Formulaic romance novels with happy endings are suddenly losing popularity with Gen X.
“Romance novels do not interest me for the simple reason that in most of them the woman is shown as weak and waiting for a macho man to marry her. I cannot relate to that kind of escapist stuff. There is more to life than love and marriage,” says Vidha Jain (21), who works for a youth website searchmycampus.com.
Vijeta Srivastava, another 21-year-old from Bhopal, has a similar opinion. She says, “Romantic fiction, especially of the Mills&Boon kind is very monotonous. I like to read something that gives me new insights into life. I would rather read John Grisham or some serious women’s fiction that truly represents modern women’s aspirations. Career, not romance, is the top priority in my life.”
Anil Kumar, who runs a popular second hand bookshop near Plaza Cinema in Connaught Place, says in the past few years sale of romance novels has come down by 35 per cent. “There was a time when women bought romance novels from me in dozens. Today most young girls ask for Sidney Sheldon, Ayn Rand or Agatha Christie. Romance novels are no more hot with them.”
So what do the authors have to say? Author Jaishree Misra, who has many romantic novels to her credit attributes this trend to the changing sensibilities. She says, “There is certainly more cynicism now about relationships about than in my time but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Oddly enough, it’s young women who seem less inclined to be ‘fluffy’ these days — it’s so much cooler to be blasé and dismissive about soppy concerns like love and romance.” She also adds that if romance is still alive, it’s among young men who are discovering that there’s no shame in discovering their ‘feminine’ sides.
Manju Kapur, author of Difficult Daughters and Home, holds a different view. She says, “Youngsters losing interest in Mills & and Boon has nothing to with cynicism; it is a reflection of their changing priorities in life. Today’s girls are very clear about what they want from life; like in everything else they are discriminating in what they read and cannot relate to formulaic fantasy that Mills & Boon offers. There is so much of it on TV and cinema.”
But it is author Namita Gokhale who hits the nail on the head. She says, “Not that romance has died, but the romance novel has to reinterpret itself to the modern youth.”