‘There are all kinds of love in the world, but never the same love twice’ – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The great romances of Romeo and Juliet, Cathy and Heathcliff and Lizzie Bennett and Mr Darcy are all well and good, but sometimes we want a love story that’s a little more relatable, unusual or about a cat.
This Valentine’s Day we’ll be curling up with these dark, honest and funny books, which explore the most complex of human emotions: love.
Fathers and Sons
As a boy growing up on the south coast of England, Howard Cunnell's sense of self was dominated by his father's absence.
Starting with his own childhood in the Sussex beachlands, he tells the story of the years of self-destruction that defined his young adulthood. Saved by love and responsibility, Cunnell charts his journey from anger to compassion, as his daughter Jay realizes he is a boy, and a son.
Most of all, this is a story about love - its necessity and fragility, and its unequalled capacity to enable us to be who we are.
Start reading Fathers and Sons
Pages for You
‘Each day a page, to show you that I am finding a story, the story of how we might have been together, once. Of how we could be.’
Haunted by an unspoken passion, a narrator decides to write some pages, pages comprising the story of the beginning, the blossoming, and finally the ending of a young woman's most intense love affair.
‘Sylvia Brownrigg understands that the inexperienced lover is a detective who doesn’t know which clues matter . . . mesmerising’ - Helen Dunmore, The Times
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‘So wise and funny that it begs to be quoted . . . extraordinary’ - Guardian
On the day that Ester Nilsson, a poet and a sensible person in a sensible relationship, meets renowned artist Hugo Rask, her rational world begins to unravel. Leaving her boyfriend and her past behind, Ester embarks on what is sure to be the greatest love story of her life . . . it’s a shame no one else agrees.
Bitingly funny and darkly fascinating Wilful Disregard is a story about total and desperate devotion and about how willingly we betray ourselves in the pursuit of love.
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The Guest Cat
A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo. They work at home as freelance writers. They no longer have very much to say to one another.
One day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. She is a beautiful creature. She leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. New, small joys accompany the cat; the days have more light and colour. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife; they go walking together, talk and share stories of the cat and its little ways, play in the nearby Garden. But then something happens that will change everything again.
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‘Charts the marshy territory of friendship, obsession and love, and offers no easy path’ - The Guardian
Catherine and James are as close as two friends could ever be. They meet in Dublin in the late 1990s - both recent arrivals from rural communities, coming of age in a city which is teeming - or so they are told - with new freedoms, new possibilities.
But while Catherine's horizons are expanding, James's own life is becoming a prison: as changed as the new Ireland may be, it is still not a place in which he feels able to be himself. Catherine desperately wants to help, but as life begins to take the friends in different directions, she discovers that there is a perilously fine line between helping someone and hurting them further.
A dazzling exploration of the complexities of human relationships, a novel about friendship and youth, about selfhood and sexuality.
Start reading Tender
Wish I Was Here
‘It is not so much that we are splitting up that is really worrying me, it is the fact that she keeps quoting Martin Amis.’
This fierce, funny and compassionate collection explores every facet of that most overwhelming and complicated of human emotions: love. With winning directness, Jackie Kay captures her characters’ greatest joy and greatest vulnerability, exposing the moments of tenderness, of shock, of bravery and stupidity that accompany the search for love, the discovery of love and, most of all, love’s loss.
‘Jackie Kay’s characters sing from the page’ Daily Telegraph
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Four Letters of Love
‘I never thought I would find such an honourable and well-written book about love and truth, men and women, heart and despair’ - Marianne Faithfull
Nicholas Coughlan and Isabel Gore are meant for each other – they just don't know it yet. Though each has found both heartache and joy in the wild landscape of western Ireland, their paths are yet to cross. But as God, ghosts, fate and the sheer power of true love pull Nicholas and Isabel together, so too does life threaten to tear them apart...
Magical, lyrical and deeply romantic, Four Letters of Love has moved readers the world over.
Start reading Four Letters of Love
Carol Ann Duffy
'Uninvited, the thought of you stayed too late in my head,
so I went to bed, dreaming you hard, hard, woke with your name, like tears, soft, salt, on my lips, the sound of its bright syllables like a charm, like a spell.'
A book-length love poem, and a moving act of personal testimony. What sets these poems apart is Duffy’s refusal to simplify the contradictions and transformations of love – infatuation, longing, passion, commitment, rancour, separation and grief.
Instead, Rapture is a map of real love, in all its churning complexity, showing us that a song can be made of even the most painful episodes in our lives.
‘Essential reading for the broken-hearted of all ages’ – Guardian
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Home is where the heart is, and Kate thinks a lot about making people feel at home. She works for a global hotel corporation. She has two young children, and a husband of ten years.
Now, both Kate's home and her heart are about to implode: she has discovered a series of emails from her husband Adam to another woman. Probing for answers, she realizes this not the worst possible discovery - in fact, it is only the beginning.
Told with warmth and lightness, even as it also mines real depths of sorrow, Lover is a novel about the hand that life can deal you, and how to play it with grace.
Start reading Lover now
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