Welcome to the romance shelf. Like the mystery shelf, it carries some of what I humbly believe to be the best of the best. Enjoy!

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Boy Meets Girl:
Wealthy Mr. Bingley–single and very eligible Mr. Bingley– moves to a small town where he is immediately targeted by Mrs. Bennet to be the husband of one of her five daughters. However, it is when Mr. Bingley’s friend, the silent and haughty Mr. Darcy, meets Mrs. Bennet’s second daughter Elizabeth that sparks begin to fly (not romantic sparks, I’m thinking more like what happens when you stick a fork in an electrical socket). Eventually. . .you know what? I’m not even going to tell you. If you don’t already know this story, do yourself a favor and pick it up. Now.

They Fall in Love:
One of the most acclaimed novels in the English language, Pride and Prejudice is more than just a good read. Austen also wrote a social commentary that explores the wonderful and absurd customs of her day, but also speaks truth about human nature in general. It’s touching and deep and funny, all in the same book–often in the same sentence.

They Live Happily Ever After:
This isn’t just a girl’s book. My high school English class read this book one year, and by the time we were a few chapters in, even the boys were enjoying it. And one of the best parts is that after you read it, you can watch one of the excellent adaptations (there’s a marvelous one starring Keira Knightley, or if you have a few more hours to spare, a more accurate but very long rendition featuring Colin Firth). And then reread Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Boy Meets Girl:
The novel follows the life of Jane Eyre, orphaned at a young age who, after escaping her abusive relatives by being sent away to school, finds herself fending for herself as a young woman. With few opportunities available for one of her station, Jane accepts work as a governess at Thornfield Hall. As Jane begins to fall in love with Mr. Rochester, the head of the house and guardian of her pupil, she also begins to notice that strange things happen in the Hall. Laughter echoes from empty rooms. Fires erupt spontaneously. And Mr. Rochester is definitely hiding something.

They Fall in Love:
Jane is a strong protagonist, used to looking out for herself and basing her actions on a strong moral center. Mr. Rochester. . .doesn’t–have a strong moral center, that is. A bit Dickensian in places, Gothic in others, the novel stretches itself across genres and sub-genres without losing its cohesiveness. It’s a very serious story, and slightly creepy at times–maybe more than slightly. (Oh, and, if you happen to read my edition, I implore to thumb past Joyce Carol Oates’s introduction. Not only does it misrepresent the story, but it also has plot spoilers.)

They Live Happily Ever After:
There’s an odd attraction about Jane and Mr. Rochester. As their story unfolds, layer by layer, we the readers get fixated. Will they fall in love? Will they get married? And what was that going bump in the night? Since it’s a romance, we think we ought to know the answers to these questions from the get-go (except for the last one), but do we?

There’s only one way to find out (unless you cheat, of course, and look it up on Wikipedia). . .

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Boy Meets Girl:
After a whirlwind romance abroad, our unnamed middle-class narrator marries the wealthy and enigmatic Maxim de Winter, accompanying him back to Manderley, his country estate. However, once there, the main character begins to wonder if she made the right decision. Here, everyone compares her–unfavorably–to Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca. Rebecca was, according to the housekeeper, a paragon of beauty, goodness, and perfection, the likes of which our narrator can never attain. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And something happened to Rebecca. Something that put her earthly body away but keeps her ghostly presence alive in the rooms and corridors of Manderley.

They Fall in Love:
Definitely a Gothic romance through and through. Mystery, romance, and hints of something darker and more terrible, run throughout the novel. The setting of Manderley and the nearby sea is very nearly a character in itself. The housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, the narrator, Maxim, and Rebecca weave a dance of words and fears about each other that, if ever one should fall out of step, threatens to topple the lives of all.

They Live Happily Ever After:
This isn’t a happily-ever-after book. It’s a romance, yes, but a layered and shadowy romance that beckons only the bravest. Or most naive. Step this way, if you please, if you wish to encounter the mystery of Manderley.

Of course, these are only a few favorites: what are some of yours? What grand tales of love and sacrifice did I leave out? What are some of your favorites?

Long days and pleasant nights from the Tale-Weaver.

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7 responses »

  1. tee hee. So for the last several weeks, some certain people *ahem: Sarah and Ali and Hannah* have been criticizing me for thinking that Mr. Rochester is a creeper…. so what do you think?…It’s totally true. I wouldn’t want to meet him even at the end of the book. 😛

  2. Oh, and 4 days till D-Day!! =) how’s your novel idea coming??

    • I’ve got my plot outline. But man, I’m gonna be soo busy. :). This year, I think it’ll mostly be an exercise in how many raw words can I possibly pour out as quickly as possible while spending as little as possible actually thinking :).

  3. Sarah says:

    I’m glad you included Rebecca. I love that book, even though it isn’t a normal happily ever after story. It’s beautifully written. I think it’s interesting how Jane and the narrator of Rebecca’s reactions differ when they learn about their respective husbands.

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