As the romantics among you will have noticed it will soon be Valentine’s Day. Restaurants and florists around the country are rubbing their hands with glee.
But let me suggest an alternative: books. It’s a flattering gift, and cheaper than diamonds, more lasting than flowers and terribly easy to wrap.
It doesn’t have to be a romantic book. Whether the object of your adoration has an unhealthy interest in 19th century epaulettes or perhaps Berlin cabaret of the 1930s then a well-chosen title will show you were listening and do care. If you weren’t listening, have a quick browse of their bookshelves or Kindle when they are out and determine the direction of their passion (their reading passion, obviously; their true passion will naturally be directed at you). Ask a bookseller (we have four on site at Kew) for advice on the latest title on the topic.
If, however, you were thinking romantic words then how about Yours Always? This is a poignant collection of excerpts from great love letters, with the added benefit of being doomed letters of longing. Just like great poetry and song lyrics, the best work comes from pain and hopelessness. The love reflected in these pages is thwarted, misguided or forbidden. We have Charlotte Bronte to her tutor Professor Heger, Claire Clairmont to Lord Byron (boy that one did not end well), Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas, and Elizabeth Taylor to Richard Burton (her words ‘my darling (my still) my husband. I wish I could tell you of my love for you, of my fear, my delight, my pure animal pleasure of you (with you) …’ were written only days before they were to separate for the second time). Literally a case of read it and weep. Continue reading »