Karma Group’s Literary Luminary, Philip Blackwell, shares his recommendations for romantic reads of all time, many of which have been adapted into film (several times over). From timeless classics Pride and Prejudice and Anna Karenina to contemporary tales Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and One Day, cozy up on your couch, and be transported to other worlds.
1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Many writers refer to Anna Karenina as the greatest work of literature in history and with a plot that meanders through a profile of over a dozen major characters and spans an incredibly extensive-time period, it’s no surprise that this infamous novel is as broad as it is detailed. Dealing with a huge number of complex themes such as marriage, family and Russian society – its deepest examination is into the power of love and its ability to shape and change the world around us.
2. One Day by David Nicholls
15th July 1998 and Emma and Dexter meet on the night of their graduation – Emma is an idealist who wants to change the world, and Dexter is a playboy who sees it as his oyster. Spanning 20 years, this beautiful, vivid and compelling contemporary classic follows Emma and Dexter and captures the experience of a whole generation. This is a book about hope, regret and ultimately the mighty and far-reaching power of love.
3. Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
Call Me By Your Name is the story of a powerful romance that blossoms in the summer between an adolescent boy and his father’s attractive house guest. Over the course of his stay, the two form an intense, passionate and intimate bond which is broken when Oliver must return to his life and future back in America. An instant, fascinating and bold classic that captures the life-altering effects of that one first-true-love with glimmering beauty.
4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
When five sisters discover that an eligible bachelor is looking for a wife – love is very much in the air. However, it is not him, but his mysterious friend Mr Darcy who becomes the object of the girls’ fantasies. Unfortunately for him, the object of his affections is not so easily swayed as her sisters. Intelligent, witty and savvy, Elizabeth Bennet is one of literature’s most well-loved characters. But with reputation, money and egos on the line, can the two ever find real happiness together?
5. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
In 1950s Ireland prospects are slim for young women like Ellis Lacey, but when her sister organises for her to emigrate to New York, she makes the voyage of a lifetime to live in Brooklyn in a crowded lodging with several other young women. Just as she meets a man she believes she can see a future with, an unexpected tragedy calls her back to Ireland, where she must ultimately make the decision whether to stay forever in the comfort of her hometown or cross the Atlantic again for love.
6. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
On hearing his favourite Beatles track, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his old best friend Kizuki. Instantly transported back to his student days in Tokyo and a world of strange friendships, casual sex and loss – to a time when an impetuous young woman called Midori marched into his life to make him choose between the future and the past. This is a haunting book about reflection, desire and regret.
7. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart
In a small London bookshop, Elizabeth Smart found a copy of George Barker’s poetry and fell in love instantly on the page. Intent on meeting him, communication eventually grew between the two before Elizabeth found herself on her way to the States. Originally published in 1945, this amazing piece of poetic prose details the complicated, moving and ultimately tragic love affair between Elizabeth Smart and poet George Barker. This is a powerful work that still holds all of its poignancy and emotion more than six decades later – a real must-read.
8. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Winner of the women’s prize for fiction 2019, this is the story of newlyweds Celestial and Roy. He is a young executive with excellent prospects and she is an emerging artist on the brink of fame. But when Roy is imprisoned for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit; their lives are uprooted in a matter of moments and Celestial finds temporary comfort in their best-friend Andre. Following the overturning of his case, Roy returns to their life intent on resuming but life is never that easy.
9. Normal People by Sally Rooney
Connell and Marianne have grown up in the same town, but their similarities end there. In school, Connell is attractive and popular whilst Marianne is quiet, shy and reclusive. One day, the two strike up an unlikely conversation that changes the courses of their lives forever. Awkward but passionate, their relationship unfolds with mutual fascination, love and friendship as they find they cannot bear to be apart from one another.
10. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louise de Bernieres
In 1941 Captain Antonio Corelli – an Italian officer – is posted to the island of Cephallonia in Greece as part of the occupying forces. Initially, he is scorned and rejected by the locals but when he proves himself as a cultured and civilised musician he begins to be accepted. When the local doctor’s daughter, Pelagia, loses contact with her fiancé, Antonio is drawn to her beauty. But as their romance blossoms, the gravity of the situation is evident as they begin to question how a fragile love will survive the bitter and violent savagery of World War II.