Something terrible has been happening, readers.
My icy cold unromantic heart is melting!
Growing up, I never had any patience for romance. I was the stoniest little ice maiden to ever be unimpressed by suave words. I tested myself against all the major poets and authors, and none could break my impenetrable, unromantic shield.
Jane Austen: You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope...I have loved none but you.
10-year-old Allison: BORing!
Charles Dickens: And yet I have had the weakness, and have still the weakness, to wish you to know with what a sudden mastery you kindled me, heap of ashes that I am, into fire.
13-year-old Allison: Hon, she is so not worth it.
Shakespeare: Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs.
16-year-old Allison: Points for trying. But only because you’re Shakespeare.
But 17-year-old Allison has undergone some frightening emotional changes that leave her younger selves shaking their heads with disgust.
Dorothy L. Sayers: Placet.
17-year-old Allison: WAAAAAAH!!!! Oh, that is so beautiful! *sniffs*
16-year-old Allison: Are you kidding me?
(If you wish to understand this rather ambiguous Dorothy L. Sayers quote, you’ll need to read her Lord Peter Wimsey series, beginning with Whose Body?)
It’s happened, everyone. The thing my friends have been threatening me with every time I scoff during a romantic comedy.
I’ve developed a romantic soul.
And that means… I’m writing a post on my favorite literary couples! (By all rights, I should do this in February. But there are much more important things to celebrate in February. Such as my birthday.)
While attempting to write the list, however, I realized that definitely selecting my favorites is incredibly difficult. So instead I have pinpointed the three traits that I value in literary couples, with examples.
This, readers, is vitally important. There must be a squee-factor at some point in the proceedings, or the romance isn’t worth reading at all! The most adorable couple of all time is, I believe, Eugenides and his lady from Megan Whalen Turner’s the Queen’s Thief series (ha! you thought I would give away her name… never!). They are, against all odds, sweet and loving, even when they must hide their love in the face of adversity. I especially love how they retain their individual agendas and personalities and still disagree, often violently. It’s much more realistic that way. (Runner up: Sophie and her significant other from Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle.)
I love when books raise deep questions on relationships. And when it comes to questioning their relationship, Lord Peter Wimsey and the mysterious Lady X take the cake! (From the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, by Dorothy L. Sayers). At least four books are devoted to Lady X as she rejects Lord Peter’s affections. Characters who are clearly meant for each other having angst-ridden relationship issues normally drive me insane. But in these books, the characters actually think about their relationship. They question their compatibility. And they raise haunting, thought-provoking questions. (Runner up: Polly and her beau from Diana Wynne Jones’s Fire and Hemlock. Sorry, Mrs. Jones! You’re constantly the runner up!)
This trait, I feel, is often glossed over in literature. Sure they can have passionate, love-struck soliloquies… but can they also love and defend and put up with each other for the rest of their lives? Andromache and Hector, from Homer’s The Illiad, absolutely can. Like all Greek heroes, they’re dramatic, adventurous, and exciting—but they’re also devoted to each other. She spins him a cloak and gives him military advice. He adores their son (one of the many traits that earned him a spot in my Favorite Heroes post). Sure, their relationship has its rough spots—like the Siege of Troy. But their endless patience will keep their love strong. (Only not really, because like all Greek heroes, they have a tragic ending.) (Runner up: Moist von Lipwig and his lady from Going Postal, by Sir Terry Pratchett.)
So there you are, readers: my favorite literary couples and why. Have you read of any of these? Did I miss any great ones?
Reminder: I'll be out of town a lot this summer, so I may be slow responding to comments. It doesn't mean I don't love you!