Friday, February 11, 2011

Books for Valentine's Day

There may have been as many as three men named Valentine martyred by the Romans prior to 300 A.D.  Pope Gelasius recognized them by officially declaring February 14th St. Valentine's Day. It wasn’t until 1381, that Valentine’s Day became associated with the holiday of amour. The grand master of words, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Parliament of Fowles to mark the engagement of King Richard II and Anne of Bohemia.

While there is little evidence the martyred Valentines were overly romantic, a pagan celebration of fertility, Lupercalia, also occurred in mid-February. As time passed the two celebrations became one. In 1969, Pope Paul VI removed St. Valentine’s Day from the Roman Catholic calendar, but this didn’t stop people from celebrating.

Readers may choose to skip the crowds at the restaurants and movie theaters, and spend the evening celebrating with a good book. Here are a few ideas for the romantics and non-romantics.

A couple of romantic classics include Gone with the Wind and Pride and Prejudice. Margaret Mitchell won a Pulitzer Prize for her story of love and the Civil War in Gone With the Wind. Scarlett O’Hara wants the man she can’t have and loses the one she needs in Mitchell’s historic tale. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice explores romantic love and familial duty through the eyes of the five Bennet daughters as their mother negotiates matches and marriages for them.

Try a combination of fantasy, adventure and romance in The Princess Bride by William Goldman. The story features pirates and giants, a kidnapped princess, and a dashing hero. For the adventure lover, there’s plenty of swordplay and battling evil on the high seas, and for the romantic love conquers all.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger combines the paranormal with love. The hero, Henry Detamble travels back and forth through time, meeting his wife, Clare, at different times and ages throughout their lives. More intriguing is Niffenegger’s use of point of view, moving smoothly between the stories of the protagonists and creating a complex story of love and “what if.”

For the historical fiction fan The Outlander Series by Diane Gabaldon feeds the love of history and the romantic at heart. Jamie and Claire Fraser were born two hundred years apart yet found a timeless love in the Scottish Highlands. Gabaldon entwines time travel with authentic historical events and likeable characters into a story that will make the reader laugh and cry at the same time.

Have a happy Valentine’s Day, and enjoy a good book.

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