When H chose this category last month, the image that immediately came to my mind was that rack of pink-covered Harlequin Romances at the book store when I was a kid.
That rack that I passed with barely a glance on my way to the brown clad books: dogs, horses, reference.
In fact, I went in search of that rack for a picture for this post and you know what I found? Fifty shades of grey. Quite literally. To be sure, there’s still a scattering of covers dressed in pinks and purples depicting clutching couples, shirtless men, and gowned damsels in distress. But most of the romance covers are unlike those of my dusty pink memory. They’re blue and black and grey, with motorcycles and vampires and empty landscapes. Old houses, space ships, jewels, and, of course, blindfolds.
And still, between the covers, it’s almost always that same long-told, reassuring story: one meets another, there’s the spark (love, hate, disdain, attraction), there’s the longing and the eventual coming to terms, there’s the obstruction (cruel step mother, overseas job, old girlfriend, different species, different planet), there’s the long montage of return to each other. And then there’s the ending… together or apart, with some hope that there will be love at some point, if only in a different time and place.
For this challenge, all I really wanted to do was read my favorite Jane Austen (Persuasion), which has all of the above elements in abundance, plus (to my mind) a heroine who truly deserves the happiness she attains at the end. Instead, I read a more recent classic: The French Lieutenant’s Woman, by John Fowles.
It was fine. It had most of the elements. It had Sarah in her dark cloak at the end of the Cobb being buffeted by the wind and waves (the Cobb, in fact, makes an appearance in Persuasion). But it was no Persuasion. And now I’ve learned that the crucial element (for me) is the ending: Elizabeth and Darcy must end up in incandescent happiness. Anne and Frederick must end up on the deck of his ship, setting out for adventure.
Otherwise, what’s the point?
Our books for month 3:
- H ~ The Annotated Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen
- M ~ Waterland, by Graham Swift
- R ~ The French Lieutenant’s Woman, by John Fowles
We’d love to know what you read this month. Please leave a comment telling us about it!
The category for the coming month is:
If you need help finding a book, here are some good resources (note, however, that just because a book was popular or best selling in a particular year doesn’t mean it was necessarily first published in that year; check the information for the particular book you want to read):
- Best Selling books of the 20th Century, listed by year
- Goodreads “Most Popular By Year” search (select the year you want in the “by year” box at the top of the right-hand column)
- Wikipedia Books by Year search
We’ll see you back here on May 9!
This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category on the 9th of each month.