Contrary to what our title may suggest, the novels we will share with you are not old. Though some of the books have been published over two-hundred years ago, a true classic romance novel’s most indelible quality is its timelessness. Not only were books such as Anna Karenina, Pride and Prejudice and Emma incredibly popular amongst its contemporary readers, they remain staples of our collective consciousness. If you’re looking for a swoon-worthy love story, these ‘old romances’ are worth the read every time.
‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune, must be in want of a wife’ This is the famous opening line of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and frankly, can you think of a better introduction to a novel? It just wouldn’t be right to start this list with any book other than Jane Austen’s most read and adapted novel. No romance is more compelling than that of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett. Pride and Prejudice has been adapted into movies, TV shows and has even inspired countless novel retellings. But let’s be clear, nothing beats the original.
Jane Eyre is a brooding and reluctant romance. It is the coming-of-age story of a young woman raised by unkind relatives and made to bear the burdens of 19th century womanhood much to young. Enter a dark and taciturn Mr. Rochester, a rich bachelor for whom the prospect of falling in love threatens to unravel many secrets that he has carefully – and cruelly – locked away.
There are several love stories in Little Women. Though Jo’s heartbreaking rejection of Laurie is a memorable scene in the novel, Louisa may Alcott’s novel focuses on the love of a mother for her daughters and the love that sisters have for one another. The March sisters embody all facets of sisterhood from tenderness to jealousy and everything in between. Of course, as these ladies grow, so do their experiences of love with the leading men in their lives.
Emma is the original and most notorious meddling matchmaker in affairs of love. She appoints herself as her community’s matchmaker and applies her misguided zeal to the love lives of friends and family. As one could imagine, Emma’s meddling and machinations is not welcome by all and certainly do not have the outcomes she expects.
Yuri Zhivago is a doctor and poet living in Imperial Russia who’s love is divided between two women: His wife Tonya and his lover Lana just as swelling unrest bursts into the Russian Civil War. Through love, loss and even exile, characters must attempt to forge a life for themselves.
If you’ve heard of Wuthering Heights, you know that this novel has its audience divided. This gothic romance tells the story of Heathcliff, a spurned man, who takes revenge on the man his love Catherine chooses to marry and its disastrous consequences. Wuthering heights is the tale of love soured by jealousy and rage and the way it can poison the lives of many.
At this point, surely, you’re not surprised that Jane Austen has a third entry in this list. The beautiful Dashwood daughters and their mother forced to leave their childhood home to a humble cottage following the death of their father. It is Barton cottage, their new home, that the girls come of age and face romance and heartbreak alike.
A Room with a View is set in upper-middle-class English society nearly 100 years after any of Austen’s novels. Lucy Honeychurch, an early 20th century woman has the luxury of living a far more independent life than any of Austen’s women, however, she bears many of the same classic prejudices as her predecessors when she rejects the kindness of Mr. Emerson and his son, George. Later, George and Lucy become acquainted and quickly forms affections. Lucy must govern her feelings and her chaperone while also exploring beautiful Florence.
Though Anna Karenina’s affair with an affluent count is certainly one of the prominent stories in this tome – and is often the most adapted – The novel, all 8 parts, each depict the lives, loves and betrayals of many Russians as they navigate the realities of 19th century Europe. Reading all 239 chapters Anna Karenina is an undertaking, but it is wonderfully majestic in its scope.
Australian classic The Thorn Birds details the life of a family through a lifetime as the Cleary children grow in their new home on a sheep station in early 20th century New South Wales. Though the Cleary’s, from generation to generation, face many tragedies and difficult separations, the ties they weave between each other and within their community is the foundation of the novels 50-year span.