5. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
No rundown of dysfunctional romance stories would be complete without Gone Girl’s disastrous Nick and Amy Dunne, and it’s safe to say their relationship’s descent from fairy-tale romance into psychopathic chaos is enough to put anyone off marriage. It’s their fifth anniversary when Amy disappears and under mounting pressure from the police and media, will Nick’s resolve to find her crack? It’s hard to know which character is more twisted, dishonest and joyfully unlikeable, but Nick and Amy are truly a match made in the darkest depths of hell.
4. Season to Taste by Natalie Young
Lizzie is a fifty-something housewife living in well-to-do English suburbia. She’s been trapped in a dreadfully unhappy marriage for 30 years, until one Monday morning she finally snaps and wallops her domineering husband over the head with a garden shovel. What follows is a strange and gory novel in which she chops him up, freezes some of him, pops the rest in the blender and proceeds to cook and eat him, working out which spices go best with Jacob’s flesh. It’s full of black humour but beyond that, there’s a subtly emotional, achingly human story about a remarkable heroine desperate for independence and the chance to change her life.
3. It Ended Badly by Jennifer Wright
It Ended Badly is a book of thirteen non-fiction essays presented as a self-help manual for the newly single, charting some of history’s most notorious and most brutal breakups, from the Emperor Nero condemning every one he’d ever loved to death in Ancient Rome, to Oscar Wilde getting dumped by the lover for whom he’s just been sent to jail, to Hollywood’s scandalous love triangles. It’s incredibly funny but it’s also smart, warm and surprisingly empathetic. Turn the pages as fast as you dare for beheadings, uprising, gossips and many, many poor decisions that will make you feel immeasurably better about those late-night, slightly tipsy text messages we’ve all sent to our ex.
2. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
From the author of the hugely successful The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao comes a book of connected short stories about a young Dominican man’s womanizing and its emotional fallout. Yunior is the very definition of a love rat, complicit in virtually every form of romantic betrayal imaginable. His voice is energetic, original, funny, tender and full of emotions you didn’t even quite know existed but somehow make perfect sense. You’ll find yourself loving him despite his many digressions, as he repeatedly succumbs to the weakness of the human heart.
1. The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley
This is a loss-of-innocence story set at the turn of the twentieth century, when thirteen year-old Leo is sent to spend his summer at his friend’s luxurious country estate and ends up becoming the messenger between his friend’s older sister and her forbidden lover. He gets drawn deeper and deeper into their dangerous deceit until his role brings him to a shocking revelation that will impact the rest of his life. The writing is majestic, perfectly capturing Edwardian sensibilities, and it also has one of the most memorable first lines of any novel: “'The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”