By Glynn Young
I recently reread David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, a work I had first read in high school. It was every bit as good as I remembered it. The most autobiographical of all of Dickens’s novels, it is full of intrigue, suspense, betrayal, meanness, kindness, and love. I would even go so far as to call it a romance, if not in the conventional sense.
For a considerable portion of the book, David has two loves in his life. One is Dora Spenlow, a beautiful young woman whom Dickens describes as David’s “child-wife.” She’s much given to speaking in breathless exclamation points. She becomes something of an irritation to readers, because we readers know that David’s true soulmate is not Dora but rather Agnes Wickfield, the daughter of the attorney David rents a room from in Canterbury. He marries Dora; after she dies, he will realize his love for Agnes.
David Copperfield is many things, but I was particularly surprised to discover that it is a novel with a love story at its very heart. I was also surprised to find myself enjoying this love story as much as I did.
And then I had a realization of my own: men need romance, too.
Most Christian romantic fiction is written for women. With good reason – women are the majority of readers of Christian romantic fiction, and of Christian fiction in general. Men readers seem to occupy a small fiction outpost, consisting of political suspense, espionage thrillers, end-times novels, and more speculative fiction works. These types of novels are great page-turners, full of tension, thrills, explosions, good-versus-evil accounts, and civilization threatened by all stripes of terrorists.
The difference is rather obvious. Women are reading about relationships; men are reading about action.
I find many action-based novels enjoyable, but they’re not the kinds of books that linger with me. To adapt from Dickens, they’re like Dora Spenlow – attractive, glittering, and what the eye is first drawn to. I find myself preferring novels that are more like Agnes Wickfield.
And in that category I find novels like those of Dale Cramer. His Summer of Light and Levi’s Will are still two of my favorites. I like Travis Thrasher’s Sky Blue, Athol Dickson’s River Rising, and the Port William novels and stories of Wendell Berry. These are all novels not overtly about relationships but clearly and directly speak to the subject. A father has to deal with the loss of his traditional work and becoming a stay-at-home dad. A son walks away from his family and culture, eventually having to find a way back. A young man faces the death of his wife.
These novels speak to men’s feelings and sensibilities. They address life-changing events, and upsets in how men think of themselves and the people they love and care for.
This is romance, and perhaps romance of the highest order. Men need it, too.
Glynn Young is a national award-winning speechwriter and communications executive. He is the author of two novels, Dancing Priest and A Light Shining, and the non-fiction book Poetry at Work. Visit Glynn at Facebook, Twitter, his blog, and his business web site.