11 Unique Love Stories

Let's get between the sheets...of paper and explore 11 titles with their own unique love stories. From the heart-warming and funny, to the melancholic and tragic, these are just a few stories from the catalogue that highlight and celebrate the complex subject of love.

The Lost Wifethe-lost-wife

Alyson Richman

Fiction, 2011

In a few words

To stay or to go...Lenka Kohn must choose between remaining with her family in Prague as the Nazis invade or fleeing with her young husband Josef to the USA. Separated by war, each believes the other dead; Lenka in a concentration camp and Josef in a torpedoed ship. Decades later they unexpectedly encounter one another at a wedding in New York.

Inspired by true events, this is a profoundly moving love story that reflects on the haunting power of first love and our ability to endure, as well as adding to our knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust.

What our groups say

"We all very much enjoyed the book, and thought it beautifully written. The more harrowing aspects of the story were easier to read in the knowledge that Josef and Lenka would be reunited. There was some exasperation with Lenka's character, and with her choice to remain behind with her family instead of leaving with Josef." (CHC 113)

"Mixed opinion about this book. Some beautiful writing - one member said it was "moving and romantic". We all agreed that the subject is worthwhile as a reminder of how human beings are frail, and our civilised veneer is very thin at times. Other members of the group felt it was overwritten and unbelievable — it lurched from being literary to a good light read." (TAUP 006)

"The group loved the book — so well written, but some found it hard because of the subject matter. The fact that some characters were based on real people made it even more of a gripping read." (OHOP 006)

View The Lost Wife in the catalogue or login to add it to your book list

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Helen Simonson

Fiction, 2010

In a few words

Village politics, family disputes, property developers, religious conflict, hunting, a golf club and a good dollop of snobbery, the quintessential English village of Edgecombe St Mary has it all. At the heart of the story is retired widower Major Pettigrew and his developing relationship with Mrs Ali, the Pakistani village shopkeeper. A light hearted and entertaining story with colourful characters and an underlying examination of stereotypes and cultural expectations.

What our groups say

"Laugh out loud funny in some places." (LOWE 004)

"Quite twee but enjoyable nonetheless." (NELS 017)

"We all enjoyed reading of Major Pettigrew. A gentle story of ageing, misunderstandings, long established traditions, family dictates, petty prejudices and communal life in a small village. The character of the Major was well drawn, and we loved his ascerbic dry wit." (WHITI 002)

"Everyone enjoyed the book. Well-written and humorous. VERY English - possibly of a bygone era - but nonetheless entertaining, and raising generational issues of changing values and priorities. A lovely love story too." (AUCK 389)

"Wonderful. A superbly written social satire, told with humour and evidencing a deep understanding of human foibles. Entrenched racism, a study of English manners and gentility, a love story and a questioning of modernity and mores of the younger generation all combine to provide an entertaining yet provocative read. Highly recommended." (OTAK 001)

"Some of us thought that this book was wonderful; funny, clever dialogue, original similes and metaphors and a satisfying ending. Others considered it contrived, 'obviously' a first novel, boring and difficult to finish. The diversity of opinion was unusual and very marked. Possibly it is a novel that would appeal more to women than to our group, which is all men." (WANG 011)

View Major Pettigrew's Last Stand in the catalogue or login to add it to your book list

The Gustav Sonata

Rose Tremain

Fiction, 2016

In a few words

Gustav and Anton, Anton and Gustav. Gustav is the only child of an embittered and distant mother, while Anton is the musically gifted son of doting Jewish parents. Their close friendship formed as young children in the late 1940s, lays down the foundations for the rest of their lives.

Set in Switzerland, this complex story of friendship and of deception and betrayal, examines the playing out of conscience and conformity in a country espousing neutrality.

