The Greatest Love Story Ever Told – as voted by you

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone from Booktopia.

To celebrate we’ve been counting down the 50 Greatest Love Stories Ever Told, as voted by you.

Don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom to see the huge sales and collections of books on love we have for you.

But here it is. The 10 Greatest Love Stories Ever Told, as voted by you.


10. Gone with the Wind

Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel of love and war won the Pulitzer Prize and went on to give rise to two authorized sequels and one of the most popular and celebrated movies of all time.

Many novels have been written about the Civil War and its aftermath. None take us into the burning fields and cities of the American South as “Gone With the Wind” does, creating haunting scenes and thrilling portraits of characters so vivid that we remember their words and feel their fear and hunger for the rest of our lives.

In the two main characters, the white-shouldered, irresistible Scarlett and the flashy, contemptuous Rhett, Margaret Mitchell not only conveyed a timeless story of survival under the harshest of circumstances, she also created two of the most famous lovers in the English-speaking world since Romeo and Juliet.

Click here to buy Gone with the Wind


9. The Great Gatsby

Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything.

But one thing will always be out of his reach…

Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character.

For Gatsby – young, handsome, fabulously rich – always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled.

And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.

Click here to buy The Great Gatsby


8. Atonement

On the hottest day of the summer of 1934, thirteen- year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her is Robbie Turner, her childhood friend who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge.

By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had not even imagined at its start, and will have become victims of the younger girl’s imagination.

Briony will have witnessed mysteries, and committed a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.

Click here to buy Atonement


7. Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights has achieved an almost mythical status as a love story, yet it is also a unique masterpiece of the imagination: an unsettling, transgressive novel about obsession, violence and death.

It begins as a man is forced to shelter at the strange, grim house on the Yorkshire moors during a snowstorm. There he discovers the tempestuous events that took place there years before: the intense love between Catherine Earnshaw and the foundling Heathcliff, her betrayal of him and how his terrible revenge continues to haunt the present.

Click here to buy Wuthering Heights


6. Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain is just one of the short stories to be found in this haunting collection of Wyoming tales, set in the beautiful, wild landscape of Wyoming where cowboys live as they have done for generations.

Hard, lonely lives in unforgiving country. Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar are two ranch hands, glad to have found each others company where none had been expected. But companionship becomes something else on Brokeback Mountain, something not looked for – an intimacy neither can forget.

Brokeback Mountain was famously made into an Academy Award-winning film by Ang Lee, and starred Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway.

Click here to buy Brokeback Mountain


5. The Time Traveler’s Wife

This extraordinary, magical novel is the story of Clare and Henry who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty.

Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: periodically his genetic clock resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. His disappearances are spontaneous and his experiences are alternately harrowing and amusing.

The Time Traveler’s Wife depicts the effects of time travel on Henry and Clare’s passionate love for each other with grace and humour. Their struggle to lead normal lives in the face of a force they can neither prevent nor control is intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

Click here to buy The Time Traveler’s Wife


4. Romeo and Juliet

‘Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!

For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.’

One of the greatest love stories ever told, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet continues to touch modern audiences with its passionate depiction of the tragic romance between two young lovers.

With a bitter feud between their respective families, Romeo and Juliet’s love is troubled from the start, and through their relationship, Shakespeare shows the fine line between love, hatred, comedy and tragedy.

Click here to buy Romeo and Juliet


3. The Notebook

Set amid the austere beauty of coastal North Carolina in 1946, The Notebook begins with the story of Noah Calhoun, a rural Southerner returned home from World War II. Noah, 31, is restoring a plantation home to its former glory, and he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met 14 years earlier, a girl he loved like no other. Unable to find her, yet unwilling to forget the summer they spent together, Noah is content to live with only memories…until she unexpectedly returns to his town to see him once more.

Allie Nelson, 29, is now engaged to another man, but realizes that the original passion she felt for Noah has not dimmed with the passage of time. Still, the obstacles that once ended their previous relationship remain, and the gulf between their worlds is too vast to ignore. With her impending marriage only weeks away, Allie is forced to confront her hopes and dreams for the future, a future that only she can shape. Like a puzzle within a puzzle, the story of Noah and Allie is just the beginning. As it unfolds, their tale miraculously becomes something different, with much higher stakes.

The result is a deeply moving portrait of love itself, the tender moments and the fundamental changes that affect us all.

Click here to buy The Notebook


2. Jane Eyre

‘The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself’

Rejected by her guardians and offered cold charity at an orphanage, Jane Eyre has come to rely on her own intelligence and strength of character to guide her through life.

But when she becomes governess at Thornfield Hall, working for the gruff Mr Rochester, she finds a man who may be her equal – and a secret that threatens to destroy them both.

Published in 1847 under the pseudonym Currer Bell, Jane Eyre enthralled and appalled readers with its passionate, defiant heroine. It remains a novel of unparalleled narrative grip, vivid imagery and naked emotional power.

