Most people either love or hate Valentine’s Day. As a child I loved it, as a teen and young adult it was either anxiety-ridden or just plain depressing, and as a happily married woman and mom of three young children, I love it again.
I also appreciate a good love story. And since it is the month of St. Valentine, I thought I’d share some of my favorite love stories with you. I was going to just do books, and then I thought about some great movies.
The best part? It doesn’t matter if you have a significant other or not. You can read the book with someone or alone. You can watch the movies with some friends and a glass of wine. Just enjoy a day celebrating love, because we need more of it in this world.
So, I’ve narrowed it down to my three favorite classic books and my three favorite classic movies.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This is my favorite book of all time and I usually read it at least once a year. The dashing, wealthy, and extremely arrogant Mr. Darcy and the quick-witted, intelligent Elizabeth Bennett are one of the most famous couples in literature. In a time when a woman of Elizabeth’s social station’s only job was to get married to a suitable genetleman, this is a fascinating look into society. And it’s funny! You get used to the language after a few pages, so don’t get discouraged. Jane Austen is also the queen of happy endings, so if you want a feel-good story, this is perfect.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This is the first line of the book. As soon as I read this I put the book down and thought about it for about for a few minutes. Tolstoy was right! Think about it.
The lovely Anna Karenina is fated to a boring marriage and falls in love with the dashing Count Vronksy. She didn’t mind leaving her husband so much, but leaving her son was unbearable.
I can’t help but think of the gossip magazine covers in the grocery store that glorify divorce and new romances. The love affair between Anna and Count Vronksy starts off very exciting. Her marriage is boring and her husband is cold, and Vronsky seems to be everything her husband is not. Is it true love? Should she have stayed with her husband? I love the complexity of this book, and I can’t help but feel sorry for the lost and tragic Anna Karenina.
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Rhett Butler is the ultimate bad boy, and I blame this story for some poor dating choices in my youth, since I read this book in high school. Scarlett O’Hara is my favorite character in literature, not because she is a good person, I don’t think she is, but because she is a survivor and she doesn’t let pesky things like morals and society’s standards stand in the way of doing what is best for her. It’s an epic tale set during the most turbulent time in American history since The Revolution. This Pulitzer Prize winner begins on the eve of the Civil War and takes you through Reconstruction. Frankly, my dear, you must read it.
“Out of all the gin joints, in the world, and she had to walk into mine.” Sigh. Poor Rick. My husband and I went to watch this together at The Orpheum theatre in Memphis several years ago. It’s been one of my favorite movies since. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman play star-crossed lovers Rick and Ilsa that are both trying to survive during World War II. The music is wonderful, the story is even better, and you won’t believe how many sayings from the movie have made it into the modern American lexicon. I can watch this one over and over.
An Affair to Remember (1957)
I cry at every different version I see of ether movie, but this is my favorite. A man and woman, played by Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, are each engaged to other people; but during a cruise from Europe to New York, they fall in love. Both agree to get their engagements, get their affairs in order and meet on the top of the empire State Building in six months, but things don’t go as planned. I dare you to watch this without crying. There is also a version with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening called “Love Affair” that’s equally tear-jerking.
The Painted Veil (2006)
I watched this movie so long ago I almost forgot about it. But while I was coming up with my favorite love stories, I saw this title and instantly remembered how much I loved this movie. It’s based on the 1925 novel by W. Somerset Maugham (that I haven’t read, but it’s now on my list!) It doesn’t start off well for the married couple; he loves her, she doesn’t love him. She has an affair. He finds out. But it’s what happens after this that makes this a beautiful story. The acting is brilliant and brings this story to life. Have tissue handy.