What our groups say

"A poignant, rather melancholic story told in a simple style which explained the complexities of the characters. Everyone praised the way this complex story was depicted with its short chapters. Many interesting themes were discussed — particularly relationships — and Switzerland's part in the war, despite its supposed neutrality. A worthwhile read." (MATAM 001)

"This is a well-written, slow paced story but an enjoyable read nevertheless. Using the construction of a 'Sonata' theme retained the interest of the readers in spite of the 'gloomy' beginning. The author's handling of the different characters, their emotions and relationships with each other is poignant and believable." (COOKS 001)

View The Gustav Sonata in the catalogue or login to add it to your book list


Mandy Hager (NZ)

Fiction, 2017

In a few words

They feature in lists of the world's most famous lovers...Heloise D'Argenteuil and Peter Abelard. Springing from 12th century France, theirs was also a meeting of the minds, Abelard being a philosopher and theologian and Heloise, his student. Their relationship with its many challenges plays out against the backdrop of the religious reforms and political intrigues of the early Middle Ages.

Anchored by extensive research and enriched with input from classic and medieval philosophers, this novel incorporates the characters' own writing to produce a fascinating and passionate retelling of the love story of this real-life legendary couple.

View Heloise in the catalogue or login to add it to your book list.

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Truman Capote

Fiction, 1958

In a few words

In this collection of four short stories, Capote explores the themes of loneliness, social alienation, love and friendship through the marriage of a prostitute, the incarceration of a long serving prisoner and an innocent friendship that is diminished by time. In Breakfast at Tiffany's, the longest of the stories, an unnamed writer reminisces about the life and times of the dazzling Holly Golightly, a liberal playgirl in 1940s New York. Unlike Hepburn's portrayal in the film version, Holly is somewhat more layered in the novella; both terrified of being caged by convention and tired of being lonely, making this a surprising and worthwhile read for those more familiar with the Hollywood's take.

What our groups say

"We all enjoyed this book and also the other three stories very much. Some felt their mental idea of Holly had been compromised by Audrey Hepburn's portrayal in the film. The writing and characterisation was superb and sometimes not so evident in today's novels." (AUCK 010)

"Fabulous, really moving and subtle and deep." (GREYT 004)

"Enjoyed by the whole group — a lovely read. Just a short read, but every word hand picked — the stories were like jewels." (WELL 057)

View Breakfast at Tiffany's in the catalogue or login to add it to your book list

The Vintner's Luck

Elizabeth Knox (NZ)

Fiction, 1998

In a few words

One summer night in 1808, winemaker Sobran Jodeau sets out to drown his sorrows in his family's vineyard. He meets a beautiful, male angel and an enduring relationship develops. A fantastical love story set in the 19th-century French countryside. Montana NZ Book Awards Winner, 1999.

What our groups say

"A challenging and puzzling novel!" (FIELD 002)

"Some found it hard to get into initially but once they did thought it absolutely worthwhile...All loved Xas and we had huge empathy for his situation...Not all members enjoyed the French setting, thought it irrelevant. Could just as easily be set in Otago." (PUKEKO 001)

"Very interesting book. Some loved it, some hated it and a few gave up. It made for a long and animated discussion." (UPPER 004)

"We found the book quite unusual. We had an interesting discussion on the significance of the angel...Some of us enjoyed the description of the French countryside and the historical content." (AUCK 117)

View The Vintner's Luck in the catalogue or login to add it to your book list

The Art of Hearing Heartbeatsthe-art-of-hearing-heartbeats

Jan-Philipp Sendker

Fiction, 2002

In a few words

In search of her father who disappeared four years earlier, American lawyer Julia Win travels to Burma. There in a remote village the mystery of her father's life is slowly unravelled.

From upscale New York to rural Burma, this is a poignant tale of tender romance, personal sacrifice and the stark contrast between East and West. Poetic in style, mystical in nature. Translated from German.

What our groups say

"A romantic tale about two unlikely characters. Slightly far-fetched, but still an enjoyable read. Beautifully written." (AUCK 293)

"We loved this unanimously, which is unusual for us! A beautiful love story with the perfect amount of 'magical'." (DUNED 061)

"All enjoyed the book. There was a need to suspend belief and read the book as a fairy tale, but it was a beautifully written and translated novel. The writing was gentle and sensitive and traumatic events just wafted over the reader. Some felt there were flaws in the plot and with the characters, but it didn't destroy the read." (OTAKI 001)

"Clever translation from German to English, giving an excellent sense of life in Burma. The relationships between the characters prompted great discussion, and there was some thought that the character Jules was a contrivance, and unnecessary. General pleasure at the telling of a wonderful love story." (ROTO 002)

View The Art of Hearing Heartbeats in the catalogue or login to add it to your book list

Normal People

Sally Rooney

Fiction, 2018

In a few words

Most people aspire to be 'normal' and Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron are no exception. Hailing from County Sligo, they come from the same west Ireland town, albeit from different sides of the track: Marianne's family are wealthy and employ Connell's mum as their cleaner. Spanning from their last year at high school through to the completion of their studies at Trinity College Dublin, this is the poignant account of their on-again, off-again relationship as they wrestle with their metamorphosis into adulthood.

With its astute social observations and psychological insights, this is a sensitively written love story illuminating the universal need for connection and the desire to be truly known.

What our groups say

"Everyone read the book and most of us enjoyed it. It is character rather than story driven and takes a bit to get used to the interesting writing style. This felt like a real glimpse into the lives of 2 young people in Ireland. The issues and circumstances seem universal and lead to a lot of discussions. The characters are compelling — we were interested in them and their journey." (PALMN 029)

View Normal People in the catalogue or login to add it to your book list

Me Before Youme-before-you

Jojo Moyes

Fiction, 2012

In a few words

Lou Clark, working class ex-shop assistant and Will Traynor an ex-corporate lawyer are an unlikely pair. Under normal circumstances they would never have met but Will is a quadriplegic in need of a carer and Lou fits the bill. This is their story: two young people grappling with the challenges that follow tragedy.

Mesmerising, poignant but never puerile, this book examines many serious issues. Easy to read, hard to stop thinking about.

What our groups say

"Enjoyed by all. The all-time favourite for some. Tissues essential." (CHCH 244)

"Whilst some members described the book as 'Mills and Boon' like, others enjoyed the easy read about a very serious topic. The book provoked discussion about the right to assisted dying." (WHANG 003)

"Our group felt this was a lightweight text with one dimensional characters. A big issue but poorly written. It read as if it was made for the screen. Not in the least literary." (WELL 186)

"Everyone loved this book! Insightful writing with authentic characters and complicated family relationships. A page turner that everyone read quickly - most have since watched the movie also. The discussion went very well, and brought up past experiences for some who have worked/lived with those with disabilities. Beautifully written!" (BALC 001)

View Me Before You in the catalogue or login to add it to your book list

Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy

Fiction, 1877

In a few words

A novel offering insight into the lives of upper-class Russians before the Revolution. This is the story of the tragic fate of Anna, locked in a dull marriage, and who falls in love with a young officer. [Big read]

What our groups say

"Book was incredible." (CHCH 222)

"One of the best discussions we've had on subjects ranging from narcissism and forgiveness to Tolstoy's wonderfully descriptive style, and changes (or lack thereof) in society's response to adultery since those times." (CHCH 152)

"What can we say? Beautiful book — everyone loved it." (OHOPE 001)

View Anna Karenina in the catalogue or login to add it to your book list

Garden of Evening Miststhe-garden-of-evening-mists

Twan Eng Tan

Fiction, 2012

In a few words

In the Cameron Highlands of Malaya following World War 2, Chinese Malay Yun Ling becomes apprenticed to Nakamura Aritomo (a man who had once been the gardener to Emperor Hirohito) in order to create a garden to honour her sister who died in a Japanese POW camp. Years later Yun Ling returns to the area to make sense of all that has happened.

Spanning a changing Malaysia from colonial times to the present day, this is a beautifully wrought tale of exotic landscapes, political upheaval and intriguing mystery. With its exquisite imagery and deep connection to the natural world, it is a book to be savoured.

What our groups say

"'Brilliant', 'haunting', 'unforgettable', 'I want to buy it' were some of the comments. We thought the writing was beautiful and very poetic; the research that must have gone into it was outstanding and it displayed a deep knowledge of the various groups and ethnicities involved. Altogether a very satisfying read, provoking much discussion." (AUCK 009)

"It is one of those books that keeps you thinking long after you have finished it. Beautifully written, sad but also enlightening for the reader, and full of intrigue." (CHCH 238)

"Loved by half of us. A difficult book to 'get into' but worth persevering..." (MARLB 001)

View Garden of Evening Mists in the catalogue or login to add it to your book list


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