If you find yourself tiring of applying aloe vera to your blistered skin or scraping the sand out from between your toes, take a break to indulge in a little summer love. Upgrade your status from beach bum to cultured traveler with these two classic love stories, which will take you across the pond and back in less time than it takes to get a sun burn.
In case you’re overcome with pangs of nostalgia for New England winters and “the two feet of snow” that comes along with them, Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome will quickly remind you of all the fun that happens beneath “a sky of iron.”
Though the novel is set in the grayish town of Starkfield, Wharton’s love story is anything but cold. Ethan, a young man trapped in an unfortunate marriage to the older and sickly Zeena, finds himself in a precarious situation when he falls in love with his wife’s cousin, Mattie Silver.
The tension between Frome and Mattie comes to an achingly high point when the two find themselves alone for a night after Zeena leaves town to see a doctor. Ethan struggles to control himself, “dying of thirst for her [Mattie] lips.”
Ethan Frome’s slim ninety-nine pages contain all of the surprise and irony so characteristic of Wharton’s other works, making this a love story sear despite the chill of its background.
Phantom of the Opera
For a love story that contains as much adventure as it does amour, try Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. With its vast array of tunnels and secret passages, the world of the Paris Opera is its own empire, ruled by the invisible hand of the Opera Ghost.
The Opera Ghost is actually Eric, a hideous man who makes his home in the opera’s foundation and who is treacherously in love with the beautiful singer Christine.
The novel, pieced together like a detective story, captures the gripping terror of the love triangle between Eric, Christine, and Raoul. The supporting cast of characters includes the coarse and loyal Mme. Giry, the mysterious Persian, and the bumbling opera managers who are convinced that the dangerous antics of the Opera Ghost are actually inane pranks.
The Phantom of the Opera is a fast-paced thriller; the narrator himself calls it “the most extraordinary and fantastic tragedy that ever excited the Paris upper classes.”
If these two stories leave you anxious for some more summer lovin’, check out these titles:
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The Europeans by Henry James
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë