Valentine’s Day is a funny thing. It’s a bit like New Year’s Eve – you have the sense that everyone else is doing something more glamorous and exciting than you, and an atmosphere of slight panic and dread can prevail over the whole affair. Like many, I’m a total sucker for all things Valentine’s – gaudy red roses outside the tube station, the red-and-pink abandon of Paperchase windows, those little foil-wrapped chocolate hearts that always taste slightly off… The problem is, the day doesn’t always deliver on its promise. Your partner forgets. The card is unmistakably the work of a well-meaning friend – or worse, your mum. The restaurant is fully booked. You got dumped – via Twitter – the previous afternoon.
So why not, this February 14th, focus on a love that’s reliable, eternal and unfailingly passionate? That’s right – I’m talking about books. For as someone once said, book lovers never go to bed alone…
And when you’re in love, it’s hard not to talk about it, with your friends, family, even perfect strangers. That’s just what some Headliners are going to do here – sharing with you their Valentine’s reads. The blog equivalent, if you like, of shouting it from the rooftops.
The Maple Stories by John Updike
For many who read John Updike’s brilliant The Maples Stories, they may not seem to be synonymous with the usual themes of Valentine’s Day. Updike’s vivid prose brings to life the intricacies of relationships, their delights as well as imperfections. His descriptions of the most mundane looks or gestures are visceral and steeped in meaning. The marriage of Richard and Joan Maple is riddled with jealousy and deceit and they’re constantly at each others throats. Their relationship is far from flawless but their love is undeniably real. There’s a perpetual tie of appreciation that binds them – despite the numerous debauched affairs and heated arguments. Love conquers all.
Veronique Norton, Publicity
Cross Stitch by Diana Galbadon
Cross Stitch is one of my all-time favourite books. As an avid reader of romantic fiction I like nothing better than to be swept away by a tale of passion and Cross Stitch is the perfect romantic epic. At the beginning of the novel Claire Randall walks through a stone circle in the Highlands and finds she has travelled back in time to 1743, into the arms of Jamie Fraser, a gallant and courageous warrior (lucky her!). What follows is an incredible love story, played out against a backdrop of violence, danger and superstition in Jacobite Scotland. It’s an unforgettable, irresistible read. After all, what could be more romantic than travelling through time to be with the one you love?
Kate Byrne, Editorial
Katherine by Anya Seton
For pure, indulgent romance it has to be Anya Seton’s Katherine. Seton transports the reader to the sparkling Plantagenet court and follows the life-long affair between John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford, with enough history to stop it becoming completely soppy. Alternatively, if I’m sick of all the teddies and hearts and roses at the supermarket checkout, I’ll rebel by reading something totally un-pink – this year I’m thinking maybe Chavs by Owen Jones.
Laura Esslemont, Production
The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
On the face of it, a Thomas Hardy novel might not be an absolute banker of a gift for someone on Valentine’s Day. In some ways they’d probably be quite within their rights to dump you on the spot, dropping the book on your toes as they leave. In fact, after 350 pages of eye-wateringly small text, the most dramatic thing that happens is an old woman getting bitten by a small snake. But (as beardy lecturers told me, so it must be true), it is an absolute simmering cauldron of illicit affairs, dramatic twists of fate, undelivered letters, dropped-and-picked-up gloves and conventions-of-society-getting-in-the-way-of-love. And hardly any hyphens.
Richard Roper, Editorial
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
My perfect, if bittersweet, Valentine’s Day read has to be The Time Traveller’s Wife, which is about the strange and extraordinary relationship between Henry and Clare. The story jumps backwards and forwards in time throughout and you follow every twist and turn in their lives. It’s a book about intense love, but also about the imperfections of love. Henry and Clare are easy to identify with and you feel their passions and emotions to the very last page.
Sarah Badhan, Production
The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn
In my opinion, Valentine’s Day is all about The Back-up Plan. My hope is that I will be in a mood where I can appreciate the beauty of a book like Judith Kinghorn’s The Last Summer. It’s full of unrequited love, men in uniform and events that take you through an enjoyable whirlwind of emotions. However, if all I get is a rich tea biscuit from my own secret stash, I’m going to opt for something that is less likely to make me spontaneously burst into tears. Something like Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman. Not a typical Valentine’s Day read, but a book to make you glad you aren’t dating anyone, at least not anyone who might turn out to be a psycho-maniac killer.
Holly McCulloch, Editorial
Lucy Foley, Editorial