The Best and Worst Couples in Literature
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that not all fictional couples are created equal. Some of them are sweeping romances that you can’t stop thinking about for weeks, while others add tension and drama to a book and are, quite frankly, just unhealthy.
With that in mind, here’s a list of the best and worst fictional couples to work out those that are worth emulating, and those that are truly dysfunctional.
We’ve got couples from romance novels, fantasy books, historical fiction and phycological thrillers… and don’t be fooled, couples in romance aren’t always the best!
Warning: spoilers ahead!
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you.”
– Jane Austen, ‘Wentworth’ in Persuasion
Captain Wentworth & Anne Elliot – Persuasion
This year marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and that’s a great excuse to read (or re-read) the least well known of all of her novels, which contains probably the best relationship of all of them. Captain Frederick Wentworth is not just handsome; he’s a self-made man who earned every penny, as well as being well-mannered and considerate. Having been spurned by Anne before following some appalling, snobbish advice from her aunt, the novel deals with her regret at this decision. Thankfully, it concludes with the most romantic letter in fiction, written in haste by Wentworth as he overhears Anne talking with another man (some of which is featured in the quote above). Swoon.
Available for Listening Books members to download and stream or on MP3 CD number 11601.
Nan & Florence – Tipping the Velvet
Tipping the Velvet follows the whirlwind life of Nancy Astley, restyled as Nan King, who leaves her working class roots working in her family’s oyster restaurant in Whitstable to be part of a theatrical double act in London. After a tragic discovery leaves her distraught and homeless, Nan makes a series of terrible choices until she ends up living in a house with Florence, who helps women in distress. Slowly, Nan realises she is in love with Florence, and has those feelings reciprocated. Despite living in Victorian England, these two make a solid, dependable and honest couple who can take on each other and the world.
Contains strong language and adult themes.
Available for Listening Books members to download and stream or on MP3 CD number 09250.
Arthur and Molly Weasley – The Harry Potter Series
These two are the ultimate marriage. They love and support each other throughout the series. Molly Weasley supports her husband’s eccentric oddities, like his lifelong desire to work out how planes stay up and how plugs work, while Arthur Weasley helps his wife through difficult times with humour and devotion. They raise seven children on a shoestring to be individual and powerful witches and wizards, whilst also taking on Harry Potter as a surrogate son and doing everything they can to fight Voldemort. Plus, who can resist the tiny glimpses into their past life? Like being caught out of bounds at Hogwarts while on a walk at four in the morning, or Molly Weasley crying about a song they danced to when they were eighteen. A proper power couple.
The whole Harry Potter series is available for Listening Books members to download and stream.
“All this time I’d thought we were strangers, and it turned out we knew each other intuitively, in our bones, in our blood. It was kind of romantic. Catastrophically romantic.”
– Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
Amy and Nick Dunne – Gone Girl
Where do you start with these two? As shown by the quote above, they’re more obsessed than in love. Both of them lie to each other extensively – Nick cheats on his wife with a student he teaches, and Amy fabricates a pregnancy, a fake diary and a whole murder scene to frame Nick for her murder. Amy, fictionalised from birth as ‘Amazing Amy’, a more perfect version of herself her parents made into a book series, is perfectionistic, bitter and always putting on an act, while Nick is emotionally distant and obsessed with Amy’s perfectionism, believing it makes him exceptional. Not the most romantic relationship in fiction.
Available for Listening Books members on MP3 CD number 12567.
Cathy and Heathcliff – Wuthering Heights
Starting out as childhood friends who embody the spirit of rebellion and freedom, Catherine cruelly decides that marrying Heathcliff would be degrading and chooses to marry Edgar Linton instead for his social status and money. Obsessed with his heartbreak, Heathcliff sets out for revenge and marries Edgar’s sister, Isabella, and dotes on her to make Catherine jealous. Then Catherine dies, and haunts Heathcliff as a ghost for the rest of his sad, lonely life. Passionate and intense it may be, but it’s also selfish and destructive. Perhaps the best thing that comes out of this is the Kate Bush song.
Available for Listening Books members to download and stream or on MP3 CD number 06447.
Jaime and Cersei – Game of Thrones
Not only are these two in a pretty toxic and co-dependent relationship, they also happen to be twins, adding an extra layer of awfulness. This relationship drives them both to do terrible things to try and protect their secret: Jaime pushes Bran Stark from a tower causing him to be paralysed from the waist down, and Cersei imprisons and kills Eddard Stark once he discovers the truth, leaving the Stark family destroyed. In a series full of unhealthy relationships, this one takes the biscuit.
Contains strong language and adult themes.
Available for Listening Books members on MP3 CD number 11194.
Simultaneously The Best and The Worst:
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth – Macbeth
There’s so much to love about this famous Shakespearean couple. They clearly love and trust one another, confiding their secrets and planning schemes, as well as supporting each other as they try to reach the top. They are partners in their equal greed, selfishness and ambition, working together to make Macbeth the King. On the downside, all this working together is mostly to murder people, which drives both of them to their own deaths. Despite this, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are truly amazing in their combined awfulness.
Available for Listening Books members to download and stream or on MP3 CD number 08946.
Who do you think are the best and worst literary couples? Got a favourite? Let us know!
This post was written by Abigail Jaggers