The sweet little messages on Valentine’s Day candies and cards simplify romance in a pleasant, cheerful way. But the many nuances of affection are difficult to put into words.
Patrick Hamilton’s novels highlight the messiness of relationships, exploring all the ways love can be troublesome when it’s mismatched. The author André Aciman’s Find Me catches up with the central lovers of his celebrated novel Call Me by Your Name after they’ve moved on from their years-ago fling. They still pine for each other, revisiting circumstances in which feelings seem impossible to articulate. The young protagonists in Mary H. K. Choi’s Emergency Contact meet during one character’s panic attack and cultivate a romance through text messages, their intimacy defined by the digital world.
In her book An Exclusive Love, which chronicles her grandparents’ choice to die together rather than risking one having to live without the other, Johanna Adorján attempts to plainly narrate this complex event—even incorporating police reports about it—while also imagining dialogue to create a portrait of the couple. Maggie Nelson’s Bluets breaks free of traditional narratives, telling the story of an affair by weaving together allegorical lyric essays about the color blue.
Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas.
Know other book lovers who might like this guide? Forward them this email.
What We’re Reading
An exploration of desire
“In the decade since its publication, Call Me by Your Name has grown from an object of niche devotion to one of mainstream interest, in great part because [André] Aciman chose to give Elio and Oliver what they wanted: each other.”