February is the month of love at Booktopia, and to celebrate we’re counting down the top 50 Greatest Love Stories Ever Told, as voted by you. After thousands of votes, the poll closed on Sunday and we’ll be counting down the top 50, with the top 10 being announced at Midday on Valentine’s Day.
So sit back and enjoy the great works that made it to 50-31 in your voting. And don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom to see the huge sales and collections of books on love we have for you.
50. Never Let Me Go
In one of the most acclaimed and strange novels of recent years, Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewered version of contemporary England.
Narrated by Kathy, now 31, Never Let Me Go hauntingly dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School, and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world.
A story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.
When the redoubtable Sir Horace Stanton- Lacy is ordered to South America on Diplomatic Business he parks hi sonly daughter Sophy on his sister in Berkely Square. But Sophy’s cousins are in a sad tangle.
The heartless and tyrannical Charles is betrothed to a pedantic bluestocking almost as tiresome as himself; Cecilia is besotted with a beautiful but quite feather- brained poet; and Hubert has fallen foul of a money- lender.
It looks like the Grand Sophy has arrived just in time to save them all…
Click here to buy The Grand Sophy
Tolstoy’s enthralling epic depicts Russia’s war with Napoleon and its effects on the lives of those caught up in the conflict.
He creates some of the most vital and involving characters in literature as he follows the rise and fall of families in St Petersburg and Moscow who are linked by their personal and political relationships.
His heroes are the thoughtful yet impulsive Pierre Bezukhov, his ambitious friend, Prince Andrei, and the woman who becomes indispensable to both of them, the enchanting Natasha Rostov.
Click here to buy War and Peace
‘All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.’
Featuring Rosalind, one of Shakespeare’s most likeable and strong female protagonists, As You Like is a comedic play centred around concealed identity, love, exile and artifice.
Banished from the court by her uncle, Rosalind flees to the forest with her cousin Celia and her jester, joining her already exiled father, and disguising herself as a boy. In the guise of a young man, she instructs her would-be lover Orlando in the ways of love and in doing so allows Shakespeare to explore the dynamics of the city and the country as well as the sexual politics of the time.
Hester Prynne is a beautiful young woman. She is also an outcast.
In the eyes of her neighbours she has committed an unforgivable sin. Everyone knows that her little daughter, Pearl, is the product of an illicit affair but no one knows the identity of Pearl’s father.
Hester’s refusal to name him brings more condemnation upon her. But she stands strong in the face of public scorn, even when she is forced to wear the sign of her shame sewn onto her clothes: the scarlet letter ‘A’ for ‘Adulteress’.
Click here to buy The Scarlet Letter
45. Girl with a Pearl Earring
An international bestseller with over two million copies sold, this is a story of an artist’s desire for beauty and the ultimate corruption of innocence. 17th Century Holland.
When Griet becomes a maid in the household of Johannes Vermeer in the town of Delft, she thinks she knows her role: housework, laundry and the care of his six children. But as she becomes part of his world and his work, their growing intimacy spreads tension and deception in the ordered household and, as the scandal seeps out, into the town beyond.
Tracy Chevalier’s extraordinary historical novel on the corruption of innocence and the price of genius is a contemporary classic perfect for fans of Sarah Dunant and Philippa Gregory.
First published in 1898, this poetic, psychologically intense novel by acclaimed Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun has endured as a classic portrayal of love’s predicament in a class-bound society.
Set in a coastal village of late nineteenth-century Norway, Victoria follows two lovers whose yearnings are as powerful as the circumstances that conspire to thwart their romance. Johannes, a miller’s son turned poet, finds inspiration for his writing in his passionate devotion to Victoria, a daughter of the impoverished lord of the manor, who feels constrained by family loyalty to accept the wealthy young man of her father’s choice.
Separated by class barriers and social pressure, the fated duo hurt and enthrall each other by turns as they move toward an emotional doom that neither will recognize until it it too late.
Set in Sydney and London in the 1930s, For Love Alone is the story of Teresa Hawkins, an intelligent, ardent young woman, and her search for the ideal passion of love.
She attempts to engage the feelings of the unworthy Jonathan Crow, an intellectual young man and advocate of free love, and follows him to London after four years of severe self-sacrifice. In London the mediocrity, corruption and egoistic shallowness of Crow gradually becomes obvious.
With the help of James Quick, however, a devoted older man who takes Teresa to live with him, she is able to abandon her idealised vision.
After a brief interlude with Quick’s friend, Harry Girton, Teresa advances to a new, more detached appreciation of passion, and renews her commitment to Quick in full awareness of the compromises that love imposes.
42. Great Expectations
Pip doesn’t expect much from life…His sister makes it clear that her orphaned little brother is nothing but a burden on her. But suddenly things begin to change.
Pip’s narrow existence is blown apart when he finds an escaped criminal, is summoned to visit a mysterious old woman and meets the icy beauty Estella. Most astoundingly of all, an anonymous person gives him money to begin a new life in London.
Are these events as random as they seem? Or does Pip’s fate hang on a series of coincidences he could never have expected?
When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki.
Immediately he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo, adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire.