Click here to buy Jane Eyre


1. Pride and Prejudice

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’

Austen’s best-loved tale of love, marriage and society in class-conscious Georgian England still delights modern readers today with its comedy and characters.

When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever.

In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships,gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life.

Click here to buy Pride and Prejudice


Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the search for The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. We’ll have a recap of the full list up tomorrow.

Don’t forget to check out our great offers for this month, both on Lavish Love, and our Valentine’s Day celebration specials.

All this month we’re featuring the Love in Print at Booktopia. Click on the banner below to see the huge range of books on love we’re featuring all this month at Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore.

Top 5 Books for Downton Abbey Addicts by Sarah McDuling

I was supposed to be born in England some time in the late nineteenth century. I firmly believe that. Sadly, by virtue of a cosmic accident, I was born in Australia about a hundred years behind schedule. In hopes of rectifying this obvious mistake, I have written several strongly worded letters addressed to Fate and The Powers That Be.

I am still anxiously awaiting a response.

Another thing I’m anxiously awaiting is Season 3 of Downton Abbey. There’s nothing quite like sitting down with a cup of tea, a plate of cucumber sandwiches and an episode of Downton. For anyone who has spent the past two years in a coma or stranded on a deserted island (these being the only two reasons I will accept for not being a confirmed Downton Addict) Downton Abbey is a TV show about an aristocratic English family and the army of servants who run their household.  It is a show that has everything. Star crossed lovers, long lost family members, unexpected deaths, back-stabbing sisters, murder trials and blackmail schemes and Maggie Smith (who absolutely owns every scene in which she appears as the indomitable Dowager Duchess of Grantham).

It is largely thanks to Downton Abbey that I’ve recently found myself reading lots of books set in pre/post war England – the time period and homeland of my soul. And so, for all my fellow tea-totalling Anglophiles out there, here are some great reads to tide us over while we wait for the next season of Downton Abbey. Each book listed will receive a “Downton Award”, to be presented by a character from the show.


The Remains of the Day

by Kazuo Ishiguro

 Winner of the Downton Award for “Most Dignified Butler” – to be presented by Carson.

Have you ever found yourself wondering what it would be like if Downton Abbey’s dour-faced butler, Carson, was secretly in love with Mrs. Hughes? The Remains of the Day will satisfy your curiosity and then some. This is a heart rending tale of love gone unspoken between a butler and a house keeper, told in the subtle yet emotionally fraught style of Kazuo Ishiguro.

I come back to this book time and again and with each re-read, I get so completely caught up that I inevitably find myself hoping that it will end differently – only to be struck anew by the perfectly bitter-sweet conclusion.

BUY


I Capture the Castle

by Dodie Smith

This is one of my all-time favourite books, one that starts with what I think is the best opening line ever –

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink”.

So begins the diary of Cassandra Mortmain, hands down the most charismatic narrators I have ever encountered. Cassandra and her family live in the crumbling ruins of a castle in the English countryside. The Mortmains are very poor and wonderfully eccentric. Cassandra’s father is an author suffering from writer’s block. Her stepmother is a former artist’s model and occasional nudist who goes by the unlikely name of Topaz and her sister, Rose, is very beautiful, somewhat selfish and (much like Lady Mary of Downton Abbey) extremely good at getting her own way.

When an American family moves into a neighbouring property, both the Mortmain sisters fall in love and what ensues is a perfectly charming, often hilarious and overall very touching coming-of-age story. A must read for anyone who had ever dreamt of living in a castle and getting to swim in the moat.

Cassandra Mortmain lives in the shadow of a beautiful older sister. She is somewhat shy and awkward, the kind of girl who constantly ends up blending into the background rather than stealing the limelight.

As such I Capture the Castle wins the Downton Award for “The Most Often Overlooked Younger Sister” – to be presented by Edith Crawley.

BUY


Atonement

 Winner of the Downton Award for  “Star-crossed Lovers” – to be presented by Anna and Mr Bates.

 Ahhhh Atonement. Here is a book that is bound to enthral any Downton fan – a beautifully imagined tale of tragic romance in which a pair of lovers are cruelly separated by misfortune (much like Anna and Mr Bates.)

Atonement is a sweeping family drama, taking place in wartime England. Our narrator, Briony Tallis, begins the novel as a very foolish young girl who makes a terrible mistake, one that ends up having devastating consequences. As she grows up in a country ravaged by war, Briony’s memories of the past shift like a kaleidoscope till she is forced to face a terrible truth.

In Atonement you will find all the key elements that make Downton Abbey the greatest show in the history of television. Secret affairs, a hero wrongly accused of a crime, young lovers torn asunder, sisterly betrayal and brave young men marching off to war. Briony even trains as a nurse, just like Downton’s Sibyl Crawley!

