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The Vine: February 21, 2014

Submitted by on February 21, 2014 – 9:27 AM51 Comments


I'm a recently divorced (boo/yay) gal in her early thirties looking for some good reads to help me keep believing in the magic of love.

Something in between classics like Jane Eyre (too heavy and complicated) and Confessions of a Shopaholic (too mindless/chick-lit). Both of those types of books are great in their own time, but they're not really what I need right now.



Cheaters Ride The Size-Nine Express

PS If you beautiful people have other reading suggestions that would feel healing, I'd certainly welcome those too.

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  • B says:

    Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Thought it would be cheesy, but it's not at all. I haven't read her other books (yet), but I hear they are great too.

  • Jocelyn says:

    I'm in my early thirties and am presently re-reading Harriet Evans' "Happily Ever After". It's a great read, being a love story but with more substance to the plot than your typical chick lit. The descriptions I have found online do not give justice to the more serious plot points that come up. It's a romance, with humorous elements, but it does not depict life as being all roses and hijinx either.

  • attica says:

    Can I recommend Longbourn?

    It's a new novel told from the point of view of the servants in Pride and Prejudice, which may sound fan-fic-y and lame, but it actually stands on its own. It's beautifully written. I liked it so much after borrowing it from the library I went and bought my own copy. Which I *never* do.

  • Jess says:

    Sarah Addison Allen writes books that are slightly thinkier than all those books about shopping and shoes (happy endings, frequently about women starting over, lovely sort of modern Southern gothic settings, some touches of actual magic) but they're still fast and engaging reads. You might like her.

    After the most devastating breakup of my life I found "On Love" by Alain de Botton to be really helpful, but I was 22 at the time and I'm not sure he holds up as you get older.

  • Emily G. says:

    Hang in there, LW!

    1) For novels about women dealing with tough stuff and getting back on their feet: Anything by Pearl Cleage, like What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day

    2) About the magic of love (for teenagers, and also for the rest of us): Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

    3) Healing: Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed's collected Dear Sugar advice columns, aka essays full of wisdom.

  • Elissa says:

    I always found Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude to be pretty life affirming.
    For more contemporary/less heavy, Rainbow Rowell's latest, FANGIRL, is about an awkward college student making it all work, and it made me feel better about life in general.
    And, because I work in romance publishing, if you want a dirty, f-ed up, non-romance with messed up people, Tiffany Reisz's books are for you, start with THE SIREN.

  • pomme de terre says:

    Nick Hornby does great work writing about modern relationships, and I think About a Boy might be right up your street. A Long Way Down could work as well. I also love his collections of columns from The Believer. At this point, I would not recommend High Fidelity, because it's about [spoiler] a couple that breaks up and gets back together.

    Also, I will do the inevitable and say I really enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love. I also enjoyed the follow-up, Committed, which is about second marriages (and the concepts of marriage and love and commitment in general).

  • Stephanie says:

    Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. It's perfectly in the middle of those two ends of the fiction spectrum. You will ugly cry (probably) but at the end of the book, you will absolutely believe in the redemptive power of love.

  • Jaybird says:

    I recently finished reading this, and while it's a bit fluffier than these other recommendations–not that there's anything wrong with that, mind–I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns and ultimate message. There's also Elizabeth Kostova's "The Historian", which (again, weirdness) ends up being affirming, in an ooky way.

  • Kate says:

    Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me is my go to comfort read whenever I get a little down on the possibility of love. It's hilarious (like almost all of her books- I would recommend them just for laughs) but also has a realistic "two people who never thought love was for them fall in love" plot that isn't saccharine or stupid.

  • Liz says:

    I've been enjoying Liane Moriarty of late: "The Husband's Secret", and "The Last Anniversary".

    Another beautiful novel is "Rules of Civility" by Amor Towles.

    And "The Chaperone" by Laura Moriarty. (No relation to Liane Moriarty mentioned above.)

  • Dsayko says:

    Going in Circles, by Pamela Ribon

  • Jen says:

    Single, divorced, and Covered in Cat Hair. Comes complete with knitting patterns! Actually a good read how knitting came to heal her from a divorce and she did eventually find new love.

  • Nanc in Ashland says:

    I heartily second Kate's suggestion of Jennifer Cruise's Bet Me (the shoe descriptions are fabulous!) and add her Fast Women. I gotta say I'm also a big fan of anything by Fannie Flagg–just finished The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion. And for just a good read, Connie Willis's Blackout and All Clear (the audio books are fabulous, if you're a fan of such things!).

  • Judy says:

    An author I discovered last year is Lorna Landvik. Her books are definitely about the magic of love, though not always romantic love. Her characters are quirky, and once I'd read one of her books I had to get my hands on the rest.

  • courtney says:

    the first thing I thought of was State of Wonder by Ann Patchett–but Bel Canto & the Magician's Assistant are also good (as are probably her other books, but I haven't read them).

  • Maria says: This will be perfect, and it will make you want to read everything else she's written.

