Chocolate and flowers are nice, but curling up with a love story is an ideal way to inspire passion this Valentine's Day. Following are some book suggestions from Ashland library Manager Amy Blossom for folks who want a little romance in their reading this season.
- "The Samurai's Garden," by Gail Tsukiyama. A quiet tale of love and friendship between people whose countries are at war. The year is 1937, and the Japanese Imperial Army is tearing through China. When a young Chinese man is sent from his home in Hong Kong to the family's beach house in the quiet village of Tarumi, Japan, he swims, paints and grows stronger. He meets a Japanese girl and begins his love story as he also befriends Matsu, the house caretaker, a quiet, noble man in the Samurai tradition who shares his own tale of tragic love. The prose is elegant, and the story is accessible even to young adult readers as it explores themes of beauty, isolation and relationships.
- "Me Before You," by Jojo Moyes. Louisa (Lou) Clark is a simple, working-class girl in a tiny English town. Will Traynor is an upper-class jet-setter used to a life of luxury, extreme sports and hot women. The two have nothing in common, but when a motorcycle accident leaves Will paralyzed and angry, his mother hires Lou to care for him. Lou soon learns that Will plans to end his life and in the process of trying to change his mind, she falls in love with him. While the plot may sound like something we have heard before, this story is special. Moyes' writing is clean and honest, the tone perfect, and the characters are beautifully real.
- "The Art of Hearing Heartbeats," by Jan-Philipp Sendker. Set in Burma, this poignant mystery and love story moves between the 1950s and the present. When a successful New York lawyer disappears, his daughter and wife are baffled until they find a letter he wrote years ago to a Burmese woman. The story unfolds as the daughter decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she learns of her father's history and his incorruptible and passionate love.
- "The Time Traveler's Wife," by Audrey Niffenegger. If you like sci-fi, this one is a keeper. Henry DeTamble is an adventurous and charming librarian with a disorder that causes him to involuntarily travel through time. Clare Abshire is the love of his life, and their romance blossoms despite the fact that he is randomly whisked away in time, appearing at various points in Clare's past and present. While the plot is clever, it's the story and the characters' enduring love that makes this one such a good read.
- "Water for Elephants," by Sara Gruen. Told in flashback by 93-year old Jacob Jankowski, this sweet novel recounts the time he spent with a traveling circus in 1931. When young veterinary student Jankowski learns that his parents have been killed in a car crash, leaving him destitute, he drops out of school and gets a job caring for animals in a circus. He also falls in love with the beautiful performer Marlena, who is unfortunately married to a sadistic circus boss who beats both his wife and the animals Jankowski cares for. In addition to a love story, the book is a great account of circus history and life during the Depression.
If these picks aren't enough to satisfy your book lust, don't forget classic love stories such as "Jane Eyre," by Charlotte Bronte, "Wuthering Heights," by Emily Bronte, "Their Eyes Were Watching God," by Zora Neale Hurston, or anything by Jane Austen. Whatever your romantic sensibilities, the library is loaded with novels that will warm your heart.
Angela Decker is a freelance writer in Ashland and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.