Love is sometimes thought a theme too trivial to be tackled, especially by male writers, one better left to women.Louis Nowra in the Australian looks at the prejudice against love as a theme in literary fiction, noting that :
Recently a reviewer summed up many academics' distaste for Gabriel Garcia Marquez's superb novel Love in the Time of Cholera as "an attempt by the author to broaden his appeal by concentrating on the universal and soft subject of love". Irene Nemirovsky's novel Suite Francaise appalled J.M. Coetzee. In a recent issue of The New York Review of Books he criticises the author for writing about love instead of concentrating on World War II as a time of "conquest and extermination aimed at wiping certain despised people from the face of the earth and enslaving others".I remember being quite aghast that Vikram Seth's wonderful A Suitable Boy never got within a sniff of the Booker and neither did the Louis de Berniere's Captain Corelli's Mandolin (which I'm sorry, I keep waxing lyrical about!) though both went on to win the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Someone I mentioned this apparent oversight to sniffed "Yes, well of course. They are both love stories."
Therefore by implication not to be taken as seriously??
I am, I'm afraid a sucker for love stories, although not the cheesy cliched Mills & Boon happily ever after things. It only works when the reader cares deeply for both characters in the relationship.
De Berniere's book has two great big heart wrenching love stories, one gay, one straight. Seth's A Suitable Boy pits the sensible suitor against the romantic lover. My Malaysian book loving friends (college colleagues all) told me I was looking at love in a hopelessly Western way when I wanted Kabir to win Lata's hand, and that Asians were invariably more pragmatic about affairs of the heart. (Honestly, they said that!) But I was heartened to find the author agreed with me when I heard him speak in Bali.
Tan Twan Eng's The Gift of Rain is a passionate love story, but made the Booker list - perhaps because the central relationship was so subtly handled? (Some not so clued in readers actually missed it!)
Well, what great literary romances have warmed the cockles of your own hearts? And what do you think of Nowra's observation about the most significant literary love stories coming from male authors?