A Very Dystel Valentine

I feel like my blog posts have been coming at you straight from dullsville for the past few weeks, and I need to spice things up a bit! So: romance!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the holiday invented by couples specifically to scorch the hearts of their single friends, I’ve decided to poll some fellow Dystel-ites on the most romantic books of all time.

Miriam picked Jane Eyre and The English Patient with a nod to Love in the Time of Cholera which should come as no surprise seeing as her most recent entry testified to her love of its first line: “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.” While everyone else in the office complained that they couldn’t think of romantic books, she continued with her suggestions: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love; most of Turgenev; some Milan Kundera; A Tale of Two Cities.

Jane’s response was immediate and perfect: does romance get more epic that Gone with the Wind? I think not.

Lauren took a decidedly anti-romantic approach. While she does enjoy, say, the poetry of Keats, her favorite books tend to be bleaker and feature antiheroes and assholes. I pointed out that assholes need love too, and she settled on The Great Gatsby. Romantic AND bleak. It qualifies!

Everyone else scrambled for answers as though romance in books was a totally unfamiliar concept. But they came up with favorites eventually! John settled on Wuthering Heights. Michael got stuck coming up with a list of the most inappropriate choices of all time (Lolita, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Revolutionary Road, Flowers in the Attic!), but eventually refocused on actual romance and selected the  much more appropriate Shopgirl. Stephanie chose A Walk to Remember, which I haven’t read, but I did see the Mandy Moore movie!

As for me, my choice doesn’t have a happy ending, but I still think it’s the most romantic book ever (and one of my all-time favorites). The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I mean, come on! SPOILER ALERT. Quasimodo loves Esmeralda so much that he clutches her dead body until HE DIES TOO! And the last line! “When they tried to detach the skeleton which he held in his embrace, he fell to dust.” I love that line like Quasi loved his gypsy girl.

What about all you folks? What do you think the most romantic novels of all time are?

14 Responses to A Very Dystel Valentine

  1. Kelly Klem says:

    I have to agree with Jane. Nothing is sexier than love that’s not available (even when it really is).

  2. Josin says:

    I think you first have to sort the romance from love and obsession. They’re not all the name thing – and Hunchback’s a perfect example. Yes, he loved Esmeralda, but it wasn’t really romance.

    With the darker spectrum, you end up with obsession (Lolita) which isn’t romance, either.

    GWTW qualifies as romance, I think, but I’ve never read the book; I’ve only seen the film.

  3. Rachel says:

    Seeing as I was clearly FAR too late in my response to Jim’s question, I’ll post my answer here.

    Hands down, I’m going to go with Jane Austen’s PERSUASION. Not only is it my favorite Austen book by far, but Wentworth’s letter to Anne? I die. “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever.” This cannot be topped.

  4. Joelle says:

    For classic YA, I choose BETSY AND JOE by Maud Hart Lovelace. For contemporary YA, I choose my new favourite THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. For adult fiction, I choose Nevil Shute’s PASTORAL.

  5. Esmeralda DIES in the book? B-But that’s not what happened in the Disney version!

    Haha. :)

    Hmm, as for my own favorite romances…

    In YA, I really love Anna and the French Kiss because it’s set in Paris and because it features wonderful writing and a fabulous love interest.

    In adult fiction, I’d probably pick Possession by A.S. Byatt. The romance in it is rather heartbreaking, but I love how two of the main characters fall in love through letters and poetry.

  6. Brodi Ashton says:

    Rachel totally stole my favorite book. Persuasion. That letter! Sigh.

  7. Monica says:

    Ah, yes, Persuasion is my favorite Romantic book. I also love Wuthering Heights, I have read it multiple times and every time I get caught up hoping for a different ending.

    I don’t think the book needs a happy ending to be qualified as a good romantic tale. What is important is that you get caught up in the love affair with the characters.

  8. Donna Hole says:

    I think Michael and I could swap stories over a glass of wine :)

    I read very little true romance, so can’t think of any books. But, Terry Goodkind’s SWORD OF TRUTH series was technically a romance, and so is DAUGHTER OF THE EMPIRE by Raymond E Feist. I’ll be STAR WARS episodes 1,2,3 could also be classified as romance. Hmm, I’ve read a couple Nora Roberts, and Nicholas Sparks.

    Esmeralda dies in the Hunchback novel? Oh sad. I’ve only ever seent the movie (Disney), same with Gone With The Wind.

    I like romance in a book or movie, but not the genre itself.


  9. The most inappropriate list made me laugh.

    If this question had come up a month ago before I re-read Pride and Prejudice after a long time, I’d say Darcy and Elizabeth. I am not as fond of their romance at the moment. And the stories of love that are appearing in my mind are not romantic love: Almondine’s love for Edgar in Edgar Sawtelle; the fierce love between mother and son in Room; the brotherly/best friends love between Biff and Joshua in Christopher Moore’s Lamb.

    This question will be bugging me for days.

  10. Mare says:

    I’m with Yat Yee Chong — many of these made me laugh. “Flowers in the Attic” — hilarious because, at 12 (when I read it) I couldn’t put it down. Romance? Um………yeah. That’s all I have.

    I’m also a huge fan of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” I’ll go with that one.

  11. OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon for fun and I gotta go kinda dark with you, Jim– what about Bram Stoker’s Dracula? I’m not much of a fan of today’s vamps, but man, that Vlad was a lover..

    And..uh, Michael.. Flowers in the Attic? What’s your sister’s phone number? I’m calling her right now!! Run!

  12. Stacey says:

    Since I didn’t have a chance to weigh in on this fun question, I thought I’d do so here as well. THE GIANT’S HOUSE by Elizabeth McCracken is an unusual, beautiful, poignant, and very different sort of love story. Well worth checking out.

  13. The first few books of Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER series are very romantic. It’s the rare book that make me cry, but the first one did.

    Also, as a child my favorite book of all times was LITTLE WOMEN. The romance between Laurie and Beth was meant to be in my mind. I’m still angry that Laurie married the spoiled Amy.

  14. Lynda Kay says:

    I was surprised how taken I was with the story Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens. Proving you can be a bit of a poop, and still write strong female characters with an interesting love story. I’ve often wondered if Mr. Dickens didn’t “borrow” the character Dorit from Jane Austens Persuasion. Never the less it proves it still worked.

    Is it the most romantic. I guess not. I guess to reiterate what most females think doesn’t widen the choices. Us girls know no one knew how to steal a womans heart with their pens better than Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.

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