Off-kilter, doomed and unrequited

I’m not a hopeless romantic, but I like a good love story as much as the next girl. For me, the most compelling romances are a little off-kilter, sometimes a little sad, and at times, hopeless unrequited. Most often they take place in the context of a wonderfully told, much larger, story.

A Farewell to ArmsIt’s probably no surprise to you that Valentines Day had me rummaging through my bookshelf in order to have a flick through some of my favourite love stories. Here’s my top four…

1. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway. Set against the gritty, shell-shocked backdrop of World War I, I was transfixed. Oh Henry and Catherine, you made me cry. In public. In a cafe. Shame on you, Hemingway for making me care so much.

2. Still Life with Woodpecker, by Tom Robbins. This wild, wild ride of radical princess Leigh-Cheri and the mad bomber Bernard has had me re-reading this book many times over many years. The unlikely pairing of a disgraced cheerleader and a jagged-toothed drunk, I believed every word and have never since stopped asking the question… “How do you make love stay?”

3. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. A novel of decadence, full of shallow people and shallow lives, Daisy so whimsical it almost feels like she could float away at any moment. The love affair between Gatsby and Daisy remains one of my favourites. Doomed from the start, this romance was at once both superficial and equally rife with complications. Two beautifully flawed characters in a fickle, conflicted time.

4. The Riders, by Tim Winton. I don’t know if may would classify what Fred and Jennifer have as a romance, but I do know that this novel it a gut-wrenching love story that’s stayed with me, darkly, since I read it a couple of years ago. Fred Scully is hopelessly and violently in love with his wife Jennifer. Problem is, she’s no where to be found. His search for her, his unrequited love and the great mystery around their relationship is completely compelling and hopelessly, horribly romantic.

Do you have a favourite love story?

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