My local shops are filled with hearts and red and pink things at the moment. I can’t begrudge them the opportunity to generate some profits on higher-margin sales after what have been a couple of very painful years for so many, but my heart sinks somewhat at the ghastly products sold in the likes of Marks and Spencer (which has had a good pandemic), as they further milk the Colin the Caterpillar and Percy Pig brands!
I don’t want to come over all Scrooge-like, however; we all need a bit of fun at this stage in the year and Valentines Day can certainly provide that. If your loved one is less than impressed by pink and shiny things, however, or if you’d like to give a rather more sustainable gift, there can surely be nothing better than a book. Bookshops are working harder than ever and those in my local high street have certainly put out a nice display of options – my lovely local secondhand bookshop (shout out to Abacus Books, Altrincham) always puts on a brilliant, ever-changing locally-themed front window.
The high street shops will cover all the classics of course, but I thought I’d give you a few ideas of my own based on my reading over the last year or two.
The Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende – a romantic story of
Set in turbulent times (first the Spanish Civil War, then political unrest in Chile) this is a saga which tells of the love story of Victor and Roser, thrown together by tragedy, they stay together out of duty. But they ultimately discover the true nature of their love for one another after many decades. Based on real events.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera – this 1984 classic set at the time of the Prague spring in 1968 follows the relationships of Tomas, his wife Tereza, his lover Sabina and her lover Franz. And a dog. Complex and philosophical it is nonetheless a romance of sorts and very sexy!
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin – an American classic with a lovely film adaptation. This book tells the powerful story of two devoted young lovers Tish and Fonny in New York, whose lives are torn apart when Fonny is falsely convicted by a racist justice system, of rape. Tish fights for her lover’s aquittal, but she cannot overcome massive institutional hurdles. Can their love survive.
Normal People by Sally Rooney – one of the books of the decade, surely, if your loved one has not read this or seen the television adaptation, then you must get it for them. Charming, sexy, with a top-notch male hero it explores the journey of young love, the ups and downs, the turbulence and misunderstandings, but ultimately how people can look after each other’s vulnerability.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz – a powerful story about loneliness, friendship and how this can blossom into love. Two young teenagers, from very different backgrounds, with different life experiences and perspectives, different journeys to go on in terms of discovering their sexuality. Charming, heart-warming. Regardless of your gender or sexuality this is a story about the triumph and the beauty of love.
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman – a summer romance set in Italy between an American adolescent on the threshold of adulthood, the son of two academics, and a visiting research student. The setting is beautifully evoked, the blistering heat of the landscape providing the perfect backdrop to the burgeoning sexual feelings between a teenager and the slightly older object of his desire. The romance is real, tender and, like most first loves, painful at times. Beautifully done.
I hope this gives you some ideas – it’s not too late!