Tag: Jane Austen

What makes a great love story?

What makes a great love story?

Love in all its forms, we crave it, need it. But romantic love is the ultimate wish for most of us. Whether we have romance in our lives or not, women enjoy reading romance novels or watching romance unfold on screen. Men do too, apparently, though to a lesser extent and they prefer a bit of violence and or nudity thrown it to spice it up. Love Actually (2003), the movie, was an all-time block buster showcasing romantic love in its many forms. Something for everyone.

girls hands holding copy of wuthering heights
top love stories ever

In 2007, Richard Kingsbury, channel head of UKTV Drama, commissioned a study to nominate the twenty top love stories ever written. 2,000 readers participated from (I presume) Britain. The details on the actual polling are absent as with many polls. So, the age, gender and demographics are not easy to find. I tried.

The findings were interesting to me back then in 2007, even though I was not yet an author. I saved the article about Kingsley’s survey for future reference. You can read it by following this link.

The List

Below is Kingsley’s list;

The top 20 Love Stories ever.

1 Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë, 1847

2 Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813

3 Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare, 1597

4 Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, 1847

5 Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936

6 The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje, 1992

7 Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier, 1938

8 Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, 1957

9 Lady Chatterley’s Lover, DH Lawrence, 1928

10 Far from The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy, 1874

11 My Fair Lady, Alan Jay Lerner, 1956

12 The African Queen, CS Forester, 1935

13 The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

14 Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen, 1811

15 The Way We Were, Arthur Laurents, 1972

16 War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, 1865

17 Frenchman’s Creek, Daphne du Maurier, 1942

18 Persuasion, Jane Austen, 1818

19 Take a Girl Like You, Kingsley Amis, 1960

20 Daniel Deronda, George Eliot, 1876

This list honours the classic romance novelists of the past. As a teenage fan of the works of  Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and the Bronte Sisters, I appreciate this list. I’ve read all the titles, watched the film versions and love them all. For a tragic romantic, like me, they all deliver the required fix. So, what is the magical combination that makes a romance memorable and captivating?

The Love Formula. What is It?

Do we need a happy ending, beauty, wealth, magnificent mansions for our heroes and heroines?

The answer is ‘no’. Scroll down the list and you will see why that is not necessary at all. In fact, the harder it is for the two lovers to be together, the better the rating. Catherine and Heathcliff, Romeo and Juliet, Darcy and Elizabeth, our top three couples all had barriers to their love. Family, class, wealth, and religion can all make love forbidden. And when something is forbidden, don’t we want it even more?

Great Passion

All the novels capture great passion that defies societal taboos and conventions. Love risks all to be with the other. True love is finding one’s soul mate and no two lovers define that ‘oneness’ as Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff in the winning title. The love story in Wuthering Heights emerges from the vast desolation of the moors. It is a brooding, dark novel, tragic but also stunning in its depth of passion. Heathcliff as our hero is both cruel and aloof, the Byronian hero, yet beneath the surface his passion for Catherine runs hot. These two share a love beyond the grave. Their love is more than a physical love. It is metaphysical, almost religious in nature. It is everlasting.

Romeo and Juliet Love

The same can be said of Romeo and Juliet. They die for each other. Another  young love, another tragic ending. But what beauty in the language of Shakespeare, as he writes of such love. “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the East and Juliet is the sun!” They worship each other as do Catherine and Heathcliff. Don’t we all wish that for ourselves? A love that defies all obstacles and transcends time.

True Loves Never Runs Smooth

As you can see by scrolling down the list, love stories, unlike fairytales, don’t have to end happily ever after. Some do. Elizabeth and Darcy eventually settle their misunderstandings and ride off into the sunset at the end of Pride and Prejudice. Jane Eyre marries her Mr. Rochester and Sense and Sensibility offers a happy resolution of matters as well. But not without complication, barriers, and torment.

Too easy, and love stories are boring. Boy meets girl followed by an easy path to marriage and happiness. No fun there. This love formula is not what we want in book and film. Shakespeare wrote, ‘the course of true love never did run smooth.’ (Midsummer Night’s Dream. ) The plot of this play is classically riddled with a myriad of misunderstandings, false identities and trickeries before the couples settle with their intended.

Gone With the Wind Love

In Gone with the Wind, we witness another love affair, beset by difficulty even after marriage. Rhett Butler declares to his wife, Scarlett, in the final lines, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.’ How was that love story to end? We will never know. Margaret Mitchell did not write the sequel.

The English Patient, a poignant sweeping drama, a beautiful film, also features a tearjerker ending. Great love can be so great that it is destructive. I could go on down the list. But don’t worry, I won’t.

Not Always Happy Endings

Suffice it to say, that these novels, most transformed into films, capture our hearts not because of ‘happily ever afters’,  but because of the passionate love the characters have for each other. Basically, we all want that passion, we want to experience it again and again through film and reading maybe because our own lives have lost the passion. We want to experience the full gamut of emotions, relive it or know it if it never came our way.

Why Do We Love Love Stories?

As well as nominating their top romances Kingsley’s participants commented on why they read romantic novels.

