The best novels about marriage, love, and figuring out what you really want

The Books I Picked & Why

The Robber Bride

By Margaret Atwood

Book cover of The Robber Bride

Why this book?

I love anything by Atwood, but this book had me hooked from the first sentence. Three women become friends, united against a common enemy–the unpredictable and glamorous Zenia, who attempted to steal away their boyfriends/husbands many years before. They believe her dead, but when she re-appears, old threats surface. The unravelling of the different tales past and present, and the way the women unite and fight back to save their relationships is a complex and page-turning story.

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The Mermaid of Black Conch

By Monique Roffey

Book cover of The Mermaid of Black Conch

Why this book?

An exotic location, a bit of magical realism (another favourite genre of mine), and a bittersweet love story of a very different kind. When the fisherman David rescues and falls in love with the centuries-old mermaid, Aycayia, she begins to return to her original, human form. But it seems their love is not enough to guarantee a regular style of happy ever after. I loved the exquisite writing, the heart-stopping moments of potential horror, and the lightening of what could have been a dark story by the injection of some farcical ‘baddies’. 

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In the Sweep of the Bay

By Cath Barton

Book cover of In the Sweep of the Bay

Why this book?

I devoured this novella for its humanity and its writing. Ted and Rene marry in the ‘frail optimism’ of the 1950s, she to assume the expected role of mother and housewife, he to continue with his career as a ceramics designer in the family firm. Over time, misunderstandings and the inability to talk to each other drive a wide wedge in their marriage. Ted is almost a bystander in this process, helpless in not knowing what to do about it as things get worse and worse. 

A heart-rending, simple, and beautifully told tale of a marriage which slowly dissolves into silences while maintaining the perfect façade.

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By Maggie O'Farrell

Book cover of Hamnet

Why this book?

What I loved about this book is how it delves so deeply into the relationship between Agnes and her husband (Shakespeare, although never named), primarily from her point of view. Even dealing with months of separation at a time, the marriage appears strong. But when Agnes hears her husband has written a play named after their dead son, without consulting or telling her, she feels totally betrayed. Her furious sorrow takes her way, way out of her comfort zone, all the way to London to confront him. And in that confrontation, she finds understanding, of him and of herself.

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The Music Shop

By Rachel Joyce

Book cover of The Music Shop

Why this book?

I remember 1988, the arrival of the CD and old-fashioned record shops. But what I loved most about this book was the portrayal of Frank, the record shop owner with the gift of being able to pick the right music for his customers but unable to help himself. For me, the mystery of Ilse was a background tune to the real story of how these two unlikely characters overcome their various emotional burdens to finally reach out to each other. Sorry about the spoiler!

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