It’s February, which means only one thing: Valentine’s Day. If you haven’t yet found ‘the one’, or are just sick of pink love hearts everywhere, then this list is for you. Here are five books that are certainly not romance novels – they’re anti-romance. You won’t find any happy ever afters here, these books exist in the world where love just isn’t an option for the main character. Happy reading, and remember – February 15th isn’t too far away!
- Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
If ever there was a book that’s essentially the antithesis of happy married life, Gone Girl is it. The New York Times bestseller features Nick Dunne and his wife Amy, who mysteriously goes missing, leading to Nick being accused of her murder. The plot unravels in a deliciously dramatic way, with unreliable narrators and intricate storytelling keeping the reader from figuring out the plot until the very last minute.
- Paper Towns, by John Green
We’ve all had that friend that makes you feel special just by being your friend. Paper Towns follows Q as he is enlisted by his crush Margo to help her with her plan of vengeance. The operation goes off without a hitch, but Margo vanishes, leading to Q and his friends attempting to track her down. The book ends unexpectedly, and a tale of teenage friendships turns into something much bigger. Featuring some truly unique settings and narrative, Paper Towns is a unique young adult novel, and is one that should definitely be read – regardless of whether you liked The Fault in our Stars or not!
- The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, by Angela Carter
This amazing collection of short stories and vignettes see Carter taking traditional fairy tales, and turning them – quite literally – on their heads. Expect plenty of death, gore and violence in these books, and quite often the very opposite of a ‘happy ending.’ Even if, like me, you were made to study these texts as part of high school English, I recommend giving them a re-read; they are beautifully crafted, have a wonderfully feminist slant, and will certainly make you reconsider the very notion of a ‘happy ever after’.
- Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
19th-century Moscow and St. Petersburg were places of amazing opulence, extravagance and spectacle – if you were wealthy enough to afford it, of course. Anna Karenina follows the story of Princess Anna Karenina as she travels to Moscow to help her brother repair his marriage after he was caught cheating on the nursemaid, but ends up having an affair of her own with the dashing Count Vronsky.
Caught between her desire to divorce her husband and marry Vronsky, the pressures of society to keep the affair and behind closed doors, and her need to stay with her son, Anna is forced to choose whether she loves Vronsky or her son more, with ultimately tragic consequences. Regarded by Tolstoy as his first ‘true’ novel, Anna Karenina is a magnificent work, and shows life in imperial Russia from many different sides – a must-read!
- The Great Gatsby, by F Scott Fitzgerald
1920’s New York: the rich are only getting richer, and they’re throwing the swankiest parties to prove it, inviting anyone and everyone, as long as they’ve got enough money. Fitzgerald’s most famous novel is narrated by Nick Carraway, who is whisked into the world of New Money by his cousin, Daisy, and his neighbour, the infamous Gatsby, with disastrous consequences.
Love certainly does not triumph over all in The Great Gatsby and the novel makes some bold statements about wealth and class along the way. This is another book that deserves another read-through if you encountered it at school – it’s much better than your teachers made it seem! The Great Gatsby is full of symbolism and hidden meanings, and Fitzgerald brings it all together to form one of the greatest examples of 20th-century literature I can think of.
Image Credit: Ellen Smithies