guest post by Rebecca Coleman
author of The Kingdom of Childhood
Highbrow or lowbrow, blockbuster or art film, it’s hard not to love a good love story—especially one in which the obstacles to happily-ever-after seem (almost) insurmountable. But there’s one hurdle that even the most smitten couple can’t clear: the legal age of consent. Here are a few fictional couples who tried, most with less-than-fairy-tale results:
1. Humbert & Dolores (Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov)
Setting aside all platitudes that “age doesn’t matter,” this great-granddaddy of illicit fiction reminds us that, when the ages are 12 and 37, indeed it does.
We all want a love that transcends time. But then there come those scenes when middle-aged Henry is canoodling with 13-year-old Clare—”breasts and legs and hips, all newly minted”—all alone, with her feet on his shoulders. The gentle reader can’t help but get a case of the heebie-jeebies.
3. The Young French Girl & the Chinese Businessman (The Lover by Marguerite Duras)
The guilty pleasure of reading The Lover comes from its setting in 1929 Saigon. So she’s 15 and he’s 32. Maybe everyone did that kind of thing back then, over there. We sure hope so, because no book has any right to be this sexy if it’s actually creepy and gross.
What, you think his romance is with Bella? Sadly, you’ve got it all wrong. Sure, the 109-year-old Edward spends the entire series getting high on the pheromones of his 18-year-old girlfriend. But it’s his forever-17 body, evocatively described in every third paragraph, that causes wolfpacks of 40-something moms to turn up at midnight for the movie premieres.
5. Sheba & Steven (Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller)
She’s a free-spirited artistic type; he’s big for 15, with that “prizefighter” look. But when the narrator goes all Linda Tripp on her “friend” Sheba and turns her in, the implosion proves much more satisfying than the affair.
Rebecca Coleman is the author of The Kingdom of Childhood (MIRA Books), which goes on sale today. It chronicles a most improper teacher-student relationship that results in a spiraling obsession. Coleman lives in suburban Maryland with her husband and their four young children. Watch a trailer for The Kingdom of Childhood here, or read our review of the book.