Happy Valentine's Day!
Love is in the air at the library. Literally, it is hanging from the ceiling in the form of candy-colored hearts printed with sweet messages using a font complete tiny hearts to dot the i’s. You see, Holley and I went a little overboard for our Valentine’s Day display because we got so EXCITED about the theme - famous couples! Holley assembled an intriguing array of books featuring the history and fiction’s most-loved love stories such as Napoleon and Josephine, Scarlett and Rhett, and Tristan and Isolde.
But to draw attention to some lesser known literary couples, I want to tell you about two stories whose characters, for me, have become synonymous with the joys and trials of true love.
The sleepy French provincial village of Sainte-Agathe in The Lost Estate by Alain-Fournier wakes up with the arrival of charismatic seventeen year old Augustin Meaulnes. Le Grand Meaulnes, as the other schoolchildren call him, gets lost in the countryside for three days and happens upon a decripet but enchanting chateau. There, in the midst of a whirling betrothal celebration, he meets the beautiful sister of the groom, Yvonne de Galais. When Meaulnes tries to return to the chateau, he cannot find the way, setting him off on a dream-like quest for his lost love. Meaulnes’ journey is made all the more romantic by the fact that Yvonne de Galais is based on the real-life Yvonne de Quievrecourt, a young lady whom Alain-Fournier met by chance on Seine riverbank. He waited for her at the same place the next day and the next and immortalized her on the page as Meaulnes’ elusive Yvonne de Galais. Tragically, Alain-Fournier would die in World War I a year after the publication of this, his only finished novel.
Part one of Sigrid Undset's intimate yet sweeping Kristin Lavrandatter saga set in medieval Norway, is the most romantic. In The Wreath, we are introduced to the young Kristin. She is devoted to her father, obedient to religion, and delighted by everyday life on her family’s expansive farm in rural Norway. While a child, Kristin’s parents arranged for her to marry the affable Simon Darre as an advantageous match for the estate. But before her marriage occurs, teenaged Kristin meets the dashing but scandal-ridden Erlend Nikulausson. Overcome by her intense attraction to Erlend, Kristin struggles with how to reconcile the disparate roles of dutiful daughter and passionate lover of Erlend. The arc of Kristin’s timeless story is continued in the trilogy’s next two installments.
Stop by the second floor to check out the previous titles and much more including:
Heloise and Abelard: A New Biography by James Burge includes insights from recently discovered love letters between the philosopher and his intelligent student.
Helen of Troy by Bettany Hughes casts new light in the biography of the owner of the face that launched a thousand ships.
Twilight of Avalon by Anna Elliott - Elliott returns to the earliest versions of the Tristan and Isolde myth to craft a beautiful tale of the two lovers.
The Loves of Charles II by Jean Plaidy is an intriguing novel by one of England's foremost historical novelists
The Woman He Loved by Ralph G. Martin heavily researched the The Duke and Duchess of Windsor as individuals and as a couple to craft this biography of what is surely one of the world's most talked about love affairs of the 20th century.
Abigail and John: a Portrait of a Marriage by Edith B. Gelles presents the fullest examination to date of the fifty-four year marriage between two of the nation's most revered figures.
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton - Published in 1920, Wharton's masterpiece critiques the mores of late 19th century through the forbidden love of Newland Archer and the Countess Ellen Olesnka, members of New York City society's upper echelons.
Go Down Together: the True Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn is a detailed account of the infamous couple.
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett - There has never been a more compatible literary match than Nick and Nora Charles whose witty banter and glamorous lifestyle propel this detective story into a classic.
The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz is the story of the first-nonaristocratic woman to marry into Japan's imperial family.