Love in the time of a pandemic…
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Stories that remind us of the power of love!
"Saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch, And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss…"
To me, this beautiful line from Romeo and Juliet never felt more poignant. The notion of being palm to palm – of holding hands with someone we love, whether that’s a friend, lover or family member – has become strange to us during the pandemic: hands are for sanitising, not for reaching out to touch.
And yet, much like Juliet and her Romeo, love is what is getting many people through right now – love for each other, our communities, for our pets and the great outdoors. Luckily, most of us face a happier ending than these star-crossed lovers (!), but until we can hug again and spend time with those we care about, fiction and poetry are a great solace and reminder of the power of love.
With a nod to Valentine’s Day next weekend, and a few ideas to make you smile too, here are a selection of romance-inspired reads to help you keep the flames of love burning this fortnight!
Poems Fall in Love With
Chosen and illustrated by Chris Riddell
A beautiful anthology about the experiences of the heart, chosen and exquisitely illustrated by former Children’s Laureate and much-loved illustrator Riddell, OBE. A perfect gift for your Valentine but also ideal for younger readers with its range and fun illustration. Riddell mixes classic works with contemporary, including poems from Neil Gaiman, Nikita Gill, Carol Ann Duffy, E. E. Cummings, Shakespeare, Leonard Cohen, Kae Tempest, John Betjeman and Roger McGough and many more.
Alexa, What is There to Know About Love?
Love poetry can be cringey and over-earnest, often best avoided. But in the hands of the hilarious, and skilful Bilston, dubbed the ‘Poet Laureate of Twitter’, it is full of light-hearted moments and reality checks. Not one for sentimentality, instead he brings us such delights as ‘Remembrance of things Pasta’ and ‘Hold my hand while we jump off this cliff’ and of course the eponymous ‘Alexa, What is there to Know About Love’ (made more amusing by the fact Bilston admits to not owning an Alexa!) Definitely one to make you smile!
Love Letters: Vita and Virginia
Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf and renowned author and aristocrat Vita Sackville-West met at a dinner party in 1922, sparking a 20-year affair of great admiration, love, literary collaboration and many, many letters. It’s a relationship that has fascinated readers and historians for years and this new edition of their letters is the perfect way to eavesdrop on how their love grew. The pair were both married to men but found in each other something unique and seemingly radical, later inspiring Woolf’s famous novel, Orlando.
Keats: A Brief Life In Nine Poems and One Epitaph
The ultimate Romantic poet, John Keats lived a richly creative but tragically short life, dying aged just twenty-five. This month marks the bicentenary of his death and published to coincide with that is this excellent new biography by Miller that takes his best-known poems and explores their backstories. By showing how he came to write each of his most famous works, she interweaves the story of his upbringing, his education, philosophy and intellect. An unusual but effective way to form a biography and makes for a fresh take on Keats’ life.
You, Me & The Sea
Published on February 18th but available exclusively from Jarrold now, this special novel of love, redemption and forgiveness comes highly recommended from me. Already loved by Marian Keyes, who calls it ‘escapism in the best possible way’, the story is set on a remote, windswept Scottish island where 20-something Rachel arrives to work. The island’s only other inhabitants are two men, each with his own secrets, and all must co-habit in the island’s lighthouse. Rachel falls in love with the rugged island (as did I) and is drawn to try and help them all find peace. Beautifully written.
Bridgerton: The Duke and I
If all else fails, there’s always this phenomenally popular period drama series to fall into, in which the Bridgerton siblings search for true love. Netflix estimates that a whopping 63 million households have been watching Bridgerton since the series launched at Christmas, also sparking a resurgence of interest in the books it is based on. The first, The Duke and I, was published 20 years ago now but the whole set has been reissued with the new covers this month – so when you’ve finished the TV series, you can experience it all over again with the books!
Romeo and Juliet
This pocket hardback edition of Shakespeare’s most adapted play on stage and screen, is part of the Macmillan Collector’s Library and comes with gold foiled edges and a little ribbon marker. The greatest love story ever written, is here illustrated by Sir John Gilbert, and includes an introduction by Ned Halley. A perfect little gift or one for your own collection...
Love In The Time of Cholera
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I couldn’t resist including this one again: an enchanting, idiosyncratic tale of enduring love. The story is simple – Florentina Ariza has been in love with the woman of his dream, Fermina Daza, for half a century, but she married someone else. Having sworn his eternal love for her, now is his chance, when her husband is killed trying to rescue their pet parrot from a mango tree. Challenging, playful, wise, obsessive, you’ll be absorbed.
Prices and availability checked Friday 5 February 2021