You Pierce My Soul
If the thread of romance were to be pulled from the storyline of every book ever written, what a bleak and boring catalogue we’d be left with. I’m not just talking about genre romance or chick lit or even its more literary sister, women’s fiction.
I’m saying let’s imagine David McCullough’s John Adams without his passion for his wife Abigail, or Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses without John Grady Cole’s fateful affair with Alejandra, or Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity without the quirky yet lovable Marie.
Nevertheless stories with a romantic subplot are often considered to have less literary value, especially if the lovers are allowed to be happy in the end. I really don’t know what to make of that. Who gets to love whom can be a very important question, sociologically, politically, historically.
I love love. I like to read about it and I like to write about it, following unlikely pairs through discovery and infatuation, over the obstacles of social pressure, internal turmoil or misunderstanding, toward the bliss of connection.
One of my very favorite literary romantic couples is Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth of Persuasion by Jane Austen. There is something electric about reunions—people who have a past together, separated by choice or the vagaries of life, thrown into each other’s path years later to see if the spark of former passion might once again ignite.
I like the fact that they are both older—at the advanced age of 27, Anne has been relegated to spinsterhood. Eight years before, she’d been engaged to Captain Wentworth, but was persuaded by her family that he was not distinguished enough to marry into her high-ranking family. Austen was a master of satirizing the entrenched social strata of early 1800s England.
By happenstance the two once again travel in the same social circle, and the reader doesn’t know if Captain Wentworth still shares Anne’s feelings until he writes her a note, telling her: “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever.”
In my humble opinion, “You pierce my soul” has to be one of the best lines of tortured passion ever written. I, like Anne, would have fallen for it in … well, in a heartbeat.