Forty per cent of women read romantic novels to feel better, 15% for nostalgic reasons and 10% to compensate for their own less highly-coloured love lives. This makes total sense. Romance novels are escapism from our own lack-lustre lives. All books are of course, but crime novels and films do not have the same feel-good effect unless you are clever enough to solve the crime before the last chapter.

Historical Dramas Sell

Richard Kingsbury says, “We find that romantic drama is a very powerful kind of escapism for our viewers, and well-made costume dramas like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre have an extra dimension to them. Viewers get caught up in the beauty and language of the period.” This interest in other people’s passions and history still resonates today with the popularity of the Bridgerton period dramas based on Julia Quinn’s novels.

I Wish You Love

Book, film, real life, I wish you love in your life in whatever form you take it.. It is the feel-good emotion that nurtures above all others. Women need nurture. Treat yourself to some love today!

Joni Scott has written three novels and award winning short stories. She co-hosts a women’s blog; Whisperingencouragement.com and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com

 

 

Development Of The English Novel in the 19th Century

Development Of The English Novel in the 19th Century

Definition and Origin of the Novel

The term novel is a contraction of the Italian word, ‘novella’ (meaning ‘new, innovative’), The novella was a short story of light and entertaining nature. It was perhaps invented as an antidote to the epic poems of earlier days. It is interesting that the novel is a larger serving of prose than the original novella. Early novels usually took a narrative form and proceeded to tell the tale in chronological order. Literary scholars date the novel in its earliest form to Samuel Johnson’s Pamela of 1740. Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory in 1485 is considered an experimental form. Such early work did not concentrate on the individual but employed stereotypical characters. The novel focused more on driving the narrative with accompanying moral lessons for the reader than entertaining the reader. These ‘novels’ were long winded, lacked humour and preached moral rectitude to their audience. They are hard for the modern reader to digest. But the novel shows development within the nineteenth century. We can follow its progress by reference to famous writers, both male and female.

Frankenstein, the First Science Fiction

In 1818, Mary Shelley, a young woman of amazing talent and possessing a vivid imagination, wrote the Gothic novel, Frankenstein. The tale started out as a short story prompted by a late-night dare by fireside companions to each write ghost stories. Her companions were her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, both influential Romantic poets. But Mary’s story aced theirs and its character Frankenstein became legendary. Many do not realize that Frankenstein was the doctor who created the manufactured monster not the name of the monster himself. Apart from its unique character and plot, Frankenstein has a deep message about life, death and man versus Nature. The work is seen as the precursor to science fiction, an unknown genre at the time but one French author, Jules Verne would later embrace in his fantastical stories. This is a significant development of the novel namely the creation of a new genre.

Jane Austen and Real Characters

Jumping forward to a familiar name and a change in the style of the novel genre we come to the works of Jane Austen (1775-1817). Her six novels, many now adapted to film, are refreshing in their strong female characters and depiction of real life on the home front. Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy are well known characters even to non-Austen fans. Though the stories lack rollicking adventure and Gothic tragedy, really nothing more than elopements and love triangles, they excel in irony, humour and accurate observation of real people. Austen’s character driven novels paved the way for The Bronte sisters who emerged as a brilliant trio of writers some thirty years later. The break away from stereotypes towards real characters is a development in the novel as an art form.

The Bronte Sisters and Romantic Passion

These young women who all died young, Anne at 29, Emily at 30 and Charlotte at 39, never travelled beyond Yorkshire yet penned sweeping passionate novels that startled the reading public at the time. Even today, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wuthering Heights by Emily, rate in the top romance novels of all time. These works challenge all the previous overly polite fiction populated by swooning virgins and swashbuckling heroes.

Dickens and Social Commentary

Enter Dickens in the 19th century who creates great characters but again tends towards long winded narration. I recall still the ordeal of reading Bleak House for my final year of school. Nevertheless Dickens works served as social commentary akin to the Romanticism writings of poets like William Blake and Wordsworth. Additionally no one had to read the whole Dickens book at one sitting as like many books of the time it emerged as a periodical.

Mary Ann Evans and Moral Conflict

Another notable female author, Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880) wrote under the pen name of George Eliot and created extraordinary moral conflicts for her characters in the novels, Mill on the Floss and Silas Marner. Her work shows great intellect and a mastery of the tragic element and represents another development in the novel.

Thomas Hardy and Tragedy

This paved the way for Thomas Hardy and his tragic novels of which he wrote many. He concentrated his stories in Wessex, a place term he invented. His tragedies are all set in the countryside and mostly focus on the poor and hard done by people of the working class. They present a strong discourse of man battling Fate and are almost reminiscent of the great tragedies of Shakespeare. The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge and especially Tess of the D’Urbervilles leave a lasting impact. The latter affected me so much as a teenager that I named my daughter Tess! She is not overly impressed that her bookworm mother named her after a tragic heroine but concedes it is a lovely name.

Next week, Novels of the early 20th century. My blogs are now available as audible minipodcasts on Podbean in the History section under Whispers through Time, the same title as my historical fiction novel.

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