Ahhhhh, Valentine’s Day – a date in February that seems to elicit extreme reactions. You either LOVE it or cringe at the very thought. Since we would never dream of telling you how to react to this annual event, instead we thought we’d recommend what to read if you’re searching for some romantic prose.
Our twist: a focus on love stories either inspired by or written by the ultimate cupid-with-a-quill, the Bard himself, William Shakespeare. The publication dates of the books span a period of more than 400 years – from 1596 to 2011- but all are relevant and fresh and most are full of fun. One, upon reading, you might question how we call it a love story, but we stand by this classification.
So here we go, Shakespeare-inspired love stories for Valentine’s Day. We hope you like them, whether you’re a fan of Valentine’s Day or not. Here at the Book Jam we like to say, “If books be the music of love, read on”.
1) For those of you who know that the back story for a love affair is often extremely interesting:
Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike (2000). Yes, Hamlet, that tortured prince receives a lot of time in High School and College English Lit classes, but did you ever think about his story from the perspective of his mother and her lover/second husband? Well luckily for us, John Updike did. The result is a well written novel that forces you to rethink the Bard’s popular tale of a Danish Prince and his doomed lover Ophelia. This is different from most of Mr. Updike’s novels – try it, you might love it. ~ Lisa Christie
2) For those of you finding love later in life, with all the complications that brings:
Julie and Romeo (2001) by Jeanne Ray (2001). We both find this a funny, sexy, and endearingly charming book. Each of us read it years ago thinking it would make the perfect mother-in-law or mother’s gift. Funny thing though, in trying to pick a book for women older than ourselves, we actually found a book that appealed to us and have since given or recommended it to many readers, regardless of their age. In this twist on Romeo and Juliet, Julie, a divorced “60 something” woman, meets Romeo a widower and well, they fall in love. The conflict? Their families have feuded with each other for years and their kids truly truly hate the idea of their parents dating. The humor? What they go through to actually “date”. Is this something you would discuss in a English Lit Class? Probably not, but read it anyway and enjoy. Great for a quick Sunday read, the beach or a carry-on bag. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
3) For those of you whose love life needs a bit of fantasy and humor and wonderful prose:
Midsummer Nights Dream by Shakespeare (1596). One by the Bard himself. Great language, humorous and ridiculous plot twists as Lysander, Demetrius, Helena and Hermia try to find their true loves. Throw in a Fairy Queen and King who are feuding and a mischievous fairy named Puck and well, you have all the makings of a truly romantic comedy. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
4) For those looking for a smart but light modern day romp through grown-up sisterly love, its requisite bickering, and some budding romance – with a lot of Shakespearean references thrown in:
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (2011). While the title refers to the sisters in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, this story is actually about three very modern-day siblings, Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia (who grew up with a Shakesperean professor for a father, hence their names). The tale begins with them all returning home to Ohio from their rather messy adult lives to help care for their ailing mother. Their uncanny ability to qoute the Bard at every twist and turn makes for fun, smart dialogue but it is their very present day struggles that make this story relevant. There is some romance, as promised in the intoduction to this post. But most of all it is the sisters love for and understanding of each other that makes this book endearing. ~Lisa Cadow