The Observer‘s Book critic, Kate Kellaway, was asked to recommend “some good romantic novels that are not cliched,” and she responded,
“Your question makes me think about what it is to be cliched—if only because you might argue that love is the greatest and most necessary of cliches, and if you steer too far from the heart’s core in literature, romance sometimes retreats. . . .
“I imagine you are not insisting that ‘romantic’ involves a happy ending? John Updike’s Couples is full of torment but an addictive read—as is D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love. Nabokov’s Lolita about the doomed love between an older man and a ‘nymphet’—is a sullied romance. Marguerite Duras’s The Lover is erotic (are romance and eroticism permitted, momentarily, to be interchangeable?).
“Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera is gorgeously sensual. For those seeking gay romance, André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name, John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies and What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell are winners (the last particularly elegaic and passionate). Also worth adding is Sally Rooney’s smash hit Conversations with Friends—balanced between sophistication and naivety; Colm Tóibín’s superb Brooklyn—exploring love when geography is not on its side; and Graham Swift’s Mothering Sunday—a beautiful novel about a Jane who does not share Jane Eyre’s good luck.”