Thursday, July 30, 2009

doomed love

Maud Newton wrote the book column at The Week this week--her topic: books of doomed love.

Here were her choices:

Lolita
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
The Black Prince
The Book of Night Women
The End of the Affair
My Name Is Rose


Maud is ever better-read than I; I'm afraid I've only read 2 of those. Lolita, which is *certainly* a tale of doomed love, and Marlon James's Book of Night Women, which is only the best book I've read all year. So it looks like I'm going to have to take her judgment in this (as in all things) and read the others.

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite books of doomed love (which, I should mention, is just about my favorite subject).

The End of the East, Jen Sookfong Lee--Seid Quan spends his entire life working in Vancouver to support his dearly beloved wife in Southern China--and gets to spend almost no time with her. I love this book because it rings so closely to what I know of my (Italian) grandfather's immigrant experience.

Unless, Carol Shields--a really beautiful book about the most doomed kind of love at all: a mother's for her daughter, who is unwilling to accept it or to communicate with her about why.

Waiting, Ha Jin--A deliberately plodding and ultimately mind-blowing story about love between two comrades in communist China who wait--and wait, and wait--for his divorce to come through so they can marry. Sometimes our worst enemy in trying to execute a successful love affair is... ourself.

The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger--This is a story about a couple who is absolutely doomed from the very beginning (seeing as he can't even keep himself chronological) and yet they make it work anyway.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera--A man and a woman who love each other desperately--but he can't stop cheating, and his infidelity tears her apart. From beginning to end.

Kiss of the Spider Woman, Manuel Puig--A passionate, dedicated man and a creative, sensitive woman meant to be together find each other in a prison cell. Alas, the woman is trapped in the body of a man.

The History of Love, Nicole Krauss--I gotta admit, I HATE this book and Nicole Krauss for what she did to me with the ending (no forgiveness!) but her motif of thwarted love--love thwarted forever by unexpected death (this happens at the beginning; I'm not giving away the twist)--is one of the most powerful ideas I can imagine.

What are your favorite books of doomed love?

39 comments:

Natasha Solomons said...

'Wuthering Heights' has to be one surely?

I also adore 'Atonement'.

I think Siri Hustevedt's 'What I Loved' contains many stories of love, some doomed, others redemptive but all compelling. I cried so much, I had to put the book down for a good ten minutes to sob, before I could read again.

What about 'Remains of the Day'? A quieter love story, but doomed nonetheless. The wasted lives, and quiet desperation are exquisitely drawn.

Briony said...

Does Romeo and Juliet count?

I really enjoyed Les Liasons Dangereuses, the two main characters in that (the evil ones, not the lovers) are just horrible, which makes me like them.

Wuthering Heights is another good one... I did love The Time Travellers Wife. Hated HATED Atonement.

I don't know, I'm not a fan of the doomed love storyline, it just makes me angry. Coincidentally, my anti spam word is ackabore, which sums up my views on the subject rather nicely.

Natasha Solomons said...

I was wondering about 'Romeo and Jools' too, but then felt I have to put in a word for Hermione and Leontes in 'The Winter's Tale'. This is a post-marriage doomed love; a mature tale of jealousy and loss...

Briony said...

The Winters Tale is a good one too - I often forget that, as I tend to get a bit caught up in the 'Exit, pursued by a bear'. (I'm that much of a nerd that I want that printed on a t-shirt)

ggwritespoetry said...

Like Water for Chocolate is one of my favorite (I hated her sister for going there, agh!)

But I also love the good old Greek myths, Narcissus/Echo and Orpheus/Eurydice... break my heart.

Brian F. said...

I was always a fan of MAD MAX and LOGAN'S RUN.

Oh, wait. No. That's DOMED love.

My bad.

Rick Daley said...

Does CHARLOTTE'S WEB count? That would be one of my favorites. Same with OLD YELLER.

Honestly. Different approach to love in that they are not romantic, but loving and tragic nonetheless.

NOTE: I originally posted this on the BookEnds blog by mistake ;-) Sometimes I try to multi-taks too fast.

JES said...

Brian F: ha!

I've been meaning to ask you if you've read The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford. It's one of those books which shows up periodically on "Best Novels" lists, and is highly regarded by other authors as well, but also seems to be forgotten periodically until someone brings it up. Like now. :)

The doomed love in TGS is complex and, well... and multi-directional, I guess you could say.

And although I haven't read the book, maybe Brokeback Mountain should be on the list?

moonrat said...

ooo, so many great comments and i only just posted! how terribly exciting.

Natasha--I considered Wuthering, and figured everyone would already have thought of that. ;) I'm also a fan of Atonement. And Remains of the Day--SPOT ON. SOOOO doomed. Looks like I'll have to check out this Hustevedt book!

moonrat said...

Briony--for me, Romeo & Juliet ALWAYS counts. It's the only story. Everything else is just a variation.

moonrat said...

GG--ACK! I still haven't read Water for Chocolate! I don't know why. I keep losing the copy I bought. [back on the list.]

moonrat said...

Brian--this is why I count on you.

moonrat said...

JES--ok, speaking of Maud Newton (who did that exchange with Alex Chee a couple of weeks ago re: the love affair between Jean Rhys and Ford Madox Ford)... I think I better read that book. Funny funny you bring it up now.

Euthyphro said...

I have to agree with Wuthering Heights.

I think the greatest doomed love story I've read is The Lady of Camillias - Alexandre Dumas, fils.

You can find it on Google books in the Pub Domain. So no excuses. . . read it.

Alli said...

Looooooved LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE!

Also, A SUITABLE BOY by Vikram Seth. Loved the 1488 page book (an investment in time, yes) and didn't mind flipping back to the family tree and timeline in order to keep the story straight in my head.... but HATED, HATED the end! It made me so angry! Not what I wanted at all, and had the book not been as big as a coffee table I would have thrown it at the wall. But I still love the book and sort of forgive the author for the way the book ended. ;-)

Weronika said...