Warning: Do not read without access to a box of tissues.

BUY


Cold Comfort Farm

A delightfully comical story following the adventures of Flora Poste, a very modern and extremely confidant young woman who takes it upon herself to improve the lives of her rustic country relatives.

I adore Cold Comfort Farm, however, it does happen to include one of my pet peeves – i.e. people marrying their cousins. It might have been socially acceptable for people to marry their cousins in ye olde English times, but that kind of thing simply doesn’t fly these days. So whenever I encounter a story featuring cousins getting married, I’m forced to imagine fake backstories for the characters in order to make it less icky. For instance, even though in Downton Abbey Lady Mary and Mathew Crawley are (distantly) related, I still like to pretend that Mary was secretly adopted.

Cold Comfort Farm was a runner up for the Downton Award for “Kissing Cousins” however it lost by a narrow margin to Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park*.

Instead, it wins the Downton Award for “Most Hilariously High-Handed Busy-Body” – presented by the incomparable Maggie Smith AKA The Dowager Duchess of Grantham.

I imagine that when the Dowager Duchess was a young woman, she would have been exactly like Flora Poste, taking great pleasure in micromanaging the lives of all her relatives so as to ensure that everything and everyone is settled in just the way she thinks best.

*Unbeknownst to her parents (and Jane Austen) Fanny Price was accidentally switched at birth and is therefore not really related to Edmund.

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The Forsyte Saga

Also a runner up in the “Kissing Cousins” category, The Forsyte Saga wins the Downton Award for “Most Scandalous Family” – to be presented by Sibyl Crawley and Tom Branson.

Although no one in the Forsyte family does anything quite so outrageous as to elope with a chauffeur (or smuggle a the body of a recently deceased Turksish Ambassador out of their bed in the middle of the night) they certainly give the Crawley family a run for their money when it comes to dark family secrets and scandalous liaisons.

The Forsyte Saga is three novels worth of epic family drama. Beginning in 1906 and ending in the 1920s, it covers much the same time period as Downton Abbey. This is 20th century  English melodrama at it’s best.

BUY


And for those who prefer a more non-fictional read I highly recommend Life Below Stairs and Lady Almina and the Story of the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle.

I do not believe I am alone my Downton addiction. In fact, I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of Downton addicts out there who secretly believe they have been displaced in time – people who, just like me, are patiently waiting for someone to invent a time machine so they can finally get back to their real lives as auxiliary nurses and suffragettes (ladies) or fox-hunting English lords and Communist chauffeurs. Personally, I am rather anxious to return to my country estate and claim my title as Duchess of  ______shire.

So I implore you, kindred spirits – I know you’re out there – Tell me, what books have I missed? Which authors do you turn to when you’re hankering for a good Downton fix?


And because without him there would be no Downton Abbey…

Snobs/Past Imperfect Omnibus

by Julian Fellowes – writer and creator of Downton Abbey

SNOBS:

Edith Lavery is a woman on the make. The attractive only child of a middle-class accountant, she leaves behind her dull job in a Chelsea estate agents and manages to bag one of the most eligible bachelors of the day – Charles Broughton, heir to the Marquess of Uckfield.

But is life amongst the upper echelons of ‘good’ society all that it seems Edith soon discovers there’s much more to the aristocracy than dancing in Anabel’s, shooting small birds and understanding which fork to use at dinner. And then there is Charles’ mother, the indomitable Lady Uckfield, or ‘Googie’ to her friends, who is none too pleased with her son’s choice of breeding partner.

With twists and turns aplenty, this is a comical tale worthy of a contemporary Jane Austen.

PAST IMPERFECT:

Damian Baxter is very, very rich – and he’s dying. He lives alone in a big house in Surrey, looked after by a chauffeur, butler, cook and housemaid. He has but one concern: who should inherit his fortune…

PAST IMPERFECT is the story of a quest. Damian Barker wishes to know if he has a living heir. By the time he married in his late thirties he was sterile (the result of adult mumps), but what about before that unfortunate illness? He was not a virgin. Had he sired a child? A letter from a girlfriend from these times suggests he did. But the letter is anonymous.

Damian contacts someone he knew from their days at university. He gives him a list of girls he slept with and sets him a task: find his heir…

BUY

The essential Ian McEwan – from First Love, Last Rites to Solar

It has only been available for a little more than two weeks but Ian McEwan’s new novel Solar continues to garner great reviews. Eagle-eyed followers of Booktopia will know that I featured it as one of my two books of the month in the March edition of Booktopia Buzz, and certainly buyers have responded in droves.

Since then Fairfax’ uber-critic Andrew Riemer has described this often humorous modern morality tale about global warming and the antics of one rapidly aging middle class man as including “some of the finest writing I have encountered in very many years”. High praise indeed. Riemer is not a man to fall lightly, no matter how enticing the reputation of the Continue reading

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