Novels about love are normally known as romance novels, and they belong to a genre that was developed primarily in western countries. Novels in this genre focus on love and relationships between people. Love is probably one of the most used and least understood words. To some, love is carnal or just a physical relationship or eros. To others, love is a gift from God or agape. Love may be brotherly (known as philia) or it may be storge- which is a family bonding like love between mothers, sisters, fathers etc. Love has been variously defined, and one of the definitions is that ‘it is whole hearted and willful submission of one’s rights in favor of someone else, regardless of, one deserves it or not’. What a reader expects from a great romantic novel is to see characters that are greater than life. Readers want to see an all-capable, committed, and devout hero who can do everything for the sake of the heroine. Commenting on his own romantic novel when invited to do so, Orhan Pamuk said, ‘It treats love as a human thing that happens to all of us and how we react to it’.
1. The Museum of Innocence (Turkish: Masumiyet Muzesi)
The Museum of Innocence is a novel about love written by the Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk. The novel is a detailed account of the obsessive love of a rich businessman (Kemal) for a 12 year junior lower-class shop girl named Fusun. Kemal does not take into consideration, the circumstances or interests of Fusun. Over a period of time, he sees her love in her objects and becomes a collector of the artifacts of his life with Fusun. In ‘The Museum of Innocence’ he made reference to a caged bird, butterflies and collectibles. In the end he can’t avoid treating her as a human being instead of taking her for an object. In the end Fusun is constrained to be the victim of lust of the people around her. Orhan Pamuk received the Nobel Prize in Literature. He sold over 11 million books in 60 languages. Based on the novel he built a real museum displaying the objects mentioned in the novel.
2. Pamela, or virtue Rewarded
The romantic novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded was written by Samuel Richardson in the form of series of letters. It was first published in 1740. The story is about beautiful Pamela Andrews who was a maidservant of Mr.B. After the death of her mother, Mr. B is infatuated with her but his high rank is an obstacle in proposing to her for marriage. He abducted her and kept her in one of his estates where he attempted to rape her but she resisted. She continually rejected him and the more she rejected him, the more he was inclined towards her, appreciating her intelligence. In the end she was rewarded when he proposed to her sincerely for marriage. She tries to learn mannerism and the etiquette of the upper society.
3. Pride and Prejudice
The novel Pride and Prejudice was written by Jane Austin and published in 1813. The story revolves around Elizabeth Bennet who deals with the landed gentry and issues related to them like mannerism, learning and marriage etc. Elizabeth is the second of five daughters of a country gentleman who lives in a small town, Merytown, Hertfordshire near London. Although set in 19 th century perspective, the story still attracts the modern reader. Pride and Prejudice has ranked in the top most read books of all time.
4. Gone with the Wind
Gone with the Wind is a historical, romantic novel, written by Margaret Mitchell and published for the first time by Macmillan Publishers in May 1936. Margaret Mitchell won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1937. Title of the novel has been taken from a poem by Ernest Dowson appearing in the first line of third stanza as:
‘I have forgot much, Cynara gone with the wind’¦’
When asked about the thwarted relationship of ‘Rhett and Scarlet’ at the end of ‘ she said,’ For all I know, Rhett may have found someone else who was less difficult’.
5. The Flame and the Flower
The Flame and the Flower is a romantic novel written by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and was published for the first time in 1972. The book revolutionized the historical romance genre, through detailing physical closeness between protagonists. The story is about a poor orphan, Heather Simmons, in the 19th century.She killed a man named William Court who tried to rape her. She fled away to London Dockside, where two men, taking her for a prostitute, escort her onto a ship. She gets pregnant by the captain of the ship Brandon Birmingham who is ordered by the magistrate to marry her.
6. Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina is a famous novel about love, written by the Russian Novelist Tolstoy, initially translated by Constance Garnett and published in 1877 by The Russian Messenger. The novel is about the love and passion of the protagonist; a woman whose romantic feelings are hurt and suppressed by the social constraints and her own limitations and insecurities. Immediately after its publication, few considered the book as a’ trifling romance of high life’, while others appreciated it as ‘ flawless work of art’. A list of ‘The Top Ten’ by J .Peder Zane concluded on the basis of poll of 125 contemporary authors, that ‘Anna Karenina is the greatest novel ever written’.
7. Love for Lydia
The semi biographical novel Love for Lydia was written by the British H.E. Bates and published for the first time in 1869 by Sampson Low, Son & Marston. The story is about a shy girl named Lydia Aspen, belonging to a wealthy but isolated family. They entrust her tutoring to Mr. Richardson, who was an apprentice at Evens Ford’s local newspaper, to bring information about the death of Lydia’s mother. Richardson feels proud of being introduced to the rather reserved family. He likes to escape from the factories of Evens Ford to the calm environment of Lydia’s place. With the increased interaction with Lydia, he finds, contrary to his thinking, that she was not as shy a girl as he presumed. He discovered that she was quite demanding and enjoyed captivating the men whose company she happened to have.
8. Lorna Doone
Lorna Doone is a romantic novel written by Richard Doddridge Blackmore. It was first published by Sampson Low & Low Marston in 1869. According to him, Blackmore relied upon a phonologic style for his character’s speech, emphasizing their word formation and accents. The novel is set in the 17th century Badgeworthy Water region of Exmoore in Devon and Somersetshire. John Ridd, son of a respectable farmer was killed by a member of the notorious Doone clan, which was a noble family. John falls in love with a girl named Lorna, whom he met by chance. Lorna turns out to be the grandaughter of Sir Enser Doones, the Lord of Doones. She is also destined to marry Carver Doone, the jealous heir of the Doone Valley.
9. Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Tess of the D’Urbervilles also known as ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles: a Pure Woman Faithfully Presented’ was a romantic tragedy written by Thomas Hardy and published for the first time in 1891. The original manuscript preserved in British Library shows its title as ‘Daughter of the d’Urbervilles. The stage of the novel is set in rural Wessex during the long Depression. Tess is a daughter of illiterate parents, Joan Derbyfield and John. She works for Mr. and Mrs. Crick at their dairy farm as a milkmaid. There she falls in love with Angel, who is an apprentice farmer who had come to Talbothays to learn Farm Management. The story has been filmed seven times and has also been adapted for opera and theatre.
10. Adam Bede
The novel’ Adam Bede’ written by George Elliot raised her rank among the leading novelists of the Victorian era. The novel is written in the backdrop of the 19th century. It is concerned with a stout carpenter Adam Bede who is engaged to the pretty Hetty Sorrel. Hetty was seduced by the local Squire Arthur, who abandons her. Hetty suffers and causes the death of their baby in an effort to find Arthur. She is sentenced to hang but saved by the squire and Arthur’s last minute appearance.
The romance novel is one of the most popular genres. In historical romantic novels, some historical characters are incorporated which add to the richness of the novel, but at times at the cost of historical accuracy. When movies were not so common, romance novels were a treat for the imagination of people to see the characters in action.