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Friday, February 14, 2014

Love and its many Books!

Today is Valentine’s Day, a day I personally do not like. Let me not go into the reasons, but it is the topic of today. So love it or hate it, just deal with it. So, I will not be discussing the day per se, but the books, which have dealt with love. 

The first time, I ever heard of it, was through a book, Carolyn Keene’s ‘Nancy Drew: The Secret of Shadow Ranch’. In this book, Nancy is at Shadow Ranch, where she encounters villains, the ghostly kind, a phantom horse, a legend of an outlaw called Dirk Valentine, as well as cowboys, complete with barbecue, dinner, cake and a dance. 

Now, there were all the fairy tales, which discussed love. You had Snow White, a tale, which came from the Brothers Grimm, who brought several European Folktales, together. Snow White was probably one of them. That is how we have a young girl, the seven dwarfs, the evil stepmother and the handsome prince. The prince and Snow White meet and fall in love. The tale, according to experts came out around the 16th century and is a glimpse into the last middle ages. Germany, Italy, Albania and many other European nations could lay claim to it. 

(Incidentally, there is an Indian connection too, though not directly. In the epic poem, Padmavat (1540) there is a line, “Who is more beautiful, I or Padamavati?” asks Queen Nagamati of her new parrot (in place of the mirror), and receives a most disagreeable answer.)

Then, we also had several other fairy tales, like 'Cinderella', 'Thumbelina', 'The Little Mermaid'
etc. After that, the beginning of various adventure stories like Enid Blyton's ‘Famous Five’, where I always wondered if George had a crush on Julian and Dick liked the character of Jo, in ‘Five Fall into Adventure’. Then of course, there were the children’s comics of both Ramayana, which spoke of love between Rama and Sita and the ‘Mahabharata’ which spoke of a little excess of love. :)

Then, the mystery novels of ‘Nancy Drew’ happened. There was always, Nancy’s boyfriend, Ned Nickerson in most stories. After that, school and holiday time happened and with it came Shakespeare and his line of comedies. ‘As You Like It’, ‘The Merchant of Venice’, 'Twelfth Night’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ were a few of them, which I had studied in school and read during the holidays. William Shakespeare’s take on love was a very interesting one. “If music be the food of love, play on” was taken out of ‘Twelfth Night’. Countess Olivia is wooed by Orsino. Exasperated over the whole thing, he asks for music to be played, which he believes would act as a healing for his love, just as eating could cease hunger. Shakespeare’s love stories are many, sometimes even ending in tragedies.

Incidentally, Shakespeare himself was also in love. He married Anne Hathaway when he was 18, who was eight years, his senior. He was married till his death in 1616, when he was 52. He used to live in London while she, in Stratford. However, when he retired from the theatre, he came to live with her. Their marriage lasted 34 years. In the meantime, the controversies were innumerable including him being a homosexual or even a bisexual.

After that, there of course were the Jane Austen novels, including the famous ‘Pride and Prejudice’ which spoke of love between Bingley and Jane and of course the love-hate beginnings of Darcy and Elizabeth. My personal favourite is ‘Mansfield Park’ a wonderful novel which traces the love story between the intelligent and sensitive Fanny Price and Edmund Pierce who is six years her senior. Edmund is her friend and the person she looks upon, to help form her own character.

Then, of course, there was ‘Love Story’ by Erich Segal, which moved a lot of people. Incidentally, it was released on 14 February in 1970. I must say that I did not find it very appealing. Then, I moved to Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’, reading the much troubled love story, between Mrs deWinter and Maxim deWinter. Then, we had the entire 'Harry Potter' series, in which much is said of Harry’s love stories, first with Cho Chang and then with Ginny.

Then, there was Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’. Mrs Mehra is on the lookout for a boy for her 19 year old daughter. It is a love story set in the just independent India. She is made to choose between her three suitors, Kabir, Amit and Haresh. ‘A Suitable Girl’ is to come in 2016; truly a wonder considering ‘A Suitable Boy’ was 1,349 pages and 19 parts long. It started off very well, but lost me in the middle of all the pages. But would I read ‘A Suitable Girl’? You bet!

All this was interspersed with Krishna Udayasankar’s ‘Govinda’ and ‘Kaurava’. Both these books have much to do with Govinda and Panchali’s love story. Of course, the love between Karna and Draupadi has been expressed here, as well. Also in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s ‘The Palace of Illusions’ and in ‘Karna’s Wife’ by Kavita Kane. And Anand Neelakantan’s 'Ajaya', with its own depiction of love between Suyodhana and Subhadra.

Then, we have Jeffrey Archer’s ‘Clifton Chronicles’, a series for which, I have a love-hate relationship. I loved the first two books, ‘Only Time Will Tell’ and ‘The Sins of the Father’. The story should have ended with Emma Barrington and Harry Clifton, unresolved love story. After that I have not liked any of the others, but still read on, because I do love Archer’s style of writing.

Let me not forget, Ruskin Bond’s love fables, because there are many and have remained my favourite, his latest one which I read being ‘Falling in Love Again’. This was besides the innumerable PG Wodehouse novels, which had to have a little love in them.

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