Call me cliché, but I guess my soul was craving some love stories in February. Whether it was Valentine’s Day or the fact that I celebrated my first anniversary with my boyfriend or just that I had two very compelling novels on hand this month, who can know for sure. Nevertheless, I read very slowly this month, but I read two wonderful stories about very unusual love–which, of course, I loved.
I’m not what you would call a romantic. Chick flicks have never done it for me, and I’ve never really understood the appeal of Nicholas Sparks. I’m not cynical; I enjoy a love story–I just find the normal love story a little predictable and boring. Basically, I don’t need the standard “happily ever after” plot to feel like the romance was real and meaningful. My mother constantly accuses me of only liking depressing love stories (a la Gone with the Wind or Anna Karenina), and maybe she isn’t wrong. But what I look for in a love story is one that is as unexpected and full of trials, human error, and confusion as real love is. And thankfully, the love stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera” and Madeline Miller’s “The Song of Achilles” did just that.
I’ve been looking forward to reading “Love in the Time of Cholera” for a while; I read “100 Years of Solitude” for my last reading challenge, and that beautifully bizarre story connected with me in a way that I’ve since had a hard time articulating–so reading Garcia Marquez’s Nobel Prize-winning book was important to me. While I didn’t love “Love in the Time of Cholera” quite as much, Garcia Marquez’s fantastical conception of love and flamboyant diction were as appealing as ever. Perhaps my heart isn’t quite ready for the cosmic evaluation of the ebb and flow of passion that Garcia Marquez presents, or perhaps it was difficult to identify with the struggles of our solemn heroine Fermina, and her two beaus, the romantic Florentino and the practical Juvenal. Regardless, while it was an interesting and unique read, it wasn’t the kind of love story that made me reevaluate my understanding of the human heart, which, being a 20-something who is learning new things every day about loving someone, is kind of what I had hoped for.
“A Song for Achilles,” however, was an unexpectedly resonant read for me. I was surprised at how much I related to the love stories of two Greek soldiers hundreds of years ago, in a world where their love was eclipsed by obstacles like sea nymphs, ten years of war, and prophecies from the gods. Nevertheless, our protagonists’ earnest exploration of their feelings, even when it was inconvenient or forbidden, was a profound reminder of the importance of making sure your loved ones know how you feel. As someone who doesn’t exactly excel in talking about my feelings, this is always a relevant and important message for me. Additionally, the fact that this story didn’t adhere to the classic happily ever after arc (you have to admire Homer for really marching to the beat of his own drum when it comes to the fates of his heroes), was also a real plus.
All in all, both these books were salient examinations into the nature of love, and I appreciate the news lenses they provided for me to pause and appreciate my own relationship.