Romance novels: ‘Call it magic’

Call it magic, call it true
I call it magic when I’m with you
And I just got broken, broken into two
Still I call it magic, when I’m next to you
Coldplay, Magic

 

Recently I have joined some book clubs on social media, and something that surprised me, even though it shouldn’t really, is how popular romance novels are (together with murder mysteries). So I found myself trying to list the ‘love stories’ that I would recommend and why.

Atonement, by Ian McEwan

2001

I want you now
Tomorrow won’t do
There’s a yearning inside
And it’s showing through
Reach out your hands
And accept my love
We’ve waited for too long
Enough is enough
I want you now

Depeche Mode,  I Want You Now 

This metafiction novel is classified under various genres including suspense and mystery. For me it is one of the best unfulfilled love stories ever written… It left me disquieted and wondering about all the what ifs that might have been, if Briony had not interfered with the lives of Robbie and Cecilia in the way she did.

Robbie’s note, the one that inadvertently reached Cecilia, expressed in very direct words his most indecent fantasies. In its rawness the message is so vivid… to make one blush (it made me blush!)

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“Conscious of her mother watching her, Cecilia adopted an expression of amused curiosity as she unfolded the sheet. Commendably, it was a look she was able to maintain as she took in the small block of typewriting and in a glance absorbed it whole…” Would you manage to maintain an expression of amused curiosity? I wonder!

 

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, by Louis de Bernières

1994

I still remember crying
from the depths of my heart for you
I still call for you in my dreams
your face among images
stolen form the world, just for you
For you I will be a river
of white snow melting
under the brightness of your eyes in spring

Russell Watson, Pelagia’s Song (translation)

A book which I loved for the humour, intensity of emotions described, the historical background, and the second World War drama. The ending left me disappointed, probably because I hoped it would end differently. That’s all I can say. The first 500 pages were sublime, check this out:

“When you fall in love, it is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake, and then it subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots are to become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the desire to mate every second of the day. It is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every part of your body. No … don’t blush. I am telling you some truths. For that is just being in love; which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over, when being in love has burned away. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? But it is!”

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‘He took her head gently in his hands and touched at the tears with his lips. She gazed at him wonderingly, and suddenly they found themselves, underneath the briars, in the sunset, flanked by two buckets of escaping snails, their knees sore and filthy, infinitely enclosed in their first unpatriotic and secret kiss.’

 

The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene

1951

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
It’s not warm when she’s away
Bill Withers,  Ain’t no Sunshine

I first read this book after finishing The Power and the Glory. I loved Greene’s style, and how he discussed faith and the lack of it in such a convincing, humane and profound way. For me, and many others, The End of the Affair is all this and much more. Reading this book, I felt I was entering a most intimate space. And no surprise since it is based on Greene’s relationship with his mistress, a woman he was passionately in love with.

Greene also wrote poems, contained in two tiny volumes, about his relationship with this woman. An example:

In a plane your hair was blown
And in an island the older car
Lingered from inn to inn
Like a fly on a map
A mattress was spread on a cottage floor
And a door closed on a world, but another door
Opened, and I was far
From the old world sadly known
Where the fruitless seeds were sowed
And they called that virtue and this sin
Did I ever love God before I knew the place I rest in now, with my hand
Set in stone, never to move?
For this is love, and this I love
And even my God is here.

Returning to The End of the Affair, here are a few morsels, which I hope will leave you hungry for more:

Sarah, the female protagonist, writes: ‘I have always wanted to be liked or admired. I feel a terrible insecurity if a man turns on me, if I lose a friend. I don’t even want to lose a husband. I want everything, all the time, everywhere. I’m afraid of the desert. God loves you, they say in the churches, God is everything. People who believe that don’t need admiration, they don’t need to sleep with a man, they feel safe. But I can’t invent a belief.’

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‘They had only one guest-room and Sarah was there’.

 

There are a few other love stories that I would recommend. I will give it some further thought. In the meantime which love stories would you recommend and why? I might include them in my lists and draw an illustration for them.

And thanks for reading 😊!!

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