Best Love Story Ever

This week marks my 40th wedding anniversary, so for this post, I googled the greatest love stories of all time. Guess what stories appear in the “Top 3” of most lists? Romeo and Juliet, Anna Karenina, and Wuthering Heights. Some lists also include Gone with the Wind and Casablanca.


Note any trends? What is it that draws us to stories where love is unrequited or the couple is doomed?

One theory is it’s because human beings yearn to find love and to glory in its fledgling state—and we long for stories of others with whom we can identify. Yet, the best literature is built on conflict and tension. The top-rated stories certainly have that.

What of Pride and Prejudice, you may ask. Sure enough, that novel also appears on virtually every internet list for the greatest love stories of all time. It’s got conflict, no doubt, but noting how the would-be lovers end up happily engaged, it’s a wonder the story isn’t categorized with Cinderella insteadPerhaps the key difference between the fairytale and Jane Austen’s classic is that Darcy doesn’t just swoop in and save Elizabeth. Rather, the female protagonist’s feelings and intellect are central to her and Darcy uniting.

For a literary, modern retelling of the Austen classic with a happy ending, I recommend Eligible. I was impressed by author Curtis Sittenfeld’s reinterpretation for today’s readers (and not only because the bulk of the story is set in Cincinnati, city of my birth, nor how I “occasionally” have the guilty pleasure of watching The Bachelor on TV in hopes of seeing someone fall in love).

Novels that alternate between the past and present are good for those who crave tales of undying love, where even several centuries do not stop two lovers from being together. There’s the beloved Outlander series, of course, but I also offer up a 1972 book that spent six months on the New York Times Best Seller list: Green Darkness.

Now, my own love story has survived for four decades . . . but given the literature that’s also stood the test of time, mine may not be the stuff of legend. My husband and I haven’t met with a tragic separation or found each other in the 1600s. Still, I’m often asked how we’ve enjoyed such happiness and longevity. Brace yourself. The irony is, it’s not all about love. We actually like each other, too. It’s about shared family values and practical give-and-take and a pride in having come so far as people and as a couple since the day we said “I do.”

Over the years, we’ve taken pleasure together in viewing the tragic love stories on the big screen, from Titanic to the more recent box office smash, Wonder Woman. At the theater, it’s hard to beat a good lump in the throat, shared with the person you love.

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