Love and other Demons – Great novels exploring the darker side of Love

Love can sometimes be a little brutal, here’s a rundown but by no means a comprehensive list of some of the great novels exploring the other side of love…

Making Love – Jean Philippe Toussaint


The novel follows a couple at the end of their affair and the final days of their break up whilst on vacation in Japan. The cosmopolitan and grand urbanisation of Tokyo and Kyoto is set against the anguish of a protagonist rapidly losing control of his relationship.

“We loved each other, but we couldn’t stand each other anymore. There was this, now, in our love: even if we continue to do ourselves on the whole more good than harm, the little harm we did do ourselves had become unbearable.”

Essays in Love – Alain de Botton


Not a novel but a series of essays exploring how two young people fall rapidly in love and then almost as swiftly – out of love. De Botton analysis every emotion under a microscope of cynicism.

“Romantic fatalism protected Chloe and me from the idea that we might equally well have begun loving someone else had events turned out differently, shocking…My mistake was to confuse a destiny to love with a destiny to love a given person. It was the error of thinking that Chloe, rather than love, was inevitable.”

South of the Border, West of the Sun – Haruki Murakami


The novel starts in much the same way as all Murakami books, with the protagonist preoccupation and longing for his childhood sweetheart. His absolute believe that they were pre-destined to be together. That her and only her can fill an inescapable hole that has followed him since adolescence.

Think Norwegian Wood, but focussing on the man as an adult, happily married with children but still unable to shake the feeling he has married the wrong woman.

“Once again a pang of regret swept over me for not having called out to her. I had nothing to tie me down then, nothing to lose.”

The inevitable conclusion like all Murakami books is as a friend put it “unsatisfyingly abrupt”.

Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin


I hesitated on whether to add either Baldwin’s Another Country or Giovanni’s Room, both explore unconventional love in sensitive and intelligent ways, but in the end the focus of Another Country is wholly on race rather than love.

Giovanni’s Room initially caused controversy in 1950s America mainly because Baldwin a black man was fictionalising a white character as well as for its homosexual content.
It’s a brilliant novel made all the more great because of its exploration on different forms of love. David is passionately in love with another man but he is unable to admit the truth to himself and to contemplate a life without fiancé Hella.

“Someone, your father or mine, should have told us that not many people have ever died of love. But multitudes have perished, and are perishing every hour-and in the oddest places – for the lack of it.”

Of love and Other Demons – Gabriel Gazia Marquez


Put simply – mad love. On her twelfth birthday, Sierva Maria, is bitten by a rabid dog. The novel concentrates on the various relationships in Sierva Maria’s live.  For example, her love affair with a much older man, Father Cayetano Delaura, and her parents dwindling affection for each other. It also explores an individual’s love for God and the ideology behind spirituality and believe in the supernatural.

“The warder who came in to prepare her for the sixth session of exorcism found her dead of love in her bed, her eyes radiant.”

Laughter in the Dark – Vladimir Nabokov


“Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and is life ended in disaster.”

There is not much to add to Nabokov’s opening paragraph telling the story of a man who leaves his wife for a passionate but ultimately doomed affair.