There is a very large boxful of reasons that might produce a fine candidate for the best love story. It’s probably under the bed or maybe in the basement, just waiting for spring cleaning. In there with the Christmas lights, the inflatable Easter Bunny, the oil changing stuff and the air mattresses, it lurks, waiting for spring.
Doubtless in that box, you’d find a guide to the “Awwww…” factor. Perhaps a discussion of sacrifice or trust. There would be an indignant, scholarly essay on the distortion of true love in Tristan and Isolde. But I’m too tired to go look for the box. Today’s guiding criteria is far simpler. Volume (or perhaps I mean mass). Which book gets the most separate love stories all together between two nice library edition hardcover exteriors.
And we have a clear front runner in the only book by Charles Dickens that our capricious majesty deigns to like.
Our Mutual Friend is not strictly a love story. Its themes almost leave love right out. Money, money, money! What can money buy? What becomes of those who have it? And those who don’t? But who is happy? How!
Money and the Thames. For through the dense and ponderous novel flows the river. It is the Themes that gives shape to the plot. Shape, color, odor and direction.
So what then, of these love stories? Yes, there are almost too many to count. There are somewhere around 36 characters (I may have missed one, or counted one twice) and each of them loves or does not in a way that shapes all their actions.
The twisted, wasted love of the Schoolmaster. The jealous love of the brother. The Miser’s shriveled lack of love that destroyed his life. The gentle, homely love of the Miser’s stewards for each other. The comical love of the “articulator of bones” for the rogue’s daughter who “does not wish regard herself, nor yet be regarded in that bony light.” The growing but warped love of the confidence tricksters who deceived each other into matrimony. Just a few of them here!
And the two central love stories of John and Bella, and Eugene and Lizzie.
While the other characters’ loves inspire warmth, affection and sympathy or else disgust, these are the two love stories that make me gasp. It doesn’t hurt of course, that there is a BBC mini series that dramatized this book brilliantly and cast these four with perfection. Ah, but the love of these men and women changes them and perfects them. Lovely things, are…lovely….
So let me see….there are 2 major love stories. One crucial supporting love story…and about 6 side line love stories to keep things from getting dull as the plot and the Thames roll away to the sea.
So happy reading to you, friend! It’ll take you a month, but it’ll be worth it. And I won’t admit the same for any other Dickens. Nope, can’t make me. Huh uh. Don’t even try.
PS. Mortimer is mine. I forgot to add him to the book crush list, but there he certainly belongs.