Most Romantic Book?

Elizabeth Bastos

Staff Writer

Elizabeth Bastos has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe, and writes at her blog 19th-Century Lady Naturalist. Follow her on Twitter: @elizabethbastos

As we make our way toward Valentine’s Day, grappling with our ice hooks and special boots through January and early February like ice climbers on a Swiss glacier, I think about romance. How it’s different for different people. How it cannot be localized to one day. How, even so, the one time my husband forgot Valentine’s Day I threw a fit. Never mind single origin chocolate or expensive jewelry, you couldn’t even get me a book? I said, incredulously.

Which brings me to my topic. The most romantic book.

Wallace Stegner Angle of Repose CoverI’m going to argue for Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose. First of all, it’s one of the most beautiful and fitting titles I have ever come across, and it is meant to have geologic implications and isn’t love, at heart, earth-moving? Or it should be if you’re doing it right, which, with two kids and jobs, and it being winter, and me being perimenopausal, my husband and I are not. But that’s neither here nor there. That’s why people read isn’t it? To experience something outside their wheelhouse?

A lot of living is done in the middle of the page: laundry, home-work, preparing the pasta for dinner. A lot of romance in literature is the dying, the star-crossed, the edge of the page stuff, where people are walking a razor’s edge between what’s good for them and what they want. That’s all very heart-pounding, but what I like about Angle of Repose is that it’s understated. A husband plants roses for his wife, because he thinks it will make her happy. And it does for a little while. It’s this little while, this contentment, between the bookends of the beginning and the end, that is so devastating, and reminds me to cherish the quickly evaporative things, like the glance my husband gives me as he puts yet another interminable casserole onto the table.