The first "LOVE STORY" I remember was The Thorn Birds. To be clear, I am referencing the one on TV with Richard Chamberlain, not the novel. I wasn't really a reader as a teenager, but I could be bothered to show up to watch a mini-series on the boob tube, as my Dad called it. I remember thinking how epic it was to have this old guy wrestling with everything he knew to be true just to be with this younger chic in a not-so-Puritanical way. It ticked the buttons of my very youthful idea of love: forbidden, physical attraction so strong "it cannot be denied," possession, hormonally-charged lusty obsession. (Don't judge. We've all been teenagers.)
Once I discovered the joy of reading, novels like Outlander were my go-to's when I wanted to read a good love story. It ticked all the boxes of love that I had in my head at that time: complicated, sexy, "unique," sensual, "us against the world," with a little danger and family disapproval thrown in for good measure. (Lest the Diana Gabaldon fans begin flaring their nostrils at what I just wrote, know that I am eagerly waiting for the latest Outlander novel to drop just like you.)
Upon discovering classical love stories, I was drawn to the ideals of love portrayed in Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Jane Eyre, North and South, and the like. Books that universally involved one half of the equation being vastly more mature than the other half, selflessly loving, wanting the best for the other with no expectation of a return on the investment, sacrificially giving everything to the object of one's affection. (These still rank high on my list of what the best bookish love stories portray.)
Now that I am beginning a new season of life, I find myself being drawn to another type of love story, one that spans time, has weathered sorrows and disappointments, that demonstrates a steadiness and steadfastness that comes with decades of commitment to one another. A love story full of compassion as well as passion. A love that doesn't have to shout to be heard, but can be seen in the dailyness of life - for better, or for worse. (As I write this, I am thinking of that little gem A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman that I can't seem to shake - and don't want to!) The kind of love stories that do not necessarily thrill you nonstop with adventure, or titillate you with cheek-reddening romance every few pages, but love stories that delve into the classical ideal of selflessness, the kind of love stories that mirror my own experiences of love over the past 30 years with my man - THE leading man in my own epic love story.
So this week, no list of the top 10 EPIC bookish love stories. There are plenty of those out there.
No. After pondering what I would consider the BEST BOOKISH LOVE STORIES this week, I think I have concluded that what qualifies as "the best" is too subjective and dependent on individual experience for me to assert that I know what anyone other than myself would love. Instead, I am simply sharing the fruit of my contemplative efforts and that is this...Perhaps the best bookish love stories are those that mirror the ones we are writing in the dailyness of our own lives.
By the way, I'm considering giving The Thorn Birds another chance. To be clear, I am referencing the novel this time, not the mini-series. These days, I prefer books to the boob tube.