To a time when an impetuous young woman called Midori marches into his life and he has to choose between the future and the past.
40. The Taming of the Shrew
Baptista, a rich Paduan merchant, announces that his fair young daughter, Bianca, will remain unwed until her older sister, Katharina, has wed.
Lucentio, a student and the son of a wealthy Pisan merchant, has fallen in love with Bianca. He poses as a tutor of music and poetry to gain entrance to the Baptista household and to be near Bianca. Meanwhile, Petruchio, a fortune-hunting scoundrel from Verona, arrives in Padua, hoping to capture a wealthy wife.
Hortensio, another suitor of Bianca, directs Petruchio’s attention to Katharina. When Hortensio warns him about Katharina’s scolding tongue and fiery temper, Petruchio is challenged and resolves to capture her love. Hortensio and another suitor of Bianca, Gremio, agree to cover Petruchio’s costs as he pursues Katharina.
The winner of the 1990 Booker Prize, Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once a literary detective novel and a triumphant love story.
It is the tale of a pair of young scholars investigating the lives of two Victorian poets.Following a trail of letters, journals and poems they uncover a web of passion, deceit and tragedy, and their quest becomes a battle against time.
Set in the dreamlike world of a Swiss health sanatorium, here is a story of a young man’s enlightenment through his encounters with sickness and death; an elegy to the romanticism of the European bourgeoisie in the days prior World War I.
Hans Castorp – on the verge of an intense flirtation with Clavdia Chauchat, a married woman and feverish fellow patient – is perched high above the world, dozing in his splendid lounge chair at the International Sanatorium Berghof, swaddled in blankets against the Alpine chill.
To his surprise and secret delight, he will remain on this “magic mountain” for seven years – removed from the “real” world, but irresistibly drawn into the sanatorium’s own complex, vertiginous society, which in Mann’s hands becomes a microcosm for Western civilization and its interior life on the eve of the First World War.
Flooded with feeling, with powerful evocations of disease, with the glories of the natural world and inklings of the supernatural, The Magic Mountain is equally remarkable for Mann’s treatment of time – the “flatland time” of healthy, active people and the “inelastic present” of the “people up here, ” for whom illness is a lifelong career.
Henry Handel Richardson’s debut, published in London in 1908, is set in the music scene of turn-of-the-century Leipzig, a cosmopolitan centre for the arts drawing students from around the world – among them Maurice Guest, a young Englishman, who falls helplessly in love with an Australian woman, Louise Dufrayer.
Maurice Guest is the story of this overwhelming passion. The novel was deemed too controversial to be published as Richardson intended, and she was forced to cut twenty thousand words from the original manuscript and tone down its language.
Of all John Fowles’ novels The French Lieutenant’s Woman received the most universal acclaim and today holds a very special place in the canon of post-war English literature.
From the god-like stance of the nineteenth-century novelist that he both assumes and gently mocks, to the last detail of dress, idiom and manners, his book is an immaculate recreation of Victorian England.
Not only is it the epic love story of two people of insight and imagination seeking escape from the cant and tyranny of their age, it is also a brilliantly sustained allegory of the decline of the twentieth-century passion for freedom.
35. A Tale of Two Cities
After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille the aging Dr Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England.
There two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette.
From the tranquil lanes of London, they are all drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror and soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.
An electrifying debut novel of a young woman’s love for a vampire. In spite of her awkward manner and low expectations, she finds that her new classmates are drawn to this pale, dark-haired new girl in town.
But not, it seems, the Cullen family. These five adopted brothers and sisters obviously prefer their own company and will make no exception for Bella. Bella is convinced that Edward Cullen in particular hates her, but she feels a strange attraction to him, although his hostility makes her feel almost physically ill. He seems determined to push her away — until, that is, he saves her life from an out of control car.
Bella will soon discover that there is a very good reason for Edward’s coldness. He, and his family, are vampires — and he knows how dangerous it is for others to get too close.
A young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing; one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover-these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel.
Kundera’s first since The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. In a world in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and by fortuitous events, a world in which everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence, we feel “the unbearable lightness of being” not only as the consequence of our private actions, but also in the public sphere, and the two inevitably intertwine.
A novel of irreconcilable loves and infidelities, which embraces all aspects of human existence, and addresses the nature of twentieth-century ‘Being’.
Beautiful, clever, rich – and single Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage.
Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protege Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.
With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austin’s most flawless work.
Click here to buy Emma
Treasured by readers around the world, this is the sweeping saga of three generations of the Cleary family.
Stoic matriarch Fee, her devoted husband, Paddy, and their headstrong daughter, Meggie, experience joy, sadness and magnificent triumph in the cruel Australian outback.
With life’s unpredictability, it is love that is their unifying thread, but it is a love shadowed by the anguish of forbidden passions. For Meggie loves Father Ralph de Bricassart, a man who wields enormous power within the Catholic church …
Don’t forget to come back at midday tomorrow as we continue to countdown the 50 Greatest Love Stories Ever Told as voted by you.
All this month we’re featuring the Love in Print at Booktopia. Click on the banner below to see the huge range of books on love we’re featuring all this month at Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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