Ahh, Valentine's Day - love is in the air. Or, if you're single, maybe you're already simmering with cynicism and disdain. In that case, the most twisted love stories in literature are on hand to help you feel smugly unattached.
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier: Disturbing Gothic Enigma
"Someday, somehow, I would repay my cousin Rachel." Ambrose has been like a father to Philip, raising him single-handedly ever since the death of his parents. They live undisturbed on their Cornish estate, surrounded entirely by men - not even a female housekeeper. So when Ambrose travels abroad for his health, only to send word he has fallen in love and married, it is understandable for Philip to be jealous. His feelings of hatred towards this woman only increase when Ambrose dies in Italy, with his new wife by his side. Philip is left the grand estate, but no chance to say goodbye. However, this bitterness soon alleviates upon meeting Ambrose's widow, the beautiful and enigmatic Rachel. He may be falling for her. And that may be exactly what she wants.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: Encompassing Emotional Epic
Rating: 5 stars
Synopsis: Donna Tartt's masterpiece The Goldfinch follows the story of Theo. Aside from his recently-gone-AWOL father, Theo is a relatively normal New York schoolboy. That is until his life is irrevocably shattered at the age of thirteen when he loses his mother in a suspected terrorist attack at a museum.
As a cast of wayward characters makes their way into and out of Theo's life, he clings to the art his mother loved as a way of maintaining a connection with her. However, this remnant of stability will also be shaken when the art he treasures so much draws Theo into a spiral of criminal activity.
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin: Intense, Rhetorically Charged Love Story
Rating: 5 stars
Synopsis: For childhood best friends Tish and Fonny, becoming a couple in adulthood seems like the easiest, most natural thing in the world. Until Fonny is jailed for a rape he never committed, just before Tish announces she is pregnant with his baby. Two families must cling to each other in the turbulent struggle for justice that ensues against the institutional racism of America.
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley: Thought-Provoking Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis: Sarah and her sister Ruth are among the first. The first black students to attend formerly all-white Jefferson High School. The first to endure protests by white students against integration. The first to read bitter articles in the school magazine denying them their right to be there.
When the author of these articles, Linda Hairston, steps between Ruth and a group of bullies, Sarah is one of the only witnesses. Both Sarah and Linda find something has changed in them, as everything they thought they knew about each other is overturned...
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: Fantasy World to Sink Into and Savour
Les Cirque des Reves, or Circus of Dreams, can only be entered between sunset and sunrise. Until one evening when it will disappear as suddenly as it arrived, only to reappear in another city, another country. The acts are familiar - acrobats, fortune tellers, mirror mazes, illusionists - but not as they have been seen before.
The performers seem to belong to another world, one where the boundaries of reality widen. When dark occurrences begin to blight the circus, an unprecedented force at its centre is finally revealed to them.
Because the circus is not the event - it is only the venue...
Questioning the Canon: Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea
Questioning the Canon is a new feature in which I hope to bring to light lesser-known books about a certain issue, which can be read alongside or instead of infamous 'classics'.
People are starting to discuss whether the authors we hold up as cultural icons - Shakespeare, Dickens, Wordsworth - should be accompanied by previously marginalised writers. Our idea of what constitutes 'great literature' is becoming broader.
This can only be a good thing, as it means more diversity and social representation in what we read!
Circe by Madeline Miller: Entrancing, Empowering Adaptation of Ancient Greek Myth
Circe, daughter of Helios, is born with the voice of a mortal without the glow of a god. Shunned by her nymph family, she observes from a distance the gods' cruelty and greed. When a defiant act of compassion leads to island exile, it is here that Circe finds the freedom to shape a self outside of her divinity.
More than a goddess, she is Circe, witch of Aiaia...
Anuanna by Madeline McQueen: Fun, Light-Hearted Fantasy Read
When Anna starts to hear strange voices that no-one else can, at first she thinks she is going insane. However, the cause starts to emerge after she connects these voices with her family pets...
Anna has the ability to communicate with animals - she is a member of a race with powerful gifts. Realising them will require her to navigate an entire world she could never even have imagined.
Archive Nostalgia: Half of the Human Race by Anthony Quinn
Rating: 4 stars
Category: Historical, Romance
Synopsis: Constance is a suffragette with ambitions to become a surgeon and a deep aversion to following her sister’s footsteps into domesticity. Will is the rising star of county cricket, whose values are far more ‘traditional’. When the two fall in love, each finds their views of the world irrevocably shaken at their foundations. However, with war on the horizon and British society clinging to the ideals that are about to be torn apart, will their affection be able to overcome the gulf of circumstance that separates them?