Happy Valentine’s Day! In my opinion, there’s no better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than jumping back into some of the greatest literary relationships of the ages. As lame as it may sound, there’s nothing more relaxing (or romantic) than getting lost in someone else’s love story.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
This classic Victorian novel was ahead of it’s time in many ways. The reader follows Jane through her childhood and education to her eventual assignment as a governess with Mr. Rochester. Through Jane’s journey into adulthood, there is a clear exploration of class, sexuality, and the early stages of feminism. The romance builds slowly throughout the novel as Jane discovers herself and what is important in a romance and a marriage.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
An intimidating near brick of a novel, Anna Karenina is a classic for a reason. The novel focuses on the drama of Anna Karenina and her affair with Count Vronsky. By breaking societal expectations Karenina finds herself on the outside looking in, providing an interesting perspective of the repercussions of our choices, love, and societal expectations. With secondary characters that are frequently the subject of narrative with the alternating chapter style, the reader is easily immersed in the many aspects of Russian society in the eighteenth century. (It’s like the Gossip Girl of the Russian aristocracy).
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Set against the American Civil War, Gone with the Wind provides an almost too real insight about life in the South before, during, and after the war. While annoyingly condescending and conceited, Scarlett accurately represents the entitled attitude of the upper class in Southern society. Her wild love affair and struggle for survival as the tide of the battle turns toward the North leave reader rooting for the once barely palatable main character.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
It wouldn’t be a list of great literary romances without including Jane Austen’s iconic Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. While their relationship may be a central focus throughout the work, Austen’s searing satire leaves little doubt about her critique on the societal expectations placed on women and the structure of marital relationships during the late 18th century. Even if you’ve already read this novel (because honestly, most of us have by now), it’s well worth a critical reread.
I’m a strong proponent of reading the original novels (obviously — this is a blog about reading after all), but if you want to share these stories with a loved one the movie adaptations do the story justice. Gone with the Wind is a classic American film of the 1930s, but If you want a more modern film, watch the 2012 adaptation of Anna Karenina or the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice (both featuring the charming Keira Knightley as the heroine).