What are the best books on...

Health & Lifestyle

The best books on Enduring Love

recommended by Riz Khan

Television presenter chooses books on enduring love. Wuthering Heights, Remains of the Day, John Irving and Julian Barnes all make the list

Riz Khan

Riz Khan hosts the Riz Khan Show, an interactive interview show on Al Jazeera English. He was a news anchor for CNN for many years and in 1996 he launched an interactive interview show on CNN called Q&A with Riz Khan. His guests have included former US presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela, and genomic scientist J Craig Venter. Khan also secured the world exclusive with Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf following his coup in October 1999.

Riz Khan on Wikipedia
Riz Khan's work on Wikipedia
Riz Khan's Homepage

Save for later

Riz Khan

Riz Khan hosts the Riz Khan Show, an interactive interview show on Al Jazeera English. He was a news anchor for CNN for many years and in 1996 he launched an interactive interview show on CNN called Q&A with Riz Khan. His guests have included former US presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela, and genomic scientist J Craig Venter. Khan also secured the world exclusive with Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf following his coup in October 1999.

Riz Khan on Wikipedia
Riz Khan's work on Wikipedia
Riz Khan's Homepage

Save for later
 

So, your first book is Gregory David Roberts’s Shantaram.

The love story is hidden initially in what is at first an action drama about Australia’s most wanted man on the run in the slums of India, where he ends up starting this clinic and becoming responsible for 25,000 people.

Roberts really gets under the skin of the city – the character is based on himself. Anyway, Bombay is full of wanderers and transients and he meets this Swiss woman and falls in love with her but somehow can’t really get his hands around her. It is a constantly evasive and elusive love. In a different culture from his own he meets someone who is essentially from the same culture.

And does it work out?

Yes and no. Well, no. They do get together but it doesn’t work out. He ends up fighting for the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan but there is something good about this guy. Johnny Depp is apparently involved in making a film out of this book.

Now you’ve got Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day.

This won the Booker prize in 1989 and is written by someone of Japanese origin who so gets into the British mindset to write it. I was born in a British Colony, in Aden, South Yemen, and then went to Britain at the age of four. It was a different time then and there were still echoes of the 1930s, of the prewar time he describes in the book.

In 1970s Hounslow?

Yes. The teachers at the school I went to were these crusty old types who said you had to adjust your tie before you spoke to them. Now they are all young things shagging each other and shagging the pupils. Remains of the Day is such a fantastically insightful study into the British character. This very British butler who doesn’t know what to make of change, being so rigidly adherent to his upbringing and he never gets to realise his true love. It’s all done in flashback so that we meet him going to visit her, the woman he loves, and he’s excited because finally now, after all this time, they might have the chance to be together, and he’s looking back at how he has been hurt by being who he is. And they meet, but there isn’t a love interest and nothing happens and he is sitting on a bench by the sea realising that he’s facing the remains of his day. It’s about missed chances and what the British character does to a person’s emotions. There is this brick wall that they can’t crack through and after a while a bit of the grout wears away and there is a chink to peer through, but it’s too late. Of course it was made into a wonderful film.

Tell me about your next book, The World According to Garp by John Irving.

This was given to me by a schoolfriend who told me that the character, Garp, really reminded her of me. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that once I’d read it, but I could relate to this guy. I’d like to think I have an easy-going outlook on life – you don’t have to agree – and I was brought up by a single mum and I think John Irving is very much on the side of women. He takes a strong look at feminism in this book and its pros and cons, at how when it gets to extreme levels of hating men it creates its own problems, but he looks also at how women become victims. He marries his childhood sweetheart and they endure a lot, infidelity, the loss of a child, terrible things. Garp is a strong character and it’s even funny the way he was conceived. His mother was a nurse and she notices that this airman on his deathbed has got a huge erection, so she decides to get on and have a ride and have a child because she wants a child and not a husband. But really it’s about Garp meeting and marrying his wife and how their love survives trials and difficulties, how love can persist and be strong through tough times. Again this was made into a film with Robin Williams playing Garp and there’s a wonderful moment showing how quirky Garp can be – Garp and his wife are looking at this beautiful house and an aircraft crashes into it, and Garp says: ‘We have to buy it! It’s been pre-disastered!’

Julian Barnes, Before She Met Me.

This is a very funny short book about a man who becomes obsessed with his girlfriend’s sexual past. It’s about how intense jealousy can be. People think they can cope with a lover’s past history but really there is always a struggle. His look at human nature is disturbing.

How?

Because we all think we can cope, that we’re always right about how we deal with things but Barnes forces the reader to look at a different angle on relationships. I think they don’t stay together in this book, but it makes the hairs on the back of my neck all prickly.

Finally, you’ve chosen Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë’s only novel.

I read this when I was 16 and was completely blow away by the intensity of it all. It’s so passionate. Again it’s about love turning into obsessions and being all-consuming and how even future generations are manipulated by this love. I read it around the time that the Kate Bush song came out and it was so funky that this girl who’d read the book when she was 12 and written this song was having a hit with it. The rugged moors put a chill into the setting and it’s just about the pain Cathy and Heathcliff go through and put everyone else through. I am always fascinated by intense emotions and I notice that some people succumb to them and some don’t.

In these books love is seen from different angles and only The World According To Garp is really optimistic.

Support Five Books

Five Books interviews are expensive to produce. If you've enjoyed this interview, please support us by donating a small amount, or by visiting our site before you make purchases from Amazon. Since we are enrolled in their affiliate program, we receive a small percentage of any product you buy, at no extra cost to you.