ROSE EVANS gives her reading recommendations to get us through a Valentine's Day like no other...
As this year isn't going to be quite the same as your typical Valentine’s (or Galentine’s) Day, why not toast the season of love by settling down with a romantic book of your choice? Romantic novels aren’t usually my top choice of genre because I find them predictable and extremely cringey at times. But perhaps this year is the time to accept clichés and enjoy the heartfulness they bring.
These are my recommendations of romantic novels to help deflect from the doom and gloom of the outside world...
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
The first novel I recommend is Isabel Allende's New York Times Bestseller: In the Midst of Winter. This centres around a snowstorm in New York and two, ageing, lonely neighbours.
It focuses on the multi-generational struggle surrounding immigration and, as always with Allende, focuses on Central America's social and political issues, as well as how they intertwine with the individual lives of her characters. Richard Bowmaster is a University professor and who has lived alone since the death of his wife. During a snowstorm, he is out driving around the streets when he hits a car with an undocumented driver aboard: Evelyn Ortega. In this car, there seems to be a dead body... an unidentified body. The story of Evelyn and her life looking after the disabled child of a rich family shows her exploitation and female struggle in society. Richard is the neighbour of Lucia Maraz, who has also lived alone since she moved to New York and works within the same university as Richard. As both Lucia and Richard pity Evelyn's situation, they work together to help her conceal the body in a snow-covered East Coast America. The romantic element of the story comes about as Richard and Lucia get closer and closer during this process. The novel explores themes of loneliness, companionship and human interaction, and how they are especially important when getting older.
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
The next novel is Colm Tóibín's Brooklyn. This novel has been adapted into a successful film starring Saoirse Ronan and involves the migration of a young Irish girl, Eilish, to Brooklyn. She deals with homesickness, loneliness, alienation, culture shock and grief due to the sudden death of her older sister.
The Irish connections in Brooklyn allow her to make acquaintances with the girls she lives with, whilst her job in a department store enables her to flourish and become a confident American citizen. Despite tumultuous history between the Italian and the Irish in America, Eilish meets an Italian boy called Tony, they inevitably fall in love and become devoted to one another. However, after the death of her sister she must return to Ireland to console her mother. They get married before she leaves, in secret, telling no one. This secret would heighten when she arrives home, in a small town incapable of keeping secrets, and rumours flood the streets.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The only extremely romantic novel on this recommendation is Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. This has also been adapted into a film starring Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke. It follows the life of Louisa, who is struggling to find work in the small town she lives. Her family is struggling with bills as her Dad has lost his job.
On a whim, she applies for a job as a full-time carer for the family living near the castle that lies above the town (they are quite possibly the richest family in the area). The caring position is for Will, who is paralysed and lives permanently in a motorised wheelchair. He once lived the high life in London, with a beautiful girlfriend and powerful friends; they no longer seem to bother with him. Now he lives locked away with his mother and father. He comes across as obnoxious and rude, meanwhile Louisa is a loud-mouthed, eccentric young woman trying to make everyone in her world happy. Despite the awkward and appalling interview with Will’s mother, she somehow gets the job. Together, she breaks the exterior of Will's demeanour and he becomes happier and begins to admire Louisa's jovial attitude towards life. The darker side of the novel is the psychological effects that Will's condition has upon him, which will in turn affect the family's dynamic and his relationship with Louisa eternally.
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The last novel I would recommend isn't quite as packed with romantic themes and narrative. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a World War II fiction.
It centres on the narrative of a blind French girl, Marie-Laure and a German soldier, Werner who eventually cross paths in the conflict. They are both connected through radio broadcasts, which were forbidden when the Nazis invaded France.
People hid their radios, but Werner was a scientific whizz and acquired the skill of repairing radios. Deep into the war where he becomes a soldier, he becomes trapped under rubble. He is only kept alive by Marie-Laure's radio broadcasts. The novel discusses interaction through language and words in its spoken form, and the loneliness and fate of wartime Europe in the 1940s. Marie-Laure and Werner's connection through music and language becomes a love story in itself, whilst exploring the reality of war and the hardships they both entail.
Written by Rose Evans
Got any Valentine's Day-related reading recommendations of your own? Let us know in the comments section below!