Books

Top 5 books about love that survives war and other duress

The Museum of Lost Love author Gary Barker picks the best reads exploring the idea that love really does conquer all

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

In a xenophobic world not too different from our own, a refugee couple flee a war-torn country through magical doors that take them to safety. Their love endures, succumbs, then re-emerges decades later as something as simple and surprising as Hamid’s magical doors.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Yes, it’s written in 1940s macho-speak, but the love story between the American volunteer in the Spanish civil war and the Spanish rape survivor is tender, convincing and unromanticised. Their love could not have lasted but at least it was. 

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Turning idealised love into a disease, Márquez gives us both a clever play on words and a fable about enduring love. We have the ending we want as the lovers are reunited in old age, yet Marquez deftly teases us for believing in a love that could weather all. 

The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna 

Set in the Sierra Leone civil war, Forna’s book weaves together local and expat stories of love and loss in deeply affecting prose. Her characters yearn, breathe and love across continents and decades of war as if they are sitting in the room with you. 

Beloved by Toni Morrison

“Your love is too thick …”  “Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.” Morrison’s tale of an enslaved African woman who kills her eldest child to save her from slavery offers layers of insights on maternal love and masculine love under the worst duress imaginable. Required reading for all humans.

Gary Barker’s The Museum of Lost Love is out on October 17 (World Editions, £11.99)

Image: Andy DelGiudice

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Top 5 books on boxing, chosen by commentator Andy Clarke
Books

Top 5 books on boxing, chosen by commentator Andy Clarke

Parasol Against the Axe by Helen Oyeyemi review – electrifying, experimental writing
Books

Parasol Against the Axe by Helen Oyeyemi review – electrifying, experimental writing

The Hearing Test by Eliza Barry Callahan review – a droll insight into a year of loss
Books

The Hearing Test by Eliza Barry Callahan review – a droll insight into a year of loss

Top 5 books about the British seaside, chosen by crime writer William Shaw
Books

Top 5 books about the British seaside, chosen by crime writer William Shaw

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know