Reading a book is like a love affair: there are the first, coy glances; there’s the breathless excitement; there’s the stage at which you become totally inseparable; there’s the heartache when you part. Some books will be steady, reliable, long-term loves; Pride and Prejudice or Harry Potter will be there for you all your life. But then—there are the whirlwind romances. These are the books you find at exactly the right time in your life. These are the books you fall madly, deeply in love with. These are the books that change you, that hurt you, that inspire you. But when you go back to read them a year later, you’re left cold.
Strangely, my first experience of this came with the Douglas Kennedy novel A Special Relationship. It’s a novel about post-partum depression, so I’ll never know why it spoke to me so powerfully as a pre-teen—but it did. That summer, I spent hours every day in my room, glued to the pages of this gripping book. I was totally obsessed. But in the 12 years since I first read it, it’s lost its hold over me. I’ve repeatedly tried to read it again, but never been able to get into it—and always given up after a few chapters. (It’s not that I don’t still think it’s a brilliantly written book; I still recommend it highly. It’s just that our particular love affair is over.)
My next whirlwind love was One Day by David Nicholls. I read this book all in one go, while sitting on a bench in Italy, overlooking the most beautiful view. Unsurprisingly in that setting, I found this novel magical. But while I still adore the storyline, I’ve never been able to read it again. Perhaps nothing can quite compare to that sensational first reading. Or perhaps it was just the right time in my life before; perhaps I’ve changed so much since I was 18 that this particular story can’t speak to me anymore.
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Sometimes love doesn’t last. Sometimes it turns out not to offer you the stability you need; sometimes it can’t follow the direction you want your life to take. But that doesn’t make the love you had any less strong. After all, sometimes the best love stories are the ones that can’t last. And no matter what happens, you’ll always have those passionate memories of the summer you spent with that book.
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