Ode to my favorite literary romances

In honor of Valentines day, I wanted to celebrate some of my favorite literary pairings. Now er, romantic pairings that are syrupy, and border on the syrupy, are not my cup of tea. Although, if you hand me some really dark chocolate, I would succumb to the cocoa bean rather than read syrup. Either that, or I shall run screaming.

My list is somewhat unorthodox. Be warned, you might want to scream yourself.

I like subtle themes; a juxtaposition of great story telling and romance. There is nothing more beautiful than an author who can count as an accomplishment, a plot with revealing characters and a sub plot of an underlying romance.

Onward then…

In spite of my adoration of Darcy and Elizabeth, Pride and Prejudice is not at the top of my list. *Gasp* what?

It is Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

What an enduring love it is. Jane is as poor as poor can be, an orphan, utterly alone. Yet, this girl who has nothing, who forgives, who is kind, finds love with a gentleman coveted by society’s most élite. A handsome man. Rich and powerful. Seen Michael Fassbender as Rochester? Timothy Dalton or Toby Stephens – um, they really brought Rochester to life.  It is a classic tale of poor girl meets rich guy. Jane visibly grows in character as she accepts who she is. She is a woman coming to terms with her femininity. She feels deeply. Rochester finds her fascinating and there, it builds. That subtle romance, the conversations filled with wit; Bronte skillfully weaves a relationship built on trust. Remember, Jane does not frighten easily. She is reliable. She is also every bit Rochester’s match in intelligence. That being said, there is a wonderfully dark and mysterious plot entwined into the story. The clearly mad wife, the screams at night, the fires, Jane’s understanding that Thornfield Hall is occupied by more than just the help. It is intense, creepy and beautiful.

You’ve got to read Wide Sargasso Sea by Dominican born Jean Rhys. It is an implied  beginning of Rochester’s relationship with Antoinette whom he re-named Bertha.

Photo courtesy:  http://www.fanpop.com + http://www.tvguide.com

TV Jane Eyre

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If you haven’t yet read Jane Austen’s Persuasion, often shelved in favor of the lightly funny Emma or the delightful Pride and Prejudice, you must. It is said, the character Anne Elliot was based on Austen herself. I think in Anne, Jane found hope that she would eventually find her own Captain Wentworth. Anne is faithful, compassionate and sensible. She is intelligent and mature, often eschewing controversy in favor of maintaining peace within her family. It is, in a sense, a deep and fulfilling love because she found Frederick, then lost him and found him again. As a much older and stronger heroine, she is unlikely to give into the whims and fancies of her father and family. He in turn finds that his love is stronger, his admiration deeper. It is almost a mutual adoration, for they are no longer separated by wealth and status.

My favorite Masterpiece version is the most current Rupert Penry-Jones and Sally Hawkins Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot. Although, I hear the Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root version is just as brilliant.

Photo Courtesy: http://www.tv.guide.com

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Well, it may not be the first on my list, but it is the most human and a personal favorite of all of Austen’s books. Without Pride and Prejudice, my twelve year old mind would be at a loss. It was the first time I met Jane Austen.

In Darcy and Elizabeth we discover how two of Austen’s most beloved characters fall in love, in spite of society’s expectations. They are the literary archetypes of the most human of conditions – love and misunderstanding. 19th Century England with all of its societal pressures of marrying within one’s status, brings us this joyful and charming story of weakness and strength. Of forgiveness and that enduring theme of love. We watch as Darcy moves from disdain to attraction, unsure of how to face Elizabeth’s rejection and unsure of himself for the first time. And Elizabeth, with her sense of justice and a very strong opinion of what must be, moves in a dance of sorts, a zigzag of emotions that crosses boundaries set for them by his class. As she then discovers her feelings for Darcy, they alter gradually through a new-found respect for the man he truly is, instead of what she imagines him to be.

Well erm, you all know which BBC production of Pride and Prejudice I would recommend. In case you don’t, it is the one with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

Photo courtesy: http://www.bbc.co.uk

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I’ve never forgotten The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. Having lived part of my life in Australia, It is a novel very close to my heart.