    I have really enjoyed the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse novels. There's something very fun about a series when you need distraction. Along the same lines there's Janet Evanovich and the Stephanie Plum novels, but I got stalled on about Thirteen and moved on.

  • Dayna says:

    I'm going to recommend Jennifer Crusie. She writes contemporary great romances that are pretty damn funny. One of my favorites is Bet Me. I read it on a plane on the way back from Hawaii and laughed all the way across the Pacific.

  • Susan says:

    Seconding Going in Circles. There's a passage near the end that's so sweet & hopeful.

  • Kat says:

    Seconding the recommendation for anything by Sarah Addison Allen. Her books are absolutely lovely and charming.

    Also: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Delightful and joyous and oh so swoony but also literate and full of interesting bits of WW2 history.

    OH! And Code Name: Verity! It's YA and the central love story is the love between two female friends, not romantic love. That seems like it would suit nicely in your situation.

  • Danie says:

    Congratulations! I second the Me Before You nomination as well as Jennifer Crusie – she's lots of fun. I would also suggest The Rosie Project as a fun, light, lovely read. In the week after my own split, I rewatched the BBC Pride and Prejudice mini-series with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. This is worth six hours of your time.

    Hang in there, the best part of life is still to come. Billie Holiday was so misguided: sleeping right alone is so much better than being with someone wrong.

    Also, divorce rocks!!!

  • Christopher Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends, You Suck, and Bite Me. Don't be put off by the trendiness of vampire stories! Not only are they, 'embarrass yourself laughing outloud on public transportation' funny, but go through the ups & downs of some REALLY non-normative, and not Twilight-ick romanticized, relationships.

  • Mingles' Mommy says:

    I was shocked that I enjoyed Joanna Trollope's re-envisioning of "Sense & Sensibility." It was light but fun.

    Other than that, I personally prefer darker books. :)

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Alain de Botton always holds up! I have all his books.

    Let's see; I Capture The Castle, by Dodie Smith, best known as the author of 101 Dalmatians. A young girl discovers her potential and love without abandoning either one.

    All of Laurie Colwin. She does have a tendency to have her characters have affairs, though.

    Rebecca, for its timeless suspense and reminders that no-fault divorce is a true advancement in human civilization.

    Anne Lamott's Rosie trilogy: Rosie, Crooked Little Heart, and Imperfect Birds. They focus on Rosie but also outline the relationship between her mother Elizabeth and the man she marries.

    Middlemarch, for its sheer excellence.

    Jane Austen, natch.

    Arrgh, I have to go make tonight's dinner. I'll be back.

  • RC says:

    I'm going to second Pamie's Going in Circles.

    Another thing I found helped me after a breakup (YMMV of course): television programs of questionable quality but with many hot dudes. Hellooooo, men of Revenge and Grimm (the former is mostly pure camp, and the latter is trying so hard to be good, but the writing just isn't. But… pretty. And at least the last season or so has subplots on yay we have a good relationship, so maybe that would help).

  • scurry says:

    Sushi for Beginner by Marian Keyes. She's a fun writer who balances some of the fluffy chick-lit-y fun with real heart and depth. Her other books are fun too, especially those dealing with the Walsh family.

  • The Time Traveller's Wife, by Audrey Nieffenegger, and Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins.

  • Kithica says:

    If you're open to fantasy as a genre, I recommend Archangel by Sharon Shinn. It's fantasy with a Pride and Prejudice-y romance as the driving force, with complex and stubborn characters. Don't let the 'angel' thing put you off (I did, for ages before I finally read it), it's a political thing on another world much more than a Judeo-Christian biblical thing.

  • Lizzie says:

    Second the recommendation for anything/everything by Rainbow Rowell

  • Kelly says:

    I'll be this person and recommend a couple graphic novels.

    BLANKETS by Craig Thompson – college-age set, but about some all-encompassing relationships, I found it really beautiful, sad and heartening all at the same time.

    SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD series – Stay with me! Underneath the goofiness and the fights and the Canadian music scene is a really beautiful story about growing up and taking chances on love. Resonated with me at 30ish in a way I was not expecting.

    Those are both written by dudes. Two romantic dudes. Hmm. The graphic novels I've read by women are much more serious/upsetting than those.

    Random heavy addition: OF HUMAN BONDAGE is a really beautiful book about a toxic relationship, but (spoiler alert) has a pretty happy and hopeful ending.

  • Robin in Philly says:

    Seconding the recs for 'Code Name Verity' and 'I Capture the Castle'.

    I don't know if you're into science fiction (and fairly hard science fiction at that), but both my husband and I were both rather moved by the relationship at the heart of Alastair Reynold's 'House of Suns'.

  • DriverB says:

    Hello Nation,

    LW here. I knew you would write me an amazing list! I am so looking forward to exploring these.

    And, as I told Sars this morning, this comes at the perfect time – had a date last night, he was cute, we'll see what happens. :) Even if it doesn't turn into anything, it was nice, and it's good to feel that again.

    Until then, as @RC said above – eye candy. I'm particularly enjoying the calendar of these glorious boys, who are fighting against homophobia in sports. Nakedly.

    Thank you! xoxo

  • Waverly says:

    A Trip to the Stars, by Nicholas Christopher. It is a great book about love and loss. And hope and triumph. And spiders and stars.

    Really, it's about a lot of weird s*it, but it works. Hope you love it!

  • Sarah says:

    Jennifer Crusie's books are really fun. My personal favorite (i.e. I made my boyfriend read it, for real) is Welcome to Temptation. Light, but not completely insubstantial.

    Another choice for substantial chick-lit is Emily Giffin. It's thinky. But it's also sort of heavy and may not be the best choice for right now?

  • Tarn says:

    "Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name" by Vendela Vida really spoke to me when I was going through a breakup. Broken trust in a marriage is only one of the pieces of the novel, but the imagery of Lapland is powerful and connects well with a character (and reader) exploring broken relationships and dysfunctional family.

    I also third (or fourth or whatever) Pamela Ribon's Going in Circles.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Second, third and fourth @NanceinAshland! Connie Willis is the bomb. She is everything. Along with her recommendations check out To Say Nothing of the Dog, and its inspiration, Three Men in a Boat. It's the same world she uses for Blackout and All Clear but very light and funny, with some truly moving parts about time, the past, and what can be rescued from it.

  • IS says:

    If you want something that isn't just romance, the In Death series by J.D. Robb.

    They're murder mysteries set in the future, and the protagonist is a police detective who falls in love with a man who's originally a suspect. They start out with your typical romance-novel whirlwind that soon leads to marriage.

    But then the series continues, and it explores what married life is actually like for each other. How do they learn to live together? How do they adapt to each other? How do they balance their marriage with the careers they were both single-mindedly pursuing before they fell into each other's arms? How do they deal with the rough patches that arise?

    And while all this is happening, they're still solving mysteries and having adventures and flying around in flying cars.

  • ct says:

    The Republic of Love by Carol Shields.
    It's soothingly low-key and romantic.

  • cinderkeys says:

    Huh, weird. I can't think of a single novel centered around a love story to recommend.

    I do second ABOUT A BOY by Nick Hornby. It's not primarily a love story, although it contains one. It's about … well, a lot of things, but among them is building the support system you need. Except it's a lot more fun than I just made it sound.

  • kellyu says:

    The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.

  • Allie says:

    Well, I came here to say Crusie, but she's been covered. Nah, I'm going to recommend her anyway. I've been rereading her books in chronological order of publication and blogging about them and it's almost been like the experience that led her to write romance in the first place. Watching the progression of the writer and our culture has been eye-opening (the guys start out very early 90s then move on to very mid 90s and so on).

    Sarah Dessen always makes me feel better too, especially her later books. I'd probably also pull out Tramps Like Us, which is a romance manga I absolutely adore.

  • polly says:

    'The Time Traveller's Wife', Audrey Niffenegger, I'll second that. You know when what you feel is love even when it's the wrong time or the wrong person or the wrong country, and it's all valuable.

  • JMK says:

    You could try The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig. It's all about lady spies in the Austen time frame and it's what I call brain candy.

  • Rachel says:

    The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables, but this is a much more grown-up book). I don't have time to do it justice, but it is amazing.

  • Agnes says:

    If you like mystery novels, Dorothy Sayers' Harriet Vane series might work well for you. I haven't read the earlier Peter-only novels, so I can vouch that they stand alone.

    My scifi recommendation is Lois McMaster Bujold's A Civil Campaign and Lord Vorpatril's Alliance. The entire Vorkosigan Saga is fantastic, but those are the two romances. I have no idea how well they stand alone.

  • Deb Zwez says:

    Rosamund Pilcher novels: The Shell Seekers is beautiful; September is an almost sequel; Coming Home is lovely; and Winter Solstice is a lesson that love never dies. They're all lovely and will stay with you always.

  • Betsy says:

    Can I, um, unvote for 100 Years of Solitude (with no offense intended to Elissa's suggestion)? I found it really depressing and made me feel like all of life and love were futile.

    But kellyu, I absolutely second The Eyre Affair, especially if you love literature. Life-affirming and a strong female protagonist. Tons of fun.

  • LSol says:

    Divorce in the early 30's: been there, done that, got the papers.

    I want to second "Eat Pray Love." I know, it seems so over done, but I was impressed by just the description of getting out and opening one's eyes to the magic of living, period.

    Um, I dunno about "The Time Traveler's Wife" fresh out of a divorce. It would've wrecked me. I read it about two years later, and while it was still a tear-jerker, I enjoyed it.

    Also, if your date goes well, and it looks like things are going somewhere, ask him what he likes to read. Reading the things my rebound really liked was helpful in a way I can't describe. (I'm not saying that you're rebounding, just saying what it was for me.)

  • Meri says:

    And if you like fantasy, Lois McMaster Bujold has two series that feature romance pretty heavily: The Sharing Knife and the Chalion books (The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls.)

  • Cyd says:

    Seconding the love for Laurie Colwin, but especially "Happy All the Time" (no affairs therein).

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