Reading list

6 Vintage books about the realities of love

We delve in to the Vintage archive to find 6 gems that talk about long-term love in all its wonderful, disappointing, uplifting, guttural and suprising guises. 

Story of a Marriage

Geir GulliksenDeborah Dawkin (Translator)

This short, intense and utterly compelling novel from Nordic Prize-nominated author Geir Gulliksen asks; How can one truly know another person? How much of what we think is love, is just a construct? Is it possible to find the great love we long for – and maintain it? In his struggle to understand how his wife could fall in love with another man after twenty happy years, Jon attempts to tell the story of the painful collapse of his marriage, but from her point of view. It is a gripping but slippery narrative of obsession and deceit, of a couple striving for happiness and freedom and intimacy, but ultimately falling apart. An extraordinary and honest portrait of marriage.

Ordinary People

Diana Evans

Bookended by Obama’s election victory and the death of Michael Jackson, Ordinary People is about two London couples over the course of one year. Beset by the responsibilities, problems, irritants, differences in opinions, hopes and longings that are the hallmarks of ‘ordinary lives’ this novel tells the story of modern relationships – of modern life – with such pinpoint accuracy that you’ll devour it like a soap opera and then realise it’s actually a masterpiece. 


Thomas and Mary: A Love Story

Tim Parks

In this a thirty-year love story in told in reverse What happens when youthful devotion has long given way to dog walking, separate bed times, and tensions over who left the fridge door open Lurching from comedy to tragedy, via dependence, cold re-examination, tenderness and betrayal, Thomas and Mary is a fiercely intimate chronicle of a marriage – capturing the offshoots of pain sent through an entire family, when the couple at its heart decide it’s all over.

The Bear Came Over the Mountain

Alice Munro 

Alice Munro writes about the complexities of love and relationships like no other. In this short story, originally published on The New Yorker in 1999 and later in the collection Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, Munro writes about a couple, Fiona and Grant, who are reluctantly separated when the  decision is made to put Fiona in a home catering for those suffering from Alzheimer's. When Grant comes to see her, he is confused and dismayed to learn that she has struck up a close relationship with a fellow patient. All of Munro’s short stories are masterfully written and this is a great place to start.

Our Story 

Rao Pingru, Nicky Harman (Translator)

Our Story is a memorial to love lost too soon. Rao Pingru was a twenty-six-year-old soldier when he first saw the beautiful Mao Meitang. One glimpse of her through a window as she put on lipstick was enough to capture Pingru’s heart. It was a moment that sparked a union that would last almost sixty years. But when Meitang passed away in 2008, Pingru realised that their marriage and all the small moments and memories of a life together, would be lost to history. And so at the age of eighty-eight, in an outpouring of love and grief, Pingru began to paint. You can listen to translator Nicky Harman talk about the book on the Vintage Podcast here.

An Exclusive Love

Johanna AdorjánAnthea Bell (Translator)

In the absence of record, Johanna Adorján imagines her glamorous and enigmatic grandparent's final day together after fifty years of marriage. They tidy their house; Vera makes a festive cake to put in the freezer and cuts fresh roses for a vase in the living room. That evening, they lie down in their bed and take their own lives. Amid the family stories and portraits by friends, she dares to give voice to their never-mentioned experiences in the Holocaust and their escape from Hungary during the uprising of 1956. A warm, biting and tender potrayal of love in the face of trauma and refusing 'until death do us part'. 

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