Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and some of you may be feeling like your true Valentine is out there somewhere (maybe in a very specific location whose exact address or coordinates you know) and just hasn’t found his or her way to you yet. This is kind of the way I feel about Tom Hiddleston, and I now know, since I read that article about him in GQ that came out last week, which part of London he lives in. (Like Charles Dickens, he comes straight outta Camden.) In honor of all of you who are feeling frustrated in love, here are a few fictional couples who never get together despite my best shipping efforts.
- the unnamed narrator and Frank Crawley in Rebecca. *spoilers ahead* My book club just read this 1938 Gothic novel by Daphne du Maurier. I described it as “creepy Downton Abbey,” so if you like stories about rich people with no jobs, and their household staff who know way too much about the family, you will probably enjoy this book. (I also thought the writing style was beautiful, the setting haunting, and the human psychology spot-on.) I had several theories about what was going to happen in this book, some of which were based on superficial resemblances to Jane Eyre, and all of which turned out to be wrong. The theory that I clung to the hardest was that the narrator’s husband, Maxim, was going to either go to jail or get the death penalty for having killed his first wife, the narrator was going to realize that he never really loved her but was just using her to try to have a normal life, and she was going to end up with the longsuffering and loyal estate agent Frank Crawley, whom I pictured as the subdued and diplomatic Tom Branson of the later seasons of Downton Abbey. It just seemed so clear to me that the narrator was much more comfortable around Frank than around her preoccupied and moody husband. I went so far as to go back and make sure the first chapter, which occurs chronologically at the end of the story, didn’t have any proper nouns in it–“We thought she was talking about Maxim, but she could have been talking about Frank!” I was wrong; she stuck with the wife-killer. Poor Frank.
- Liesel and Max in The Book Thief. I’ve read Markus Zusak’s remarkable Holocaust-era novel in two different book clubs, and both times some people, including myself, have stated that we wished Liesel, the book thief, and Max, the young Jewish man who hid in Liesel’s family’s basement, had gotten together at the end. I get all the reasons why that relationship wouldn’t work: he’s older (not that much older, though); she sees him as a brother; it’s not really a book about romantic relationships, but at the same time Liesel will always carry a torch for Rudy. I do get all that, but I can’t stand to think of Max being all alone for the rest of his life. Liesel, we learn, marries some random guy and ends up having a bunch of grandchildren, so I’m not worried about her. But Max is such a lonely figure throughout the book–he arrives alone; he leaves alone; he has to stay in the basement when everyone else is going to the air-raid shelter. It breaks my heart to think he’ll have to stay that way forever. He made you a book, Liesel. Did your random guy do that?
- Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood. Speaking of the trope of marrying a random-guy-ex-machina, I’m sure I’m not the only Harry Potter fan who used to think it was a total copout when J.K. Rowling declared that Luna Lovegood, one of my favorite fictional characters of all time, ended up marrying some guy named Rolf Scamander. Now that I know and love Newt Scamander, I guess I’m okay with Luna marrying his grandson. But still, like everyone else, I wanted her to get together with Neville. And yet, there’s a part of me that also thinks Harry and Luna would have been a great couple. I think she would have helped him not to take himself so seriously, and he would have helped her get some street cred at Hogwarts (not that Luna cares what people think of her). They have some sweet exchanges in the books (like when Luna tells Harry about her faith that she’ll see her mother again) and the movies (like when Luna says that hanging out with Harry is “kind of like being with a friend,” and Harry says, “I am your friend, Luna”), and I think this mutual kindness and confidence could have gone somewhere romantic.
I’d love to hear about your adventures in shipping. Meanwhile, don’t forget that chocolate goes on clearance February 15!