Confession: my favorite kinds of books are the ones where boy meets girl, boy and girl get married, girls rips out boy’s still beating heart, girl marries boy’s best friend, boy kills himself and girl ends up having an unhappy marriage anyway. What can I say, I’m a romantic.
Combine my love for incredibly depressing books with Valentine’s Day and you have the subject of today’s post: My Top 10 Favorite Anti – Romance Books! After culling my shelves, I picked my favorite heartbreak stories featuring things like loneliness, cheaters, drunks, felons, murder, insanity, and war.
So here’s to you, my fellow anti-valentines:
10. Women – Charles Bukowski
Your classic love story featuring America’s favorite sex-crazed alcoholic scumbag. Read if you enjoy debaucherous tales of hairy old men drunkenly banging screeching hags followed by hungover morning hazes where the protagonist describes his beer shits. (link)
9. Naomi – Junichiro Tanizaki
A much more refined story that teaches men just what happens when you marry a teenager. (link)
8. The Good Wife – Stewart O’Nan
Everything is going great for the newly married and pregnant Patty and Tommy until Tommy doesn’t come home one night and is arrested for murder the next day and sent to jail for 28 years. This book follows the struggles of a woman and child that try to live in the shameful shadow of a man in prison. (link)
More after the jump...
7. Fire in the Blood – Irene Nemirosky
A small town melodrama taking place in a pre-WWII French village, this unfinished novella by Irene Nemirovsky follows the romantic intrigues of a man who returns to the town of his youth. Along the way secrets are discovered culminating in dramatic revelations that leave the reader shocked. (link)
6. My Cousin Rachel – Daphne Du Maurier
This book is often overshadowed by Du Maurier’s more well known “Rebecca”, but it’s just as chilling and suspenseful. The protagonist’s older cousin, who raised him like a son, becomes ill and moves to Italy to take in the healing warm weather. While there he writes to announce that he married a local woman and is feeling much better. He then dies quite suddenly. When he arrives in Italy to collect his cousin’s things, he meets the widow Rachel and becomes both suspicious and lovesick which may lead to his own abrupt demise. (link)
5. The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
The classic novel about cheating, Maurice falls for a bored married woman named Sarah. After conducting a passionate affair for several years, a bomb drops on her building and Maurice is injured. Sarah prays to God that she will do anything to make him survive and when he does, she gives him up without telling him why. Set against the backdrop of London during WWII, the novel is intense and spiritual and makes you question what exactly love is. (link)
4. After Claude – Iris Owens
This surprisingly comedic book is told from the perspective of a very demented woman whose relationship with her rat of a boyfriend is falling apart. Despite him hurling every kind of insult at her, she decides to ignore his pleas and try to work things out with him, even forgiving him after he brings home another woman. This book really brings out the humor in destructive relationships and is best read after a hard break-up to see just what kind bullet you dodged. (link)
3. Young Hearts Crying – Richard Yates
My favorite master of the miserable, Yates’ ‘Young Hearts Crying’ is a more sedate and less obnoxious “Revolutionary Road’. This novel concerns follows the budding relationship of Lucy and Michael, two young intellectuals who bond over ambitions of being smart and cultured. What follows is the inevitable disillusionment of youth and the alcoholism and fighting that goes along with it. As the characters age, they become weak and humiliated, but somehow the novel ends on a moderately uplifting note. (the book is still depressing, so no worries) (link)
2. The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne – Brian Moore
A bleak novel that details the psychological downfall of an Irish spinster turned alcoholic who believes, despite many disappointments indicating otherwise, that she may still get married and live the life she’s always felt she deserved. Her family is gone, her only friends despise her and she is blithely unaware that everyone pities or uses her. She sustains herself on illusion and appearances until her life really implodes beyond repair. (link)
1. Burmese Days – George Orwell
And finally, my favorite anti-romance novel is Burmese Days. Set against the struggles of colonial Burma is the story of an unattractive British soldier who falls in love with the shallow, unintelligent blonde niece of fellow soldier who appears at the whites-only European Club one day. While there are many different arcs to the novel, their doomed romance and shocking ending had me reeling for days afterward. (link)