Great Reads: Unusual Love Stories

 

Book Critic and author of "Between the Covers," Ellen Heltzel, joined us today with her picks for the most interesting love stories to read right now. Check out Ellen's Book Babes website.

1. "The Marriage Plot," by Jeffrey Eugenides -- This novel was among the most talked about when it came out last year, and Eugenides attracted a big crowd when he came through Portland to promote it. His story features members of the generation that came of age as feminism, sexual freedom and divorce took center stage. Comparing their love lives to the simplicity of such 19th-century epic romances as "Jane Eyre," these young, confused characters consider the risks and rewards of choosing a mate. Read this book if you wonder why Americans are marrying later and later. 

2. "The Flight of Gemma Hardy," by Margot Livesay -- Speaking of "Jane Eyre," here's the rewrite -- setting the famous tale of a governess who falls in love with her moody employer in the Scotland of the 1950s and 1960s. Who knows what will happen when you sign on as an au pair? It's not quite Jane and Mr. Rochester, but it's a comforting read for anyone who still believes in that old black magic or love at first sight. Romance is not dead -- in fiction, at least!

3. "Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War," by Hal Vaughan -- Most of us know Chanel for her revolutionary approach to fashion, which got women out of corsets and into sportswear. But this book, based on recently uncovered material, paints a much more sinister picture of Coco as an anti-Semite and Nazi collaborator. Here's the love story part: Before Hitler came to power, Chanel fell in love with a dashing German aristocrat. Later, the baron became a Nazi spy, and she was drawn into helping him. When Paris was liberated, Coco (wisely) skipped town for Switzerland. After buying the silence of those who knew best, she returned to France and her career and making yet more millions in the fashion business.

4. "Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life," by Natalie Dykstra -- Another real-life romance, but one that ended tragically. Dykstra retells the true-life story of Clover Adams, who is best known for her dramatic suicide in her mid-forties (and the huge tombstone her husband constructed to memorialize her). But what accounted for her death? She was born into wealth and privilege in Boston during Emerson's time. She was a smart and sophisticated young woman when her hometown was the cultural center of the country. Then she married the historian Henry Adams, of the presidential Adams family, and together they became the "it" couple in Washington, D.C. Dykstra traces her ascendancy and decline into depression, putting blame on both her marriage and her frustrated ambitions.

5. "Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend," by Susan Orlean -- After looking at all the complications that love creates for the human species, it might be a relief to turn to one man and his beloved, the pooch who became a box-office star in silent films and the most famous dog of his time. Rin Tin Tin's owner, an American named Lee Duncan, found a German shepherd in France during World War I. From that day forward, everything else -- including his wife -- played second fiddle to Duncan's dreams and obsession. Animal lovers, unite!
 

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