Exploring novels about love, sex and romance

This summer, we’re diving into the BBC’s list of 100 novels that shaped our world.

One of the categories is love, sex and romance and the BBC panel selected these 10 books:

  • Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
  • Forever – Judy Blume
  • Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • Riders – Jilly Cooper
  • The Far Pavilions – M. M. Kaye
  • The Forty Rules of Love – Elif Shafak
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
  • The Passion – Jeanette Winterson
  • The Slaves of Solitude – Patrick Hamilton

The inclusion of “bonkbuster”, Riders on the list raised a few eyebrows, causing the panel to defend its appearance.

Less contentiously, Pride and Prejudice has been a stalwart of many “best books” lists over the years. It’s fascinating to search for Pride and Prejudice in the image database Bridgeman Education and see the range of illustrations and interpretations. For example, look at this fabulously glamorous painting of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy!

While Pride and Prejudice has remained popular, Their Eyes were Watching God sold very few copies in Hurston’s lifetime and was only, slowly, embraced as a classic in the 1970s and 1980s. This book chapter by Stephen Spencer explores how Hurston’s novel became part of the literary canon, and the role of racial politics in that journey.

Jeanette Winterson is best known for Oranges are not the ony fruit, and the Wikipedia page for her lesser-known novel, The Passion, is strikingly short. If you fancy updating and extending this page, then go for it!

If you’d like to rest your eyes and instead hear about these books, there are a couple of radio gems on Box of Broadcasts. Firstly, this documentary from 2013 examines the legacy of Judy Blume and her impact on teenage lives. And, this star-studded adaptation of Giovanni’s Room is unmissable.

Finally, if you enjoyed The forty rules of love, then Elif Shafak’s inspiration – the poetry of Rumi – is available in the library.

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