December and the holiday season is a receding memory (even if several of my neighbors still have sad and tattered pieces of tinsel wilting on their doors and balconies) and we are entering what I call “the chocolate season” – Valentine’s Day and Easter.
I don’t usually make a fuss over Valentine’s Day. It’s not that I hate the day so much as I want every day to be “hey, you can whisk me off to Paris now” day – if you limit yourself to one day of the year, what happens if they decide they want to do it in July? Do you have to wait the eight months or can you split the difference? But there is no doubt it’s a time when many people’s thoughts turn to love so if you are looking for real-life romance, here’s a few books guaranteed to warm the heart and stir the reader into great romantic deeds – and possibly purchasing that ticket to Paris.
If you are want inspiring tales of real life love, check out the recently released All There Is by StoryCorps founder Dave Isay. In it he shares with the reader more than 30 touching personal stories of real-life love and marriage, as told by the people who experienced it. From falling in love to remembering a lost loved one, from the excitement of falling head over heels to love that endured despite discrimination, illness, poverty, distance, this collection is a powerful and uplifting reminder of the strength of the human heart.
It shows love in all its complexity and diversity. Long-term relationships and newlyweds, gay and straight partners, high school sweethearts and long-distance penpals, from couples who met in a military base to those who reunited in their old age, this compilation of stories is a must-read for those who love love stories and will touch the heart of even the most determinedly non-romantic.
StoryCorps is an American nonprofit organisation who have, in the last decade, collected more than 30,000 interviews from more than 60,000 participants in order to give people of all backgrounds and beliefs an opportunity to record and share their stories. These stories are recorded on to a CD for participants to share, archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and broadcast on public radio and at their website.
If you’d like something romantic but not in the modern day, there’s no end of great love stories in history to inspire you. Some have been heavily interpreted and rewritten in the manner of a traditional romance such as Andrea Stewart’s stirring Rose of Martinique, the biography of Napoleon’s partner, lover, confidant and political advisor, the captivating Josephine. (You could also read their love in their own words with Napoleon’s Letters to Josephine, a collection of their correspondence.) For those who like their love stories lengthy, complex and a little bit tortured, try Norah Lofts Eleanor the Queen, a fleshed-out account of the life of Eleanor of Aquitane, who married two kings and was one of the most influential women of her age.
They don’t have to be famous to be an epic love story, as Martin Goldsmith’s Inextinguishable Symphony proves. Martin (the host of NPR’s Performance Today where he shares his love of classical and rock music), is the American-born son of two German-Jewish musicians who met through music and managed to escape the Holocaust. He follows his parents through their early musical training, their blossoming love and marriage, to their miraculous rescue and escape to America.
He also follows his family members that were not so lucky and remained in Nazi Germany, suffering ever-tightening persecution and eventual journeys to the gas chambers. This story of love and music in turbulent times is a challenging but ultimately uplifting read and well worthy of a place in your reading this Valentine’s Day, however you choose to spend it.