Oh, I really liked this post. Doomed love stories are my thing. Thank you for sharing, and I agree particularly with Natasha -- both 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Atonement' top my list.

Laurel said...

Not quite in the same vein as others mentioned here but as for a love story that does not have a "happy" ending you just can't beat "Their Eyes Were Watching God."

Janie and Teacake get my vote for best fiction couple EVER.

JES said...

I hadn't read, didn't even know of the Newton/Chee dialogue about Rhys and Ford until you mentioned it, Moonie. Thanks so much!

For others who might be interested, the exchange is at Granta's site, here. Among other things, even if you don't know anything about the two authors or their work, it's a terrifically insightful look at the ways in which an author's real life can bleed into his/her fiction, even (or especially) unconsciously.

Pamela Hammonds said...

The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Those would be my votes for more recent pubs.

Andrea Cremer said...

Moonrat -

Great post! I was thrilled to see your praise for Marlon James' Book of Night Women. Marlon is a friend of mine and not only is he an amazing writer, he's a kind, brilliant (and hilarious) human being.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Bambi...

BANG!! Momma deer crumples, lies silent, lost love forever!

Haste yee back ;-)

Amalia T. said...

Absolutely agree about The Time Traveler's Wife. I just finished reading it, and I was blown away.

Sarah Hina said...

In addition to some of the ones mentioned, I'd also pick The English Patient from Ondaatje, and The Sorrows of Young Werther from Goethe.

Had to pop over for this one. I'm a sucker for this stuff. :)

Sarah Laurenson said...

Tried The Time Traveler's Wife. Could not get into it.

Doomed love? One of the first (and only for a long time) lesbian books - The Well of Loneliness.

But my fave book of all time which is about doom in all its forms - On The Beach by Nevil Shute. Haunting.

Natasha Solomons said...

Oooh, yes. I love 'Lady of the Camellias' too... and it makes me have to include (possibly) my favourite doomed love story of all time, 'La Traviata'. Ok, I know it's an opera, but it's got it all... whore/ courtesan as heroine, who is slowly dying of consumption (and yet is able to sing soaring arias...), in love with a boy, kept a baron. I thought that Verdi and Dumas were both infatuated with the same courtesan - one wrote her a novel, the other an opera. But she still died, aged 19. Oh, gosh, I'm all a flutter.

I keep listening to La Trav as I'm writing my second novel (also a love story, some doom, some redemption). But, I think perhaps writing to epic opera is a little dangerous...

JC said...

Jeffrey Lent - After You've Gone

Hannah said...

Oh I'm so glad you include 'Kiss of the Spiderwoman' - it is a book oft forgotten but I love it. Books regularly linger with me afterwards but this one hung around in my consciousness for a very long time. (And it freaked me out - I read the creepy film story at night and couldn't sleep for ages.)

And, unrelated to the 'doomed love' theme but still relevant, I loved the fact that there was finally a book which could really pull off the style of writing only dialogue.

Merry Monteleone said...

Oh, more books to read!!!! Love Time Traveler's Wife, but wouldn't put it in the doomed love category... I think they made it work really well.

The best book I read so far this year has got to be The Book Thief and I think that one could go in this category, I was rooting for her to give Rudy that kiss for quite sometime, and for those of you who read it, the scene where she did almost killed me.

I'd add another Dumas to the list, too - The Count of Monte Cristo... usually it's just categorized as revenge, but doomed love or maybe it's unrequited love, or thwarted love... those all fit in there, too... after all, that's the main thing he wants to get revenge for.

Anonymous said...

I hate to be pedantic, but:

"Lolita, which is *certainly* a tail of doomed love..."

Shouldn't that be tale and not tail? :-P

moonrat said...

Anon--I believe all pedophiles should grow tails so they're more easily spotted.

[headthunk]

Bill Greer said...

Cold Mountain

Rosemary said...

For me it's Jude the Obscure, easily one of the doomiest and gloomiest books ever written. Jude and Sue's sick, doomed love has such awful, unimaginable consequences that I don't even want the book on my shelf! (Put it this way--it makes the Mayor of Casterbridge look like a comic romp.)

Amy said...

Come on people! "Ethan Frome" for sure! My goodness, doomed and worse! Or "The Sun Also Rises"? Pretty doomed with his war injury and all.

I consider "Rebecca" to be pretty doomed, maybe not.

To Merry, yep, The Book Thief had me pulling my hair out for poor Rudy!

Chris Eldin said...

Great post!
Since the range seems to be widening, I'd like to give a shout out for "Tuck Everlastin."

terri said...

Gotta throw a line to a 1970s classic "The Thorn Birds," still one of my favs 30 years later.

word verify: 'speal' . . . hmmm . . . something funny will come to me after I hit 'publish.'

hannah said...

Like the other hannah who's commented (hmm) I ADORED Kiss of the Spider Woman. I had to read it for school and thought it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever read.

(word verification: mustsin. hmmmmm)

Anita said...

BOOK OF NIGHT WOMEN is being ordered by me in about 30 seconds. I can't think of one doomed love book I reeeeally want to recommend. I keep thinking of Peppermint Patty for some reason. Chuck's just never going to dig her, is he?!

Melanie Avila said...

I cannot think of my favorite because my mind is still wrapped up in my LEAST favorite: Anna Karenina. I finished it yesterday and was CHEERING for her to do what she did at the end. And I agree that Part Eight was pointless

Anonymous said...

How can anyone forget The Lady of the Camelias by Dumas on which the play Camille, and the opera La Traviata is based. That is one of the great all time doomed romances. It's a short book and a fabulous read.