Top 10 Literary Romances

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The perennial popularity of stories where star-crossed lovers struggle to be together have been with us since Adam and Eve. The following list has excluded some of the classics such as Tristan und Isolde, Orpheus and Eurydice and Joanie Loves Chaci. However, despite those omissions, it still covers some of the greatest literary romances of all time.

10. Wuthering Heights

The traditional tale of boy meets girl is given a trailer-trash twist here because Cathy and Heathcliffe are brought up as siblings giving this novel incestuous overtones. The passion in Bronte€__s writing is powerful and describes a tempestuous relationship that is analogous to the stormy Yorkshire moor setting. The story has some dark and sinister developments; with his propensity for murdering small animals and kidnapping potential partners Heathcliffe is less €__typical romantic hero€_ and more €__seriously disturbed sociopath.€_ Yet this still remains one of the most powerful love stories ever told.

Most memorable quotation: €__My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it, I€__m well aware, as winter changes the trees – my love for Heathcliffe resembles the eternal rocks beneath – a source of little visible delight, but necessary.€_

9. Gone with the Wind

Every reader knows that Rhett and Scarlet belong together. Rhett knows it €__ most of the South knows it €__ and the only person who doesn€__t know it is Scarlet O€__ Hara. To this end, Scarlet O€__Hara spends most of the novel marrying one unfortunate after another as she struggles to find elusive happiness. Margaret Mitchell€__s magnificent novel is a love story that does give a damn.

Most memorable quotation: €__After all, tomorrow is another day.€_

8. Venus in Furs

Leopold Sacher-Masoch €__ the man who gave his name to the practice of masochism, wrote this novel of a man obsessed with the pleasure of being dominated by a beautiful woman. The central character in Masoch€__s novel is willing to submit to the most outrageous indignity for his lover€__s pleasure. However, her idea of an outrageous indignity is to call him €__Gregor.€_ If nothing else, Venus in Furs shows that most men and women really need to work on those communication issues.

Most memorable quotation: €__You have taught me what love is. Your serene form of worship let me forget two thousand years.€_

7. Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen€__s novel is something like the early nineteenth century version of the Pepsi taste challenge: should Elizabeth choose Darcy or Bingley? Written with Austen€__s usual wit and ironic understanding of courtship values, Pride and Prejudice is a stately romantic journey that promotes the ideals of courtly love.

Most memorable quotation: €__It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.€_

6. The Knight€__s Tale

The first of Chaucer€__s Canterbury Tales has a knight relating the story of two men competing for the love of one woman. Nowadays the two guys would probably knock each other senseless until one of them was either dead, unconscious or had conceded that the best man won. Things haven€__t changed much since the late 1300s because that€__s exactly how Arcite and Palamon, the central characters of The Knight€__s Tale, choose to resolve the matter. The Knight€__s Tale promotes the timeless values of gallantry, courtly love and having the longest jousting pole.

Most memorable quotation: €__Felds hath eyen, and wode have eres.€_

5. Dracula

Inspiring a literary love of all things vampiric, Dracula€__s legacy has left us with Anne Rice€__s endless saga of vampire stories and Joss Whedon€__s superlative TV show: Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Our contemporary affection for creatures of the night was all borne from Bram Stoker€__s epistolatory tale of a blood-sucking fiend from the Transvaal. This chilling little novel proves: if true love can€__t conquer all, then garlic and a wooden stake can be equally effective.

Most memorable quotation: €__My revenge has just begun! I spread it over centuries and time is on my side.€_

4. Jane Eyre

The plot of this story has more holes than all of the UK€__s golf courses. Jane starts off the story as an orphan, yet the narrative ends with her inheriting wealth from her uncle and dividing the money with cousins. Rochester keeps his demented ex-wife a prisoner in the attic, yet Jane still loves him because she claims, €__€__we are precisely suited in character€__€_ At the end of the novel Jane and Rochester are together. Although he has less eyes and hands than he started with in the book, Rochester hasn€__t yet locked Jane in the attic €__ which suggests the relationship is an improvement on his previous one.

Most memorable quotation: €__I resisted all the way: a new thing for me.€_

3. The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The eponymous hero of Victor Hugo€__s novel doesn€__t have a lot going for him. Aside from being ugly, stricken by a hunchback and various forms of spinal deformity he is also French. Nevertheless, Quasimodo gives his heart to the beautiful gypsy girl Esmeralda, beginning a heart-wrenching story of unrequited love that remains powerful today €__ more than 175 years since its first publication.

Most memorable quotation: €__When a man understands the art of seeing, he can trace the spirit of an age and the features of a king even in the knocker on a door.€_

2. The Story of O

Originally written by the pseudonymous Pauline Reage, to prove that a woman was able to write an erotic novel as efficiently as any man, The Story of O is notorious for its BDSM content. However, beneath all the sexual shenanigans, The Story of O is the tale of one woman who will do anything to make her man happy €__ or anyone else at Roissy.

Most memorable quotation: €__There existed another ending to The Story of O. Seeing herself about to be left by Sir Stephen, she preferred to die. To which he gave his consent.€_

1. Romeo and Juliet

Originally entitled, Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, this tale of two feuding families and two star-crossed lovers is Shakespeare€__s finest rendition of tragic romance. Overlook the fact that Juliet is 13, making Romeo€__s interest suspect at best and Jerry Lee Lewis-like at worst. This is a love story that pushes all boundaries. Romeo and Juliet has been re-written repeatedly since Shakespeare€__s day, as a ballet (well, as several ballets) and as an opera (well, as more than two dozen operas), and repeatedly revisited in films such as West Side Story. It continues to be a perennially popular tear-jerker and audience members will certainly need a tissue close to hand €__ and not in the same way that a tissue was needed for The Story of O.

Most memorable quotation: €__O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo

by Ashley Lister

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