Writing about love is a fool's errand. It's dangerous territory, because the writing - the story - can be far too simple to represent reality, far too easy, it can confuse (physical) desire for (whole-being) love, basically, anything you might write about romantic relationships ends up being subject to a charge of being rubbish. It could be sentimental rubbish, and certainly I would expect that criticism of book IV in relation to Edward Strelley. But the criticism wouldn't necessarily hold that it was unrealistic, because that's a matter of what any given individual has felt in their life. Someone might recognise Strelley's collapse into depression and failure to function properly in the world; someone else might say that a love affair - even one like Strelley's that remains stubbornly distant as history and our story take him close then far away again - could possibly affect someone like that. Well, it might. Someone might ask why the intelligent and perceptive Caroline de Winter would be interested in the (initially) boorish Longshawe, and that might be answered by pointing to Thomas Seymour and Catherine Parr, another case of a strong, intelligent woman who seems to fall for a man who, to the outside world, looks like he's no good. Longshawe, of course, is a different man altogether by the time Caroline and he begin their relationhsip. Thomas Seymour did not seem to be improved by Catherine's influence, which is both a shame and a surprise, as she even seemed to work some good into Henry VIII in his dying days.
Love in stories isn't usually about the mundanities of a relationship. You don't get much in the way of TV or film, or indeed novels, where a couple in love sit down and watch a film on a Thursday, fall asleep, wake up and have breakfast together, all while having the odd minor argument but generally supporting each other and being kind. That wouldn't be interesting, apparently. Though I think it could be, if handled correctly, I take the point. Conflict, the ends of relationships and the aftermath, and of course the beginnings, these are what stories are made of. The old married couple aren't the centre of the story, they're a peripheral character, an add-on or a deliberate insertion to make some sort of point. Perhaps, increasingly rare as it seems to be, a marriage surviving into deep middle or old age should be celebrated in literature rather than ignored. I'm not at the level of skill to tell that story just yet, though. As a goal, that stability, that sense of coming home and being welcomed by (or indeed welcoming) a person whose day you want to share, whose story you want to hear - even if it is mundane - it's a good one.
While I'm on the subject, I note from reading a bit of stuff about religion and philosophy that the notion of romantic love is often either absent or positively rejected where the ideas are (or claim to be) noble and pure. That's a really interesting and, as far as I can understand, arse-about-face way of looking at the world of human experience. What it actually is, to extend a point as far as it will go, is elitist bollocks. Only I can separate myself from the world so that I can spiritual cleverness, but you ordinary human beings must make do with your love affairs, your marriages and your worldly possessions... Go out, experience a rock concert, a football match, an opera, a film, a really immersive computer game. I don't care which, it could be all of them or a bunch of other things, but this notion that austere spiritual contemplation is the only way to experience the fullness of human experience is total nonsense, and while I agree that thought, contemplation, quiet stillness of mind, meditation*, all of these have a value as a part of the whole, they are not the end, just part of the journey. Caritas - charity, agape, whatever name you know it by - is also a part of that fabric of human experience, and for people like me for whom happiness is almost a contradiction in terms (life just doesn't work like that...) what fulfilment and joy there is often comes from moments where that kind of love is at work. Those moments when you improve a person's day just by smiling at them, or by doing them a small favour, or by being kind when they were not being kind back, those are the things that improve the world at large. I will be trying to do more of them now that lockdown is finished.
So what? Love. What makes love the exception? Only love can break your heart, but even if it does, maybe the moments were worth it.
*I hate the word. It conjures lentil-weaving, yogurt-knitting, tie-dyed hippy bullshit. But it captures an activity that can't really be described otherwise...
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought