Love By The Book

Books for lovers – lovers of life, lovers of cities, lovers of history, lovers of words. Who cares about your bed, make what’s on your bedside table count this Valentine’s. (We all know reading is sexy, anyway).

Persuasion – Jane Austen
There is no love story greater than this. Every time I think I’ve lost touch with romance (cough, Tinder) I read this and all is right with the world again. I really could not care less about Darcy or the Dashwoods. Give me Anne Elliot and Bath and the constancy of true love any day. The kicker: Wentworth’s letter. ‘You pierce my soul.’

Circle of Friends – Maeve Binchy
I never get tired of stories about university. Maybe because up until now it has been a really appropriate topic for me, and also maybe because I am always, constantly thinking about growing up. This book is about falling in love with the brightest, most beautiful boy in school, but it’s also about falling in love with friends, and falling in love with the big smoke, and falling in love with learning. The kicker: ‘Don’t knock Knockglen.’

Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter
This was my favourite book of 2013, and the one I’ve been recommending to everyone I know who wants to read something sun-drenched and enchanting. It’s the best of all possible worlds, a story that combines first love with last love, between the rocky Italian Riviera and heat-stricken Hollywood. A hilarious fictional representation of Richard Burton is just a bonus, right? The kicker: ‘And because he felt like he might burst open and because he lacked the dexterity in English to say all that he was thinking – how in his estimation, the more you lived the more regret and longing you suffered, that life was a glorious catastrophe – Paquale Tursi said, only, “Yes.”’

Eucalyptus – Murray Bail
A magical, fairy-tale of a book, that moves with the languid grace of a sunny Sunday afternoon. I still love this book years after first reading it, because I love the simplicity of the archaic central romance; father will only consent to daughter’s marriage if he finds a suitor who can name every species of Eucalyptus tree. Ah, if only there was such a man. The kicker: ‘Almost overnight she had become beautiful. She had grown from a small darting-about figure to a gliding, drifting, fuller one.’

A Room With A View – E.M Forster
This is as much a love letter to Florence as it is anything else. It is a love letter to cobblestoned streets and galleries full to the brim of Ghiberti and Botticelli and Titian and how it’s so easy to fall in love in a city where love has been carved into every doorpost. It’s a love letter to the way that, once you have climbed to the top of the hilly crest of Fiesole (there are only shadows because there are hills, remember) you can see all the way down to Florence, from the curved peak of the Duomo to the tip of the Palazzo Vecchio, and how, once you have that love in you, you never lose it. The kicker: ‘By the side of the everlasting ‘Why?’ there is a Yes – a transitory Yes if you like, but a Yes.’

Hannah-Rose, Undone Girl

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