“Top Ten Tuesday” is a feature started by “The Broke and the Bookish”, though now hosted by some artsy reader girl in which people list their top ten books that match some given criterion. It changes every week, and happens on a Tuesday. Lots (a frankly ridiculous number) of bloggers take part.
This week, the theme is romance, without further specification. I briefly thought about picking my ten favourite fictional couples, but that doesn’t really match my resting level of grumpiness. Instead, I’ve chosen to list relationships that have gone wrong – ones that either shouldn’t work, or wouldn’t work, or even just got ruined by the author in passing.
The following list is presented in no particular order. One thing that should be mentioned is that, while the title of the feature is “Top Ten Tuesday”, I believe that it has always been “up to” rather than “at least” or “exactly” ten. I intend to take advantage of that belief today, as I am terribly busy and so only had time for seven.
Ron and Hermione, from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series
She’s an incredibly talented witch with beauty, brains, and moral fortitude. He’s a nice guy, some of the time, although not really. Inexplicably, this character who does nothing but grumble and gawp is beloved by Harry Potter fans, who seem to believe that he deserves a wife far, far better than him just because he was technically present through some of the action. Presumably, these are the same people who wouldn’t feel ashamed if they were sorted into Hufflepuff.
Lyra and Will, from Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials
I enjoy the middle parts of all of Pullman’s books. In the middle, after the awkward set-up and before the pretentious moralising, he gets to show that he can really write, and grapple with interesting ideas. Lee Scoresby and Hester’s final scene in Northern Lights remains one of the more affecting death scenes in children’s fiction.
However, the endings tend to be a lot weaker. Weakest of all is the final section of The Amber Spyglass, in which Pullman decides, arbitrarily and unreasonably, to split the main couple into different realities forever. There’s no call for it – it isn’t suggested by the text so far, and even if he had gone back and added more convincing evidence earlier in the series, there are still a dozen ways around the dilemma. The only reason I can possibly think of for Pullman splitting Will and Lyra up is to clarify, clunkingly, that this is not a children’s book, and the real world is gritty and unfair. And that’s ridiculous – nothing about building a romance for ages and then dashing it pointlessly makes the book more adult or realistic. It just makes it poorly plotted.
Eowyn and Faramir, from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
Eowyn is awesome. She kills one of the most dangerous beings in the trilogy, and she does it with a broken arm and while defying a patriarchal society. Faramir, on the other hand, despite not having any of those handicaps, is kind of a tool. He’s the sort of person who leaves passive-aggressive notes on fridges and shouts “you’re welcome” nasally at people who are nearby when he opens a door. The woman who slew the Witch-King does not belong with Boromir’s less good, more officious brother.
Susan Sto-Helit and anyone, from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld
No one deserves Susan, Death’s granddaughter. Not the multiple personalities of the son of Time, not a slightly elfish guitar player. She’s too awesome to be paired off, even tentatively. Anyone who deals with imaginary monsters by beating them with a poker is not made for a common match.
Robb Stark and Jeyne Westerling, from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire
Yes, I know this one ends badly for obvious reasons. But it was also doomed anyway, even if everyone had been miraculously fine with all the broken alliances. Jeyne seems like a nice girl, but Robb’s an idiot with limited self-control and a penchant for impulsive decisions. We’re saved from seeing the mess they make of married life by the prompt actions of the rest of the characters, who recognise a bad match when they see it.
Rachel and Ivy, from Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Walking
One of the worst things for a romantic subplot is a clear and present better option. Rachel and Ivy are friends, but have all kinds of romantic tension going on. This would all be fine, but Ivy isn’t the love interest. That’s some forgettable rat pit-fighter. Having Ivy there throughout the novel means that all romance that should be building between Rachel and Ratty falls flat.
Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice is not a romance. Persuasion is. Even, to some extent, is Emma. But Pride and Prejudice is a satire that happens to involve marriage, and I have no idea why that’s the one of Austen’s novels that people spend most of their time mooning over.
Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage is built on embarrassment, social obligation, and the fact that Lizzie’s eyes aren’t as ugly as you might expect the eyes of someone with a ghastly mother to be. That’s not a recipe for deathless love – love never enters the equation. For most of the book, they despise each other, and nothing really happens to change that into passion. Just because we don’t see their married life doesn’t mean that it won’t have been every bit as awful as Mr. Collins’.
That’s my list, which today is rather stunted. I apologise for that. I may, at some point in the future, find time to add the remaining three.
For now, here is a big collection of other people’s Top Ten Tuesday posts, so that you can read lists of things until you have surfeit of them.