Romantic passages from The Book Lovers, by Leon Garfield #RNA60

When I was a teenager, I loved Leon Garfield’s books, and I still do. It’s very sad to see that a lot of them are out of print now – titles such as the fabulous The Strange Affair of Adelaide Harris, and the sequel to it, Bostock and Harris. (My older sister queued up to get a copy of the sequel signed for me by Leon Garfield at a bookshop in Leeds many years ago, and I still have it.)

One of my favourite of Leon Garfield’s books is The Book Lovers. Again, it’s a massive shame this book is out of print now, as the idea behind it is wonderful. (You can still get second-hand copies here on Amazon.)

helena fairfax, leon garfield

Here’s the blurb:

Leon Garfield, one of the world’s best-known and most imaginative writers for young people, has turned his skill and inventiveness to the arrangement of an outstanding collection of love scenes taken from famous novels by writers of many different nationalities, from Jane Austen to Turgenev.

Around these love scenes, which range from the absurd to the tender, the tragic to the hilarious, Leon Garfield has woven the story of a young man who, having fallen in love with a pretty librarian, is too shy to express himself coherently and turns to passages from the classics in an attempt to make her understand his feelings.

The librarian answers him in the same way, but they both find it is all too easy to misinterpret the written word. All ends happily, however, with a little help from interested onlookers.

I’ve chosen to write about this book today because it’s the ideal read for Valentine’s weekend, and also because this year (2020) is the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s 60th anniversary, and to celebrate, this month is Read a Romance Month.

helena fairfax, romance novels
Image by Jeremy B from Pixabay

The Book Lovers contains many romantic passages. Not all of them are about genuine love, but all of them are full of romantic longing and emotion, and so are the linking scenes written by Leon Garfield himself.

When the librarian gives the young man a passage from Charlotte Brontë’s Villette to read, Garfield writes…

‘…from being the urgent, sweeping-all-before-him lover, he found himself in the situation of a child who, in lighting a candle, has set fire to the house. The size and heat of another human being’s passions alarmed him to an extent he would never have believed possible.’

I love the passionate imagery here. What a wonderful description of the quiet librarian’s underlying passion. This is what the greatest love stories are about.

The book ends with one of my favourite romantic passages of all time: Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne Elliot in Persuasion.

I love Captain Wentworth’s letter so much, I was inspired to write a heartfelt letter in my romantic suspense In the Mouth of the Wolf. (My very poor attempt in comparison.) This time the hero is leaving, rather than begging the heroine to stay with him.

helena fairfax, in the mouth of the wolf, freelance editor‘My dearest Lizzie,

I love you more than my heart can bear. I had hoped so many things from a life with you. Such dreams I had, the beauty of them shone pure and clear in my mind when I looked to the future, like the brightest star. But like the mention of your Scottish play, I have brought you only bad luck. My own broken soul was never fit for such goodness. It was stupid of me ever to think it.

I want only the best things for you, my lovely Lizzie, and I am no good…

I am going back to Italy, to decide what to do with my future. You have been the one true and good thing to appear in my life since I was set free. If there is ever a time I can help you, now, or in the future, send me word and I will come to you. My heart is yours, my sweet, kind, precious, beautiful Lizzie, and I wish you a life filled with all the happiness I am not able to give you.


I let the letter fall and raced to the hall, where I ran out of the front door, leaving it wide open. The cold morning air cut through my thin blouse. I pounded down the steps and downhill all along the Grassmarket and through a covered alleyway, panting and stumbling until I reached the cobbled street and Léon’s garage. The steel shutter was drawn down. I rattled and rattled on the cold metal, calling his name.

No one answered.’


I hope you’ve enjoyed my selection of romantic passages for Valentine’s weekend and for the RNA’s Read a Romance month.

You may like to know that for Valentine’s week 2020, from 14th Feb to 20th Feb inclusive, ALL my novels, including In the Mouth of the Wolf, are just 99p/99c for Amazon Kindle. (Free on Kindle Unlimited.)

If you’d like to take a look at the selection, here is the link.


Do you have a favourite romantic passage from a novel? Or from a film? If you do, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

6 thoughts on “Romantic passages from The Book Lovers, by Leon Garfield #RNA60

    1. I love that! It always seems so strange to me that people hundreds – even thousands – of years ago think and feel exactly as we do now. There’s another from the 15th century that says so much about longing:
      Westron wynde when wyll thow blow?
      The smalle rayne downe can rayne;
      Chryst, yf my love wer in my armes
      And I yn my bed agayne.
      Thanks so much for the lovely quote. It’s made me smile :)


  1. I think, in this case, I am going to reproduce the brief blog I wrote while waiting for Juliet Landau on Sunset Boulevard, 14th March 2010.

    I am told it pierces hearts like a javelin…


    They say all America looks for that sunlit city on the hill, where the sidewalk ends and the good life begins.
    Perhaps there’s a hint of Mom’s apple pie in the air, malted milkshakes at the diner, the scent of coffee always on the brew; and that most delicate and fragile of things, the tinge of lost innocence in the air. Like seeing your first love as she was, before disappointment and disillusion changed her.

    For some, Sunset Boulevard signals the end of dreams. It’s the last stop of the trolley car, the red light at the intersection, the look on the doctor’s face when he has to deliver terminal news.

    And then again, sometimes not.

    The message was thankfully clear. The hopeful trust I’d carried for a year, across an ocean and over 3,000 miles of hard road, was about to be fulfilled.

    A small thing was going to happen. Of no interest to most, of curiosity to some, perhaps a subject of speculation to others.

    From somewhere I smell the scent of roses, and I think I hear Drusilla singing softly in the distance.

    The bus drops me off at the end of Sunset. I look up and see, not the house on Candlewood Drive, but the homes way up in the Hollywood Hills, well lit by the sun. I find myself smiling.

    I wait for a while. I no longer feel tired or weary. Those aches and pains are the province of other, older men; and I am young again, as I was before.

    I see a face in the crowd, coming closer. It is familiar.

    Oh dear Miss Landau, it is so good to see you!

    James Christie
    17th March 2010

    Liked by 1 person

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