My Two Favourite Love Stories

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy Beloved by Toni Morrison

In real life I believe in love at first sight, but on the page I like it more complicated. In Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, for instance, I prefer the convoluted courtship of Kitty and Levin over Anna and Vronsky’s magnificent passion. Levin is a kind, intelligent bear of a man who asks for Kitty’s hand in marriage. Surprisingly, the young princess rejects his offer. She has fallen madly in love with dashing Count Vronsky, who, it turns out, is falling in love with Anna. Kitty soon realizes Vronsky has led her on and seduced her with his good looks and military glamour. Meanwhile, Levin’s injured pride prevents him from approaching Kitty again. We long for them to reunite, but are kept in delicious suspense.

Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a slave story, a ghost story and also a powerful, complicated love story. It follows the relationship between a man and a woman brave enough to love after a gruesome history of losses. During slavery, Sethe and Paul D. belong to the same Kentucky plantation. Married to his best friend, Sethe considered Paul D. a brother. He, on the other hand, had harboured a secret love. After the war, Sethe is living outside Cincinnati with her teenage daughter and the ghost of a baby girl. One day, out of the blue, Paul D. shows up. He runs the ghost out of the house and begins a life with Sethe. A strong, black woman, she wonders if she is finally allowed to be weak. Not so fast, I’m afraid. Paul walks away after he learns the truth: that Sethe murdered her baby girl to keep her out of slavery. Beloved is about a black couple who sees the painful past in each other’s eyes. Yet Morrison, grants them a happy ending, which even today is rarely the case.

From What’s A Black Critic To Do II by Donna Bailey Nurse