JK Rowling has said she regrets her decision to matchmake Ron and Hermione – we look at other fictional couples better off apart
Earlier this week, JK Rowling revealed she regrets her decision to write Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger into a relationship. The Harry Potter author told Wonderland magazine that one of the world’s most famous literary pairings would have ended up in relationship counselling.
Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger in the film adaptations of the books, echoed her comments, telling the Sunday Times: “I think there are fans out there who know that too and who wonder whether Ron would have really been able to make her happy.”
So, in light of JK Rowling outing the bookish Hermione and the prankster Ron as a mismatched union, we look at 10 other awkward pairings in literature, from hidden exes in the attic, to ill-judged office affairs.
Warning: possible spoilers ahead.
They are one of the best-loved literary couples, and one of the worst. Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship can only be described as mutually destructive and abusive – and deserving of a session or two on a Relate sofa. You know a pairing is on the rocks when they spend most of their time trying to hurt the other in the most malevolent means possible (like ruining their offspring). It’s the kind of obsessive love that prioritises control over a person and loses sight of the individual’s happiness. They are basically a version of Sid and Nancy on the moors.
Romeo and Juliet may well be one of the most irritating, self-absorbed couples to have ever graced the stage. If they were around today, they would be lovesick sixth formers writing each other bad haikus and snogging on sticky nightclub floors, while bullying their mates into covering for them. On the one hand, the whole love-at-first-sight thing is kind of cute, but on the other, you can imagine them sending naked Snapchats to each other when Romeo was banished from Verona.
The ultimate twisted and sadistic literary relationship. The scheming pair get their comeuppance (of sorts) when all of their philandering ends in heartbreak and tears, death and, er, smallpox. The two lovers seduce and manipulate their way through a whole host of vulnerable characters, and in the end nobody gets to have a happy ending. Probably would have been for the best if these two never met, to be honest.
The Wheelers are one of the most nuanced and well-drawn couples in mid-20th century American literature. Richard Yates’s ambitious surburbanite spouses dream of escaping dullsville Conneticut, but their optimistic visions of the future are crushed by the realisation that a white-picket fence can act as a cage, and an animal kept in captivity all its life can get cold feet about suddenly being released into the great outdoors. In the end, the Wheelers only help to hold each other back, each blaming the other for the continuity of the mundane.
Apart from the fact we are all rooting for Jay Gatsby and Daisy to get together, it is quite clear that Tom and Daisy are a horrid pairing from the very beginning of Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. They treat each other like dirt and have no respect for one another, not to mention both are adulterers. They are the perfect example of an awful marriage. In a way, they are well matched because they deserve each other, in all of their selfishness, greed and arrogance.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Cosette, but I think we all agree Marius should have gone with Éponine. I mean, the girl literally took a bullet for him, while in the same moment handing him a letter from her love rival. She is basically the nicest person ever.
Poor Bertha Antoinetta Mason, the archetypal “madwoman in the attic”. While we don’t get to see much of Bertha in Jane Eyre, except for the conditions of her loft-based incarceration, Jean Rhys gives us a glimpse into the young Bertha’s betrothal to Rochester in her prequel novel, Wide Sargasso Sea. Bertha, then known as Antoinette Cosway, is wedded to Rochester in the Caribbean, though the couple barely know each other. Surprise surprise, these two never really hit it off and probably should have realised that en route to the aisle before the whole thing, literally, went up in flames.
I think this one is pretty obvious. Edward is a vampire. He’s a vampire. That is never going to be an easy ride. Nobody would put that on their Tinder profile.
OK, so the sex was exciting and it was one of the great love affairs, but Anna and Vronsky would have had life a lot easier if they had just stuck to their marital partners – Anna especially. Of course it was the right decision to leave the dull Karenin for the passionate Vronsky, but Anna also wouldn’t have been banished to a country house and ostracised from society before ending up under a train if she had remained faithful. Swings and roundabouts.
