Whether they remind us of relationships gone by, dare us to hope for love to come or make us want to stay single forever, love stories are often among our most formative and memorable reads.
From devastating tragedy to swoon-inducing romance, here Caleb Femi, Giovanna Fletcher, Katie Fforde and nine other Penguin authors share their favourite books about love in time for Valentine's Day.
Giovanna Fletcher: I was left with a blotchy face from crying so much
Jenny Lee: I practically swooned
Caleb Femi: I was familiar with love that led to unimaginable sacrifice
When I was nine years old, my primary school class read C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe every afternoon during reading hour. I surrendered my full attention to the book when Edmund took his first bite of the Witch’s Turkish Delight: What was so special about Turkish Delight that would make a boy sell out his family, sell out Aslan? Naturally, as my father was a bishop, I was familiar with love that led to unimaginable sacrifice. But love that led to such intimate betrayal was unexpected and thought-provoking.
During this time, I sat on a table with Kemi, who had pink interarch rubber bands on her braces and totally pulled off the look. Each afternoon, we found ourselves in as deep a conversation as a pair of nine-year-olds could have about Edmund and Turkish Delight; it was electric, and we took it as the conception of a shared love between us. That is until one lunchtime, when we decided to taste Turkish Delight for the first time. Turkish Delight was just starch and sugar. Starch and sugar and disappointing. Fair to say it was certainly an antidote to whatever love we thought had seeped into our system.
Lucy Dillon: I still hold my breath racing through the final pages
Katie Fforde: The men fell in love with the women because they were kind and witty
Neil Blackmore: This strange and beautiful queer novel is extraordinary
Ann Napolitano: We explore the private interior of their marriage
Andrew Hunter Murray: The story is so powerful because of that yearning it reminds us of
Lucy Jones: The story has so much in it: love, peril, separation, luck, fate, survival
It starts with a mother bird sitting on an egg in her nest. It starts to move and she realises she needs to go and get some food for it to eat. The bird hatches while she’s gone and he leaves the nest to find her. He has no idea what or who he is, so goes from hen to dog to cow to car to boat and so on asking, "Are you my mother?" It’s all getting very tragic and worrying when a crane appears. "Mother! Mother! Here I am, mother!" Before realising the crane is potentially dangerous, it carries the baby bird back to his nest where his mother is waiting with tender delight and a worm. "I know who you are," the hatchling says. "You are my mother."
Rarely has the love bond between a new mother and baby – the primal need, the intense connection, the undercurrent of fear and jeopardy – been described with such simple clarity in literature. With a young baby and little daughter at home, this resonates with me for obvious reasons.
Tessa Hadley: I adore the muddle of life in this book
Deepa Anappara: Their relationship has the rare quality of stillness
John Banville: The novelist clearly marks the link between love and art
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Image: Alicia Fernandes / Penguin