Winter is the time for cuddling up on the couch with a soulmate and binging on Netflix. Now that spring has arrived in full, however, the lure of the romantic spring fling is almost too much to resist. Of course, just because the force is strong this season doesn't mean you should necessarily indulge it. After all, a good old fashioned no-strings-attached romance is fantastic in theory, but is it ever really free of complications? I'm not so sure about that!
How, then, do you enjoy a fun and free affair without inexplicably ending up desperately in love or up to your ears in trauma? In affairs of the heart, as in all things, let literature be your guide. Although it's usually the star-crossed lovers celebrated by the canon, if you know where to look, you'll find prime examples of the perfect spring fling, alongside plenty of books detailing exactly what to avoid if you're pursuing your own light romance. So, if you find yourself in search of a spirited romp that lasts just as long as a school break, preface your fling with a quick look at these 9 books that explore the art of the affair.
The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
I would advise against ever entering into an affair with someone who is, shall we say, otherwise engaged... especially if the individual in question is actually engaged, as is the case in Orhan Pamuk's stunning ode to the strange and powerful allure of desire. Pamuk's protagonist finds himself ensorceled by a shop girl on the eve of his engagement, and over the next eight years passion morphs into obsession as Kemal dives wholeheartedly into the swift current of his own desire. Let this exceptional novel draw you in, and consider it a worthy guide to avoiding those flings that may just lead you down the path to the dark side.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
There's nothing like a holiday getaway to set the scene for spontaneous romance, and Lockhart sweetens the deal by setting her stirring novel within the sheltered enclave of a private island off the coast of Martha's Vineyard. As young love manifests, the world changes in an instant one fateful night. Both an ode to the power of the singular moment and a striking look at the summer romance, E. Lockart's We Were Liars is a powerful addition to the literature of the love affair.
This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer Smith
There's spring fling fiction that defies expectation and sets us off on a different path, and then there's the novel as wish fulfillment. If you'd like to linger in the realm of fantasy and imagine the outcome of a dream come true, Jennifer E. Smith's This is What Happy Looks Like is the book for you. A movie star, a small-town girl, and a long hot summer — what more could you possibly need?
The Angel Esmerelda by Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo's lush, spare, and pointed prose captures the contemporary moment with uncanny insight. Within The Angel Esmerelda, DeLillo shares nine short stories, one of which may just be the ultimate exploration of the vacation romance. On a small tropical island where a small crowd of tourists desperately clamor for a flight out of paradise, two strangers find themselves thrown together in limbo. Sultry, strange, and serious, DeLillo's portrait of a time-limited tryst may just be the best there is.
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman
Nate Piven, Adelle Waldman's acerbic, infuriating protagonist, has his pick of partners, yet he never strays far from the fling. Following Piven through life and love, Waldman plots out the arc of the affair with wit and wisdom. If you like your flings with a hardy dash of the hipster and a tasteful sprinkle of bemused detachment, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. is just the book for you.
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
Over the years Lady Chatterly's assignation with her gamekeeper has become perhaps the most famous love affair in literary history. If your local library's copy hasn't already been smuggled out and hoarded under the bed of a high school student, don't waste any time digging into this luscious tale of lust and letting go, and pick up your own.
Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
A heartbreaking account of one young girl's exalted exploration of her own blossoming sexuality, Winterson's novel is punctuated by intolerance and exorcisms as religious enthusiasm takes its toll on adolescent experience. With delicate grace and unflinching honesty, Winterson follows the affair to its uncertain conclusion, and unmasks its imperfect beauty in the process.
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
In a dystopic future where love has been banished and the government doles out a cure for passion upon every citizen's 18th birthday, one young girl finds herself on the cusp of something truly dangerous. It all happens after a chance encounter with a mysterious boy living in outright defiance of government control on the margins of society. Because there's no affair like an illicit fair, the story of Lena and Alex lends a little something special to the fiction of the fling.
Obedience by Jacqueline Yallop
Set in the thundering fog of World War II, Obedience follows Sister Bernard as she embarks on an illicit affair with a young Nazi soldier and confronts the lasting effects of lust and the complicated nature of love. Rich with historical detail and unrelenting in narrative exposition, Obedience is an unusual take on the varied effects of the fling that forces a confrontation with the immortal question of love versus lust.
Image: damien_p58 / Flickr