Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Rachel's Favourite Romances

Soon it shall be Valentine's Day and soon this Romantic will celebrate her birthday ( which, coincidentally, is also on Valentine's Day). I wanted to share some love.... some wonderful, chocolatey, delicious, cheeks-burning, breath-catching, finger-tingling love... in all of its beautiful literary and literary adaptation form.....My countdown of my top 10 romances of all-time leading to my NO. 1 FAVOURITE

10.) Anne and Gilbert: Anne of Green Gables., etc., L. M. Montgomery
I include them because they were my first introduction to romance as a child. That infamous kissing scene on the bridge at the end of the miniseries was, in all of its dusty purpled light, my first realization of a boy and girl falling in love. I love stories of unrequited love and of passionate persistence: both of which Gilbert epitomizes in his steadfast patience for Anne.  Like all of Montgomery’s love stories, she champions the imaginative, creative and eccentric woman. Gil loves Anne because she is different: thus validating so many of us ---especially in our formative years—when we creative bookish types were more likely to go off on imaginative sprees than engage in the real world. Ironically, I prefer Anne and Gil in the Sullivan miniseries to the series of books. Odd, I know.

19th C. Illustration: Eponine: a Rose in Misery

9.) Eponine and Marius: Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
People will automatically assume I’m speaking to the musical and I’m not (though the musical is the strongest adaptation I have seen of the book in any medium). Eponine’s love for Marius is complex and unrequited. She, the daughter of the malevolently scheming Thenardier--- a soldier to whom Marius’ father owed his life at Waterloo--- has fallen into disgrace and poverty.  Gap-toothed with stringy hair and a  voice sounding like a piano missing keys, she pines for the bookish student who lives next door.  She doesn’t know how to feminize herself with the coquettish glances he reaps from Cosette; but she does love devoutedly and passionately---so much so she dies in his arms after saving him from a bullet during the student uprising of the July Revolution.  Eponine’s plight: from the steeped underworld of the Seine, through her goblin-like appearance hovering in the corner of some of the major intertwining plotlines gives her an almost every-person status.  Like her brother Gavroche, she acts as median between the rapidly twirling plots.  Her sister Azelma does not require the same flesh and blood treatment upon growing up---she is left darkly in the shadows: Eponine’s inherent goodness, her crassly endearing way of talking, her dirty vulnerability and her efforts to act on a love never reciprocated speak to one of the many emblems of pathos in this aptly titled novel.

8) Jasper and Venetia: Venetia, Georgette Heyer. Heyer is a Jane Austen fan’s dream. She pens willful heroines and whirling plots of mistaken identity from the lusciously ornamented ton to abandoned country estates. The latter finds the intelligently well-read Venetia on the shelf looking after her younger, scholarly brother and avoiding the suits of two nearby men so dull and boring and foppish she cannot bear to look at them. Enter Jasper Damerel: he is a RAKE if ever there was one. Upon their first meeting he steals a kiss from our pretty Venetia which would send London high society reeling. What follows is a long-stemmed, slow-churning romance that involves some sacrifice and some swallowed pride. What stands out is the preternatural marriage of minds that meld both Venetia and her mental equal. Their banter, his abandoned thought at his love for her and their eventual fireworks and sass proposal is one of my favourites to revisit.

7) Rhett and Scarlett, Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell: When I was 10 years old I had the flu and watched Gone with The Wind which my dad had taped from television on vhs over and over again.  I was in love with the dresses and the decline of the Antebellum period, yes, and also by Scarlett’s ridiculous reserves of strength and panache; but I also loved roguish Rhett, the indelible Clark Gable with his rakish moustache, dimples and alert ears.  I loved the passion he felt for Scarlett and how he kept insisting that, though she try to avoid it, they were so very much the same. Later, I read the book several times and though it departs strongly from the  film ( one of the rare cases where I prefer a film to its source material; perhaps because it was my first introduction to the story), it maintained the sizzle and spark I liked between Rhett and Scarlett. I love this story. I love when she slaps him! I love when he devastatingly admits to Melanie the extent of his love. Ashley Wilkes is a dull dreamer; Rhett the perfectly irreverent man of action.

6) Amy and Arthur Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens: This is another story that I prefer on screen.  If you watch the Derek Jacobi version you are once again reminded of the stern age difference between Amy Dorrit and Arthur Clennam. In the recent BBC adaptation, they seem a little more on equal terms and the expression of their love and Arthur’s gradual realization is heart-stopping. Like so many of my favourite stories, it is, for the most part, one of persistent, unrequited love. Amy Dorrit falls in love with the kind-hearted Arthur near the very beginning: well aware of her social seclusion  as a daughter of the Marshalsea prison and that Arthur’s interests lie elsewhere.  Every moment shared between these two, as Amy steals one his shirt buttons, as Amy listens to Arthur express his love for another are heart-wrenching. Finally, when their respective fortunes seem dissolved and the mysteries of their parentage and long-time link is revealed, they can fall against each other in bliss.  Arthur cannot say when he realized that Amy was a woman hidden inside the girl he was so very fond of; but relationships borne out of respect, equality and friendship are my favourite

5) Emma and Knightley, Emma, Jane Austen: Another love story born out of friendship.  I really want to leave this one to the reader; but think it is best represented in the 2009 BBC version of the tale at the pivotal moment when Knightley leads Emma to the dance floor.  Johnny Lee Miller does an incredible job of repressing gushing feelings, expressing confusion and inwardly recognizing the change in his feelings toward Emma:

4)Olivia and Jasper Dale, Road to Avonlea (inspired by the tales of L M Montgomery) R to A took a lot of liberties with both of these characters: sometimes melding instances from Montgomery’s Chronicles of Avonlea, The Story Girl and the Golden Road to make it more engaging for a television audience.  Like Anne of GG,  the love story of the stuttering befuddled inventor Jasper Dale and Sara Stanley’s adorably scattered and sweet aunt Olivia was one of my first introductions to the world of romance. I love the chemistry between these two and how they so devotedly believe in each other’s pursuits: Olivia as a newspaperwoman and Jasper as a budding inventor.  It really is one of the sweetest courtships explored in television and I can’t help but re-watch the scene when Olivia *finally* tells Jasper she loves him and throws her arms around his neck, near tipping over their horse-drawn carriage in her fervor

3) Percy and Marguerite, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy. The Elusive Pimpernel and the beautiful French stage actress.  This is the stuff that dreams are made of.  Whether in musical, televised or film format, I will never stop loving the treatment given to the dashing English aristocrat who becomes the first super-hero in many ways by disguising his identity as a clothes-obsessed fop to make several trips into Paris: only to secure the lives of those threatened by the guillotine. Percy is the perfect hero: gaily poetic, smart, intelligent and honourable and willing to sacrifice his pride to save the innocent. He is tricky and clever and balances his passion for his cause with his troubled love for his beautiful wife.  When they first meet he is nothing short of besotted by her beauty and charm. Once they marry and he is misinformed as to her part in the renouncement of a prominent family, he hides his love beneath a mask that will ensure his role as the pimpernel is secure. But, even when he cannot trust her, he worships her enough to kiss the steps where her feet have trod.  This story is wonderfully frustrating to the reader/audience who knows that if they JUST TALK IT OUT, the two equally capriciously clever duo will be a perfect pair. It takes a long time and a lot of misunderstanding before they finally, married as they are, are able to enjoy their deserved wedded bliss. [my favourite version]

For the love of ALL THAT is HOLY read the BOOK! read the BOOK!
I just added this for fun; but they take too many liberties in the cheesy TV show

2) Neil MacNeill and Christy, Christy, Catherine Marshall: The devout, seeker Christian and the Agnostic Doctor. Catherine Marshall planted strands of her own history and that of her mother’s into her Christian fiction masterpiece, Christy: I argue that her father the minister is doled out in David Grantland, one of Christy’s ardent suitors when she moves to the Mission in Cutter Gap, Tennessee, while her own husband, Peter Marshall infused some of the fiery Scottish conviction of Neil MacNeill.  I love this love story.  I love how fascinated Neil is with Christy and how he pressures her to discover herself and her faith. Neil is a catalyst and part of their relationship involves how he can push her to tipping point and force her to discover her own values and opinions. If only every relationship had such a supremely intelligent model.  MacNeill believes that “love is the most creative force in the world” and a force that spirits a young teacher to Tennessee to thaw the heart of one who long ago gave up on God is a potently creative one indeed.

1)Barney and Valancy, The Blue Castle, LM Montgomery:The Blue Castle is my wish book. In fact, should I ever get married, I have pictured Bala as a possible location.  There are so many things I love about this: one such being the fact that Valancy falls in love with Barney long before he does her. I love stories where the female pursues the man as this is not always the most popular case in literature. Seemingly relegated to spinsterhood by her over-bearing community, Valancy changes her life at 29: at the time this was published, this was way past marriageable age where, like so many Heyer heroines, she was well on the shelf.  Upon receiving the letter that will change her life, Valancy shakes off her shackles, acknowledges there is worth in defiant independence and is rewarded with romance beyond her wildest imaginings.  Again, a preternatural kinship between hero and heroine pulses between Valancy and Barney who are best friends before they become lovers and lovers before they realize that their happy ending is forever after.

Honourable Mentions: Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey, D L Sayers; Prof. Bhaer and Josephine March, Little Women, Louisa May Alcott; John Harmon and Bella Wilfer, Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens; Vivian Rivington and Richard Jury, Richard Jury Series, Martha Grimes

And, finally, my absolute favourite love story of all time is an ancient and sacred one and can be found in the Book of Ruth (read online here)



Kailana said...

This is great, Rachel. Thanks for sharing!

Debra E. Marvin said...

wonderful list. I don't know how I missed all of the Anne stories as a young girl or the movies. I think I need a marathon.

I'm so glad you included the latest Little Dorrit. Incredible acting. I could watch that one over and over.

And Jonny Lee Miller's Mr. Knightley-my favorite.

I read Gone with the Wind three times before it came back to the theater in the 70s.. Then I watched it three times. That was before they started putting it on TV and cable. What a book, what a movie.

Court said...

What? Not even an honourable mention for Emily & Dean? I KNOW you're not just counting romances where the couples end up together for happily ever after because of Rhett & Scarlett being included in the list.

Charity said...

Great list, it includes some of my favorites.

Poor Eponine. =(

My favorite Mr. Knightley is Jeremy Northam, though. =)

Laura Frantz said...

Oh, love your list, Rachel. I did have my hopes pinned on a certain BS and here he is!! Though NM comes in a verra close second:) You have a wonderful blog...