There’s no steamy stuff on this list. Each of the stories is about love that’s more prosaic than passionate, more durable than devouring, as is appropriate for readers who spend Valentine’s day curled up with a book at home.
And each of the novels is, by most people’s standards, an unlikely choice for a list of love stories.
Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther is a series of episodes about an upper middle class family in London during World War II. Mr. and Mrs. Miniver don’t see much of each other as they “keep calm and carry on” with true British resolve. Mrs. Miniver notes “the most important thing about marriage was not a home or children or a remedy against sin, but simply there being always an eye to catch.”
Back Street by Fannie Hurst is the story of a woman who becomes mistress to a man for whom jerk is too polite a word. Walter Saxel married money, which give him entrée into society and the world of high finance. Without Ray Schmitt to coach him, Walter would never have gotten over the threshold in either society or finance. Ray knows she’s hitched her wagon to a skunk, but she loves him.
Their Yesterdays by Harold Bell Wright is another novel that doesn’t fit the standard description of a novel. The characters in the bookl aren’t identified by name. The time and place are not specified. The chapters each follow an identical formula. Despite those handicaps — or perhaps because of them — Wright manages to convey the sense that love and marriage are the most natural and desirable of human relationships.
Old Wine and New by Warwick Deeping is the story of a World War I vet who returns home to find a world almost as unfriendly as the battlefields of France. In the post-war slump, Spenser Scarsdale loses his job and cannot find another. If poverty and ill health don’t kill him, he might kill himself. Love comes to Spenser’s rescue in an unexpected guise.
Joy Street by Frances Parkinson Keyes is the story of a young woman who marries a man because her family says he will never set the world on fire: she doesn’t want the world set on fire. After he dies, however, she decides she wouldn’t mind if the world were warmed up a little.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni