It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages. – Nietzsche
I love to read books that explore affectionate marriages and Valentine’s Day seems an appropriate day to celebrate them. So many novels and plays seem to assume that romance and even love fade as soon as the honeymoon is over. Back from the honeymoon? Time for the adultery to begin! What a sad world it would be if that were true. But real life – daily interaction with many happily married couples – has proven to me that it is not the case. And when it comes to books, long-standing relationships always provide more fascinating and complex material than courtships which last only a few years or months. The day-to-day challenges of maintaining a relationship, of working to sustain it through those years when work and children demand your attention and exhaust your patience, as you yourself change through the decades – how could that not be more interesting than a simple marriage plot which always ends at the altar?
Here are just five of my favourite books that provide glimpses into successful marriages:
A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer – Heyer’s best novel, the story of a marriage of convenience between a viscount and a wealthy merchant’s daughter who come with time to realise the value of quiet, steady, companionable love.
Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle – L’Engle’s touching memoir of forty years of marriage, written while her husband was dying.
Greenery Street by Denis Mackail – a delightful comedy about young, rather hopeless but very happy newlyweds
Dear Octopus by Dodie Smith – a wonderful play about a very entertaining family celebrating the 50th anniversary of the blissfully happy and resolutely optimistic parents, Charles and Dora.
The Laskett by Roy Strong – a very personal memoir of a close marriage, cleverly disguised as a gardening book.