Classic Romance Reads

Jane-AustenEmma stands a little apart from Jane Austen’s other novels. It is perhaps the most self-aware, socially critical and ironic of all her works. Her protagonist, Emma Woodhouse, is a beautiful, rich girl who is also spoiled, proud and blinded by her own situation in life. She begins to understand herself and life a little better when her romantic schemes – charitable good works to those around her – become entangled in tensions of class and of the heart. Austen wrote of Emma, ‘I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like.

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The-Age-of-InnocenceCountess Olenska, having suffered the collapse of her marriage in Europe, arrives in New York. Newland Archer anticipates marriage to May Welland, the countess’s cousin, but eventually falls in love with the countess. He discovers the real anguish of loving outside of society’s rules.

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Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women in two parts, each resoundingly popular and receiving critical acclaim. The novel follows the lives of the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, from childhood into maturity. The journey is not an easy one, and each is humbled and ultimately uplifted by her encounters with love, society and death. The work is based loosely on Alcott’s experiences growing up with three sisters.

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Romeo-and-JulietShakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is perhaps the most read and beloved of all stage works. Now the most extensively annotated version of the play to date makes it completely accessible to readers in the twenty-first century. The new edition is a rich resource for students, teachers, and the general reader. Eminent linguist and translator Burton Raffel offers generous help with vocabulary and usage of Elizabethan English, pronunciation, prosody, and alternative readings of phrases and lines. His on-page annotations provide readers with the tools they need to comprehend the play and begin to explore its many possible interpretations. This version of Romeo and Juliet is unparalleled for its thoroughness and adherence to sound linguistic principles. In his introduction, Raffel provides historical and social contexts that increase the reader’s understanding of the play. And in a concluding essay, Harold Bloom argues that Romeo and Juliet is unmatched in the world’s literature as a vision of an uncompromising love that perishes of its own idealism and intensity.

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A Room with a ViewThe first part of the novel is set in Florence, Italy, and describes a young English woman’s first visit to Florence, at a time when upper middle class English women were starting to lead independent, adventurous lives. Lucy Honeychurch is touring Italy with her overbearing older cousin and chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett, and the novel opens with their complaints about the hotel, “The Pension Bertolini.” Their primary concern is that although rooms with a view of the River Arno have been promised for each of them, their rooms instead look over a courtyard. A Mr. Emerson interrupts their “peevish wrangling,” offering to swap rooms as he and his son, George Emerson, look over the Arno. This behavior causes Miss Bartlett some consternation, as it appears impolite. Without letting Lucy speak, Miss Bartlett refuses the offer, looking down on the Emersons because of their unconventional behavior and thinking it would place her under an “unseemly obligation” towards them. However, another guest at the pension, an Anglican clergyman named Mr. Beebe, persuades the pair to accept the offer, assuring Miss Bartlett that Mr. Emerson only meant to be kind. A Room with a View is a 1908 novel by English writer E. M. Forster, about a young woman in the restrained culture of Edwardian era England. Set in Italy and England, the story is both a romance and a critique of English society at the beginning of the 20th century. Merchant-Ivory produced an award-winning film adaptation in 1985.

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