If Bridget and Mark Darcy were the perfect couple, then Bridget and Cleaver were the opposite. He was arrogant, obnoxious and chauvinistic, and she couldn’t resist the lure of the bad boy (or rather the arrogant, obnoxious, chauvinistic boy). Beginning as an archetypal flirtation between employee and smarmy boss, Cleaver ended up fathering Bridget’s baby at the end of the first run of Helen Fielding’s Independent column. The pantomime villain to Darcy’s dashing hero, Cleaver was immortalised as an open-collared, smug, smirking Hugh Grant in the 2001 feature film.
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In an interview in the next issue of Wonderland magazine, JK Rowling says that she wrote the Hermione Granger/Ron Weasley relationship “as a form of wish fulfilment”, and that really Hermione should have married Harry Potter. Do you agree?
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I was pretty useless at feeling in control of my life, but in my car I was queen of the road
The same month I passed my driving test, I fell in love for the first time. My boyfriend and I went everywhere together, actively seeking out opportunities to run errands for family members or close friends just so we could drive to new places. I would always take the wheel (we were both 17 but he was still a learner). He would sit in the passenger seat feeding mix tapes into the temperamental cassette player. The love affair fizzled out after a year, but my affection for my car did not.
Often, after I’d finished my Saturday shift at the local pub, I’d steam up the motorway to my school friend’s flat in London, which he shared with his ill father.
Even in my heavy car – complete with shonky steering and a stiff clutch – I would feel magnificent gliding over Waterloo bridge. The beautiful buildings lining the river were magical when lit up at night, and excitement swelled within as I turned my head left and right, admiring the fact that there were so many people.
Where I came from, all life seemed to be snuffed out at 9pm, and the only signs of activity were spotted through gaps in the curtains of spread-out houses or the odd country pub. There were massive gaps of nothing, and as a teenager I felt a growing sense of isolation and frustration. London, on the other hand, was glowing, throbbing, resplendent – I felt warm every time I got close. I felt at home.
Dan and I would often drive the five minutes it took from his flat to Soho, where parking was free at night; we’d pretend we were flush, sophisticated adults as we drank coffee at midnight on Frith Street. Sometimes we danced in a sweaty Spanish basement club on Old Compton Street. I never had more than a beer because afterwards we always wanted to drive for a while around the West End.
I essentially learned how to drive in London; how to pull out into busy streets with confidence, nudge my way into different lanes and use my mirrors with aplomb as I avoided dizzyingly fast Lycra-clad couriers. I was a country girl who’d learned to dodge rabbits on narrow country roads, but city driving was more about assertiveness as opposed to skill. I was secretly proud of my bravado.
My father – who dished out compliments economically – said my driving wasn’t bad. This was high praise indeed from someone who drove elegant cars elegantly at all times. I was pretty useless in situations concerning love, useless at feeling in control of my life in general, but in my car I felt like I was queen of the road.
I don’t live in the West End now. I was too naive in the 90s to understand quite how expensive London could be. But when the roads are clear and the trains are running on time, the city’s heart is never that far away from my home. When I feel like escaping, when I have the chance to be alone, I seldom head to the country. Instead I aim for the middle of London, and if I can, I drive. Most of the time, especially at night, it makes me very happy. All of the love I had for driving and London when I was a teenager – with newfound freedom and a tenner in my pocket – is still very present.
Last week when life felt crazy, I tried to think of things that would better my situation. I went to Al-Anon meetings, talked to friends and cooked until my house smelled amazing. But I was sick of analysing my relationship with R; sick of feeling angry or sad, or indulging self-pity. I wanted to feel strong and in control.
I asked a friend to come and babysit when the children had gone to sleep. I drove into town on my own, with, for once, nowhere to go and nothing to do. I took my old route into town, past Dan’s old flat, and looked up at the filthy flat roof where we sometimes went to smoke.
I drove around a few grand squares, passed shops that were closed and restaurants that were bustling. It was good to be concentrating on the road and my surroundings. I went to Soho but didn’t stop to see friends. After an hour or so I headed for home again.
Nearing my house, I had a sudden urge to carry on driving up the hill to R’s flat, just to be with him. I felt excited by the idea of sleeping with him again, almost as if the drive had roused my memories of being in love for the first time, discovering things afresh. But, I went home.
Driving around London aimlessly at night might seem pointless to many – a waste of petrol, energy and an evening – but it’s something I might well do again.
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