Meggie Cleary’s struggle to survive in a family of brothers begins very early on in the book. It is clear she has to fend for herself. Her special relationship with her brother Frank who in turn has the most arduous relationship with their father Paddy, is vividly portrayed. When Paddy gets a job at his wealthy sister’s sheep station Drougheda, in Australia, the family makes a move. There is much strife due to the revelation of Frank’s true paternity, his love for his mother, and his eventual escape from the family. Throughout all of this Meggie clings very tightly to a handsome young priest Ralph di Bricassart. He protects her from the family drama as she grows into this gorgeous woman and falls in love with him, a little bit at a time. He is ambitious but attracted to her. It is a stunningly visual, epic love story that spans over time, exploring themes of unrequited and tragic love, greed and the choices we all have to make in order to find peace.

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Richard Chamberlin and Rachel Ward were magnificent in this mini-series.

William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night or What you Will is an unusual choice, it is my favorite of all  of his comedies. I can’t tell you why, but I love the character Viola. Her courage and love for her twin brother Sebastian and her grief as she believes he is dead, to her subsequent job as a disguised young page in service to the duke is a seamless and comic transition. Not a character that is easy to play. While she falls in love with the duke Orsino, he pines for another, the countess Olivia. Shakespeare’s witty mockery of the pompous steward Malvolio, the raucously drunk Sir Toby and Sir Andrew Aguecheek plotting Malvolio’s downfall, and the lovely sub-plots of romance in-between, makes for a happy end as Viola finally reveals who she is and gets her duke. It is a hilarious play if you ever have the good fortune of watching it live or seeing the 1996 adaptation.  A wonderful cast : Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Kingsley, Nigel Hawthorne, Richard E. Grant  – truly the best of Britain.

I wish you all a day of light and love, and would love to know if you have any favorite literary pairings.

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5 thoughts on “Ode to my favorite literary romances

  1. I picture you in a corset and pantaloons and floor length dress with bustle, hair in a chignon, writing at a wooden desk with a quill in hand, sitting by a window, the sun filtering across the parchment, writing your reviews on the above, yes that how I picture you right now. Hope you had a beautiful heart day lovely. xxxxxxx

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    • How you’ve described me is exactly how I would be, if I lived in another era. Of course, I would be needing warm showers and a really good bathroom – can you imagine how It would be without the plumbing, oh and the damp. I couldn’t tolerate the damp. I guess, I will just stay here then, or may be move to Italy – wait, are you coming with me? you and Mr S are invited anytime.
      I had a lovely Valentines Day weekend. I’m so happy you had a beautiful day too.
      xxxx

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  2. Love this post. You are such a romantic and so am I! But first, I must ask, did you see Jennifer Ehle in last year’s Zero Dark Thirty? It was so good to see her again. I don’t know what she’s been in since P&P but it was nice to see her in that film, though I would like to see her in a larger role. She was bloody brilliant in P&P. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite all time books! But you didn’t mention the earlier film version with Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles. I really enjoy that version. It features a very young Elizabeth Taylor as Jane Eyre’s sickly friend in the orphanage. Of course, nothing beats the book.

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    • I really am a romantic, Monica. Jane Eyre just tugs at my heart and it is her story, I think. The way Charlottle Bronte writes about this perfectly ordinary girl, who is really quite extraordinary, is so beautiful. I think I’ve seen the Orson Welles/Joan Fontaine version just once, but I must Netflix and watch it again because I don’t remember Elizabeth Taylor at all.
      I must confess, I didn’t finish watching Zero Dark Thirty. I got to the middle and then fell asleep. Do you recall seeing Jennifer Ehle in The King’s Speech? she played Geoffrey Rush’s wife.

      Have you see ‘Twelve years a slave?’ that and Phelomena are next on my list of movies.. oh and Dallas Buyers Club too.

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      • Yes, I saw Twelve Years and loved it. Riveting. Re Elizabeth Taylor in Jane Eyre: she plays a sickly friend of young Jane while she’s in the orphanage. The only one in the whole place who befriends her. But it was one of her first roles in a film and she wasn’t given a screen credit, don’t ask me why. I saw Kings Speech but don’t recall Ehle, though I must’ve recognized her when she appeared in the screen. I want to see Philomena too. Might have to wait for the DVD though.

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