We’ve heard a lot about alternatives over the last few weeks and months. But now it’s February, and love is in the air… or so the greetings cards companies would have you believe. If you’re just not the Hallmark type, we’ve put together a selection of quirky tales of alt-love of all kinds to feast on this Valentine’s. Enjoy. #ALTLOVE
The Heartfix by Stella Grey
At the end of her marriage, Stella Grey found herself heartbroken and unexpectedly single in mid-life. But instead of disappearing under a duvet for the rest of her life and surrounding herself with cats (as, quite frankly, I would be tempted to do), columnist Stella Grey took the plunge into the unforgiving world of online dating for the over-fifties. Summoning all her courage and resilience, she braved bad dates, awkward sex and the inevitable slew of texts and emails from well-intentioned and not-so-well intentioned men, as she set herself on a new path to find her heartfix. But then the course of true love never did run smooth.
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan
In a world almost completely submerged by water where land is a precious commodity, orphan girl North dances with her Bear in a boat-bound travelling circus. Callanish, a Gracekeeper, lives a lonely life at sea, tending to the watery graves of the dead. As a storm brews, the two women are drawn together, but each holds a secret that threatens to upend her life forever. On the surface this is simply an enchanting story with lashings of fantasy, about the fear and excitement of discovering a new love. But it also holds hidden currents, otherworldliness and emotional wisdom as it plumbs the depths of love’s darker counterpoints of grief, loss and memory.
Bluets by Maggie Nelson
Few people write about love with as much honest humanity as Maggie Nelson, but in this strange, slim volume of prose (or is it poetry) she reveals her infatuation with a primary colour. ‘Admit that you have stood in front of a little pile of powdered ultramarine pigment in a glass cup at a museum and felt a stinging desire,’ she writes, and you almost feel guilty. She writes lovingly of the tarpaulin of fish-stall roofs, of crescents of turquoise ocean and even of feeling blue. It’s hard to read this beautiful little book and not find yourself distracted by every flash of navy or azure.
Pretty Iconic by Sali Hughes
When nobody loves you, what do you do? Love yourself, that’s what. Self-love can come in many forms, but in Pretty Iconic, Sali Hughes focuses on the beauty products that bring a sense of luxury to our lives in times of need. If you find yourself a member of the Lonely Hearts Club this Valentine’s Day take a trip down memory lane to revisit the products that infatuated and shaped a generation of women while making yourself feel fabulous.
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Relationships are complicated enough when you’re in the same house, city or even country… But imagine if your love had to cross dimensions of time and space and was wrought with barriers like religious cults, underage lovers and a group of mysterious “Little People”. Tengo and Aomame have a lot to deal with in this three part novel (particularly what Tengo is preparing for his “simple meal” tonight), but the core question of whether these childhood lovers will ever find each other amongst all the distractions keeps you turning page after page.
A Year of Good Eating: The Kitchen Diaries 3 by Nigel Slater
In a perfect world, this Valentine’s Day we’d all have someone who would love us the way Nigel Slater loves mashed potatoes.
Words from Katy Asbury, Lottie Fyfe and Jordan Mulligan.
Subscribe to the 4th Estate podcast.