Sunday, November 25, 2012

Five notable books on love in literature

Ella Berthoud is a bibliotherapist – she recommends books as a form of therapy and prescribes fiction for life’s ailments.

With The Browser's Alec Ash, Berthoud discussed five top books on love, including:
The Enchanted April
by Elizabeth von Arnim

Let’s get stuck into some of those books. Beginning with The Enchanted April.

At the beginning of this book, two women in the 1920s are in a club in Hampstead [London] on a rainy day. They see a newspaper advert: “To those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine. Small medieval Italian castle to be let for the month of April.” Both go off into a reverie, and talk themselves into squandering their nest eggs on a month in this castle. They find two other people to join them – a deeply beautiful heiress called Lady Caroline, and a really annoying older woman.

So off they go to this beautiful castle in Italy, leaving their husbands behind. They all go through different transformations as the castle works its magic on their souls. And they write to their husbands, saying they must come too. One of the husbands is a writer of terrible romantic fiction, and actually comes out there on a totally different mission – to seduce Lady Caroline. But he falls back in love with his wife instead.

It’s about love rediscovered at a later age?

Yes. If it was written now these women would all be in their late forties, but because it was written in 1922 they’re in their thirties – terribly middle-aged and pastured. They rediscover and rekindle their love for their husbands.

So would you prescribe this book to a married man or woman who feels the romance has dwindled?

That’s exactly the kind of person I would recommend this book to. It gives you renewed hope and faith in a longterm relationship. I would say: Read this book to remember the joy of falling in love with your partner, because that is what happens to these people.

Obviously it’s a fairy tale situation and not very realistic – most of us can’t afford to go to a castle in Italy for a month. But the realism is there underneath, because what the women feel for their absent husbands and vice versa is exactly what people feel now. That we don’t understand or love each other any more. That we don’t seem to have anything in common, or spend any time together. All these things are reawakened in this novel by the beauty of the surroundings, and they see the positives in each other again. It’s a very happy, healing, uplifting tale.

You need a catalyst to relight the spark.

Read about another book Berthoud tagged at The Browser.

--Marshal Zeringue