential. If you have spare books in good condition at home that you think might be appropriate for school children or represent a school and would like to register to receive donated books, please download the Books2All app from the App Store or Google Play.