Less than 4 days Everyone! There are less than 4 days until Valentine’s Day, one of my absolute favourite days of the year! As a believer in True Love above all else, I’ve always felt that this particular day is remarkably special, and that the 24 hours of February 14th carry so much promise!
I will say that this will actually only be my second Valentine’s Day with a significant other – last year was my first Valentine’s celebration with my boyfriend, but we had been dating for less than a month so we are considerably more excited about our love this year! We have special plans to go into the city on Friday night (Yes, Friday the 13th…but I have a plan to subvert superstition by doing something extra romantic on this day instead of being wary and nervous!) and see the play Once, so I am super happy! (Hence all the exclamation points, which seem to be a signature of my blog writing style – I’m seriously excited by almost everything these days, so don’t worry, I’m not screaming at you guys!) I also have some surprises in store for my parents and brother, because I’m all about spreading the love, all day, every day, but especially on February 14th!
Now in preparation for the big event, I’ve of course decided to do some reading of romances (which is not actually a huge departure from my usual reading anyway, as you all well know). I’m still in the midst of reading Francisco Goldman’s Say Her Name which I admit is taking me some time because it is just so dense and emotional. A review of this novel is on its way though, I swear! Having said that, I wanted a change of pace in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, and I knew instinctively which book from my shelf I just had to pull down. (Surprisingly, it wasn’t Jane Eyre…I thought that reading it twice in a span of less than 2 months would be a little much!) I grabbed a short story collection called Love Stories (aptly titled) that my father bought for me when I was in elementary school. I remember being at the tiny mall in our town outside of Toronto and browsing a secondhand bookstore with him. When I saw the book and the title that promised romance, I was immediately drawn to it and I asked him to buy it for me. It couldn’t have been very expensive, so my father said Yes, and that’s how I came to own my first ever short story collection.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I like to think of myself as a short story writer above all else (except a blogger, naturally). I’ve always been drawn to that particular medium because I think it is such a skill to be able to convey so many emotions and such an engrossing narrative in so short a literary space. But, long before I fell in love with the works of Mavis Gallant and Alice Munro (my main Canadian gals!), I was intrigued by the short story “The GREEN Behind the Glass” by Adèle Geras in this collection that my father bought me. I had no idea who Geras was, and to be honest, I still don’t because I never thought to research her or her work. I think I just wanted to leave the short story in the little bubble I’d found it in – I didn’t want to disturb the perfection I recognized in it by placing it in a context or world outside my bedroom. I still don’t really want to…but if any of you do know anything about Adèle Geras, feel free to give me some more information and some recommendations for future reading!
Anyway, I’m rambling now, but the point is that Geras’ story was the first short story I ever read and I truly believe it shaped my writing and my interest in the romance genre. I was sucked into Sarah and Philip’s world so quickly, and although the story is only about a dozen pages long, I felt instantly enveloped by their love. The story is only the second one in the collection – I had read the first and felt nothing particularly strong about it…and I actually never read any of the other stories. I stopped after reading “The Green Behind the Glass”…I re-read that story over and over. And even when I skimmed other stories in the collection, like I did this morning after re-reading my favourite one, I never felt compelled to read any of them completely. I felt certain that the collection had caught my attention for this one story by Geras and for no other reason. I actually keep the entire book on my bookshelf at home just for this one story.
Why do I find it so magical? I honestly have no idea. It just has such a fantastical quality, and although it is a tragedy, there is magic, something very special, in it. When I began writing my own short stories in university, I always included a sort of supernatural element in them and I can’t help but think that maybe Geras’ story really did shape the writer that I am today.
The story also takes place between 1916 and 1917…so not quite the Victorian era, but close enough. The entire collection is beautifully illustrated by Aafke Brouwer, and I think I felt as intrigued by the wonderful black and white sketches as by the prose itself. At the time in my childhood when I first read the story, I was already obsessed with the movie My Fair Lady (which will get its own blog post very soon as well!), and so my mind was, at least part of the time, in the early 20th century. I loved the dresses that Audrey Hepburn wore, and so I also loved the dresses Sarah wore in the pictures included within the text of “The Green Behind the Glass”. The photos, along with the lovely and sad story itself, made me feel warm…they honestly did envelope me and wrap me up in this haze. I just liked how simple the tale was, but also how moving. I think I’ve read it over 20 times in my life already.
So, I don’t know where this short story came from…I just know that it’s been with me my whole life…and I think it’s had a profound influence on the lover and woman I am today!
“I want him to hold it forever. I want his hand to grow into mine.”
“But how can I live with my love pushed down inside me forever?”
Girl with a Green (and Bursting!) Heart