Because ‘Love doesn’t always go by the book’ …

With St. Valentine’s Day right in the middle of it, February is the month where the theme of LOVE materialises everywhere, from the shop windows covered in heart shaped stickers and pink balloons, to ‘table for two’ restaurants covered with roses. Some welcome this time of the year as a good occasion to celebrate their relationship; others sigh and roll their eyes at the commercialisation of something as elusive and complicated as love.

In literature, however, love has always been one of the ever-present grand themes, and its many faces have been explored by writers for centuries in all sorts of genres.

On the shelves of Bloomsbury Reader we have many romances from Jane Aiken Hodge, Beryl Kingston, Jean Saunders, Margaret Irwin and Lois Cahall to mention just a few – if you are a fan click here to browse our  selection of the genre.

We also have a handful of novels with ‘love’ literally in their title: Lover’s Leap by Martin Armstrong, Love Lies Dreaming by C.S. Forester, No Love Lost by Margery Allingham, Love in These Days by Alec Waugh and Of Love and Slaughter by Angela Huth.

But as we know ‘love doesn’t always go by the book’ and we would like to share with our readers some of the funny, sobering and painfully poignant quotes about love that we found in our books – a good antidote to that St. Valentine’s Day pink bubble.


The witty definition of the difference between love and infatuation in The Bookstore, by Deborah Meyler, could not be more poignant:

The Bookstore small I think there is no difference between love and infatuation. If it works out, we call it love; if it doesn’t, we shrug our shoulders and say it was infatuation. It’s a hindsight word.



Monica Dickens was not afraid to write about hurdles one encounters in relationships. Both in The Happy Prisoner and The Fancy she depicts, with humour and good heart, not-so-perfect-marriages.

Restless Heather from The Happy Prisoner asks herself that very burning question: How to keep the romance going after many years?

The Happy Prisoner smallHow can someone go on being enchanted when you live with them day by day and hour by hour? It’s when you start letting yourself notice things that you were too dazzled to see before, that’s when it starts to go.

I was a fool too. Lord, what a fool I was to think that all you had to do was to marry someone you loved and you could sit back and be happy ever after, amen.

Edward Ledward in The Fancy despite trying hard finds it impossible to please his wife, Connie. When she decides to leave him he finds it unbearable at first, but soon he discovers simple pleasures of the single life:

The Fancy SmallIt was nice to be able to do his scalp massage at his dressing-table instead of in the bathroom. Connie had never liked the smell of his hair tonic in her bedroom. She had not liked him to put his trousers under the mattress either, nor to read in bed, nor to open the window at the bottom, however warm the night. All these things he could now do. There was a lot to be said for marriage, but there was also a lot to be said for having your own room. The bed was narrow and harder than the big double bed, but it was a change to be able to sprawl and not to be woken out of your best sleep by a prod to stop you snoring.

Alec Waugh has something interesting to say about marital quarrels in Thirteen Such Years:

Thirteen Such Years smallI have been the spectator of enough quarrels between married couples to realise that little can be learnt from the details of matrimonial dispute. The material is without boundaries over which the quarrels of married people range. Tears have been shed upon a politician’s speech; the treasure of a mantelpiece swept into the grate over an undelivered message; front doors have been slammed because Chablis has been preferred to claret; and the detached onlooker may well shake a marvelling head, wondering what strange properties are enclosed within the state of marriage that it can produce such high friction between wives and husbands out of causes that would leave unruffled the most casual of friendships.

These wise words of the great enchanter Aldebaran from These Mortals – a witty allegory about paradoxes of human love – will stick with you for a long time:

These Mortals small“All the intricacies of their laws, their societies, their towns, their nations,” he said, “amount only to this: that each individual human being dreads solitude and tries to circumvent it. From the moment that you enter the world (should you ever have that misfortune), your immediate concern will be to find a companion, and when you have done so you will believe that you have found yourself. You will discover a hitherto unimagined interest and value in all your actions, thoughts and memories, since you think to share them with another. Only gradually will you discover that it is impossible to do this wholly; that speech often obscures and sometimes conceals our thoughts; that the fictitious contacts of the flesh give an ecstasy which is poignant chiefly in that it reminds us of the incommunicable solitude of our souls.”

Arthur Koestler, in The Trail of the Dinosaur, discusses the enigma of that strange love/hate relationship which all couples experience sometimes:

The Trail of the DinosaurA person may both love and hate another person, and experience these emotions either simultaneously or in alternation—as in the case of temperamental couples, or of difficult child-parent relations.

But, to end our selection of ‘love wisdom’ we found on the pages of Bloomsbury Reader books on a positive note, we would like to quote Jonathan Wilson who has something reassuring to say about unrequited love in Kick and Run – his memoir about his life-long affair with both football and literature:

Kick and Run smallAccording to the supremely inventive Russian formalist critic and novelist Viktor Shklovsky, this kind of sublimation, whether it takes the form of unrealized ambition or unrequited love, is probably responsible for most of humankind’s cultural achievements. Shklovsky himself fashioned a formidable experimental novel, Zoo or Letters not About Love, out of his failure to persuade his beloved, Elsa Triolet, to return his feelings in kind. Fitzgerald, too, said he wrote The Beautiful and the Damned “to get the girl.”


We hope you find something you love to read amongst the shelves of Bloomsbury Reader books this February.


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