Friday 1 July 2011

It's Friday! Let's talk literary lovers.

It's a beautiful day here on the Isle of Wight, and I've spent the last two days in the garden with my nose in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, being lucky enough to have a four-day weekend this week. (Hurrah!)

Despite my crazy to-read list (which I swear has a life of its own and is possibly breeding without my help) I've been back in the bookshops again - quite aside from when I've been working! - and invested in four new YA books: Paranormalcy, Ballad, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour and What I Saw And How I Lied. I've made a start on Amy and Roger, but I'll give these books more attention when I've finished the Potter series.

At GReads, Ginger asked:
Mr and Mrs: Who are your favourite book couples?
Firstly, I have a confession to make: I'm not a big fan of the mushy stuff. (Shocking, I know!) For the most part, romance in books is a thing to be tolerated as long as it doesn't get in the way of the plot. So I don't tend to get excited about most couples. A lot of books are full of lovable, funny, lively or sweet characters who pair up and make each other happy. But for me, it takes more than that for me to think of them as "a couple" rather than "two characters who fall in love with each other." There has to be a special dynamic between the characters, people who complement each other. Their relationship is almost like a third character itself, where together they are stronger than each person apart. Which is not to say that either character is nothing without the other! If you've got two non-characters, then you get a non-relationship.

I think it's quite rare to find that kind of special relationship in modern teen fiction, probably because there is such a prevalence of love triangles. As I once tried to explain to a former Creepy Stalker trying to ask my advice on which of two girls he ought to ask out: if there's any question about it, if it's not obvious, then surely neither one is right to be with right now. That's my take on it, anyway.

So, who are those literary lovers whose relationship is so strong it softens even my hard heart? 

Exhibit A: Anne Shirley and Gilbert Bythe, from the Anne of Green Gables series. They meet when Anne is eleven years old, and Gilbert makes a very poor first impression when he makes fun of her red hair, causing her to smash her slate over his head. Anne doesn't speak to Gilbert for years after this insult. Yet he's always present in her mind, as an enemy and a rival in school, even though she might protest her indifference to him. They become friends eventually, however, and it's quite clear that Gilbert thinks Anne is something special. But to Anne, Gilbert is just a very dear friend - or so she thinks. But he will keep appearing in her thoughts and getting in the way when she's trying to daydream!
[Anne's "home o'dreams"] was, of course, tenanted by an ideal master, dark, proud and melancholy; but oddly enough, Gilbert Blythe persisted in hanging about too, helping her arrange pictures, lay out gardens, and accomplish sundry other tasks which a proud and melancholy hero evidently considered beneath his dignity.
Bless her, she's in love and she doesn't even realise it! The great thing about the Anne series is that it doesn't just end with the happily-ever-after of a typical "romance," but shows them through their engagement living apart, married life and onto their own children, their love staying strong through good and bad times, and even when they might not necessarily be feeling "in love."

Exhibit B is drawn from the Bard himself: Benedick and Beatrice, the original love/hate relationship from Much Ado About Nothing. Both swear that they will never marry, show disdain for the opposite sex and put all their energy into trying to score points off the other - but they are so perfectly suited. No one else can match them in wit, and I have the impression that their surface antagonism hides a real enjoyment from their banter and wordplay with each other. It doesn't take a lot, really, for them to be persuaded into love with each other. To quote C. S. Lewis: "They were so used to quarreling and making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently." Here's their first scene together, as portrayed by Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson.


Arthur and Molly Weasley - Harry Potter series. Ron's parents have been married for over twenty years and brought up seven children, and it is quite clear that Molly wears the trousers in the family. An angry Mrs Weasley is not a sight anyone likes to see up close, and Mr Weasley appears to be a typical hen-pecked husband, but the couple have a real love for each other which shines through, even when Mrs Weasley is shouting at her husband again for meddling with the muggle technology that he is so fond of. 

Sam and Sybil Vimes - Discworld novels. When we first meet Sam Vimes, Captain of the City Watch, he is an angry, cynical drunk who is going nowhere. Lady Sybil Ramkin - is a jolly-hockey-sticks type of noblewoman who dresses in her scruffiest clothes and looks after sick dragons. She is a sensible, motherly woman who is able to stand up for herself and her loved ones, maybe a toned-down version of Molly Weasley. It's clear that Sam and Sybil need each other. Vimes is too forceful a character to allow himself to be wrapped around his wife's finger, but she can firmly but gently persuade him to do things he doesn't want to, when no one else can. It is Sybil, and Vimes' love for her that saves him from the darkness inside himself.

Finally - a late addition to my favourite couples list - Faramir and Eowyn - Lord of the Rings. We don't get to see much of them together; in fact they don't even meet until near the end of the book. Eowyn is always described as a cold, strong, beautiful woman; she's full of love for her country, Rohan, as much courage and skill on the battlefield as her brother, but always she is forbidden from proving her worth because she is a woman. She is in love with warrior king Aragorn - or in love with the idea of him - and full of despair for the future. Then she meets Faramir, who does not view her with condescension, but respect and admiration for a remarkable woman. He offers her hope, and when she allows herself to fall in love with him, she is able to let down her guard without worrying about looking weak. Both know what it is to carry all of the burdens of their family and none of the glory - Faramir, though a respected soldier and wise, clever man, was always overshadowed by his elder brother Boromir. This is a marriage of equals, and the scene in which they realise their love for each other has always made me go a little bit swoony inside.


  1. I love Sam and Sybil Vimes, they go so well together with his worn boots and common attitude and her upper class duchessy values. I like Carrot and Angua too.

    I've had What I Saw And How I Lied on my wishlist for a while so I can't wait to see what you think :)

  2. I love all the Weasleys. And Anne and Gilbert. I really need to buckle down and read all of her books.

  3. Harry Potter has gotten a lot of love this hop!


  4. Not a fan of the mushy stuff either. I love the relationship between Tempe Brennan and Andrew Ryan in the series of books by Kathy Reichs - on again/off again, I've followed them since book 1 and am quite intrigued as to how things will progress.


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