The beat of my heart

Romance stories can be about love, about imagination, and about washed-up rock stars.

I had an echocardiogram a couple of days ago, just to make sure that my heart was still beating…rest assured it is, a relief to be sure.

The scan, along with the fact that Valentines Day is being flogged a bit at the moment, got me thinking about the more romantic titles I’ve read over the years.

It’s actually been a while since I’ve read anything very concerned with matters of the heart, but here are a couple of favourites that found their way off my bookshelf most recently.

Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby

Hornby is really good at this kind of story.  He’s stories are essentially about relationships, but the contexts that he sets them in are unique and engaging, making his novels about much more than just romance.  I’m thinking particularly of High Fidelity and About a Boy…it’s really easy to engage with the characters and identify with the situations (particularly for us X-Gens) and the search for romance is only part of the appeal.  Hunting for love tends to link closely to hunting for a better understanding of themselves. Juliet Naked is no exception, and I found it even easier to get hooked into this story, thanks to its female protagonist – Annie.  It’s a story of a romance, but it’s so very innocent and conservative, very much like Annie herself.

This novel seems to me to be more about imagined relationships than actual ones. Duncan’s obsession with Tucker, Tuckers’ fabled love-triangle with Julie Beatty, and finally Annie’s crush on Tucker.  It’s when these relationships become real that they loose some of their appeal.  A very nice ditty, this one.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
Oo-ah, bit naughty!  A little snobby I know, but I really have to admit to this being one of my favourites.  It’s an absolute classic, and a blueprint for so many romances hereafter.  And it’s more than a little bit naughty as far as classic literature goes.

The most obvious observations would be around the themes of discontent, passion, so on and so forth.  I think though the element that I like the most is the fact that Connie is so inclined to throw caution to the wind.

It is perhaps a little bit of a shame that the tale itself has been a little over simplified in screen adaptations (just Google-search images for Lady Chatterley’s Lover and you’ll see what I mean).  Nonetheless, it’s a beautifully written novel, and a compelling tale from start to end.

Nice Work
, by David Lodge
Now,  some might argue that it’s not really a romance, but at the end of the day that’s the part of the story that stood out for me so I’m going to list it.

At first I didn’t want to read this book.  I had to read it for Uni and I found the description not at all tempting.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the story of academic Robyn Penrose, and engineer Vic Wilcox was quite fascinating.  Even now, I’m surprised by how often this book comes to mind.  Perhaps it’s because the unlikely affair between Robyn and Vic is somewhat synonymous with the unlikely balance we all have to find day-to-day…often we work outside our interests, we do chores well outside our passions, and we have to get along with people who are well and truly of a different ilk to us.  As unfamiliar as Robyn and Vic’s worlds are to each other, I’d think that this type of scenario is familiar to many readers.  At the end of the day this unsettled, unsettling and short-lived union between two different worlds works very nicely as a romance story.  Lovely.

If you’re interested, David Lodge spoke to BBC World Service about his novel – quite interesting actually.  Check it out here if you’re keen… David Lodge Podcast

Read any lovely love stories?