In the recent review of The Guinevere Trilogy at geekgirlinlove.com (http://geekgirlinlove.com/2014/09/22/book-review-the-guinevere-trilogy-by-lavinia-collins/) there’s some very fruitful discussion about the ‘rules’ of romance-writing and how the novels do and don’t (and in many ways, they don’t) fit in. She says “I like that she [Guinevere] is able to love more than one man fully and the critique of forced monogamy.”
I want to talk a little bit about this. I’m also going to preface this by saying that I myself am in a monogamous relationship, and the thought of actually having a polyamourous relationship fills me with two kinds of horror; one of my own jealous neuroses, and the other of timekeeping and logistics. But, I do think that in general, the idea that two people “belong” together, and that there’s no room for something more complex is a drum that is too often beaten in literature.
My case in point for this is The Hunger Games. I loved The Hunger Games, but one aspect really annoyed me. Spoilers ahead guys, so proceed with caution. I was annoyed by the fact that, given that Katniss has undergone the incredible trauma of being in the hunger games, she was not allowed two boyfriends. In the main, not a good idea perhaps, but I’d have thought in those extreme and extenuating circumstances, a girl should just be allowed to have two boyfriends. She had to fight for her life, for god’s sake.
I spent the whole of the third book tensed for the fact that one of them was probably going to get killed off to save her the trouble of “deciding”. As it happens, turns out Gale is an insane political fundamentalist willing to literally murder anyone to make a point, which was slightly better than a “convenient” death. But anyway, my point is, there’s no room for the idea that they both might find a place in Katniss’ life and people might just cut her some slack and let her have two boyfriends. Extenuating circumstances, and all that.
So, I don’t know. It’s food for thought, I guess. We live in a vibrant world with many different people who organise their love lives in many different ways. Many of whom are happy in non-exclusive relationships. This is one of the things we just don’t see in literature at all. From the narrative arc of a typical romance novel, to Daisy in The Great Gatsby being shunted between Tom and Gatsby and forced to choose, to Katniss in The Hunger Games, there is a cultural resistance to this idea that there is anything other than the “right” way to love, the right way to organise ourselves into relationships.
Now, I’m not saying that I am going to be allowing “free love” into my own home, or that we should all start living like bonobo monkeys, but I am also never intending to fight a battle to the death with 23 other teenagers and I still enjoyed reading The Hunger Games. So, if anyone can recommend any reads in this area, please feel free to whack them in the comments, and I look forward to a brave new world of novels about free love and polyamoury.