I’m going to put this out there straight away: I cry a lot. Charity TV adverts make me weep. If someone writes something particularly nice in a greetings card, more tears. I start crying telling people about things that have made me cry! It verges on the ridiculous, is a constant source of embarrassment (many friends who’ve made the mistake of seeing a sad film at the cinema with me will testify to that) and it is also the subject of today’s blog.
The word “tearjerker” conjures up, for me at least, a very specific type of novel: Nicholas Sparks, maybe, or “The Fault in our Stars”. If I stuck with that definition then this would be a very short article indeed as I usually steer clear of books with an overtly emotional theme. Thinking over my reading history, however, there are still many books that have in places reduced me to a soggy mess of tears, despite the fact that you may not think of them as fitting the model of your classic tearjerker. So I thought it would be interesting to share with you today the top 5 books that made me cry!
- The Mayor of Casterbridge – I first read this when I was studying it in sixth form and have vivid memories of having to hide watery eyes from my soulless classmates. Michael Henchard has got to be one of the most tragic figures in literature, his character failings bringing him crashing down time and time again in spite of his constant battle to make things right. One of his last wishes is “that no man shall remember me”: cue violent sobbing…
- Memoirs of a Geisha – to be denied a life that one could, and should by rights have had, is an almost unimaginable cruelty. But the agony of unrequited love is perhaps the greatest cruelty of them all. There’s a line from this novel that I remember as if I only read it yesterday and it gets me every time it comes to mind:
“What if I came to the end of my life and realised that I’d spent every day watching for a man who would never come to me? …And yet if I draw my thoughts back from him, what life would I have?”
Anyone who’s ever experienced a love that was not returned will recognise the excruciating pain behind this paradox; the author hits the emotional nail right on the head.
- Ptolemy’s Gate – if you’ve never come across it, this is the final part of the Bartimaeus trilogy, a series of young adult novels featuring a boy magician and his wise-cracking demon accomplice. I think this might win the prize for the most emotionally shattering end to a series ever – when I’d finished I was in floods of tears…and then had to go back and read the last couple of pages again just to make sure I’d read what I thought I’d read! Heart-wrenching but superb.
- The Boleyn Inheritance – this might seem a bit of an odd one to include on a list of tearjerkers, but I found this novel in Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series surprisingly upsetting. The reason is the author’s exceptionally clever take on Katherine Howard; the segments written from her point of view bring home precisely what she was, namely a naïve teenager manipulated by the trusted adults around her in their quest for power. The horror lies in the fact that we know the terrible fate of this poor girl, but in this interpretation she is pathetically unaware of what is happening to her even in her final days. It’s genuinely very emotional.
- The Shock of the Fall – this was one of the books everyone was talking about last year, and if you haven’t read it yet I’d thoroughly recommend it. Tears will be shed I promise you…and yet somehow, despite the fact that it deals with some very tough issues such as childhood death and severe mental illness, it doesn’t leave you feeling overwhelmed with sadness. The image of a little girl burying her doll, however, in a scene whose significance bookends the novel, will stay with you for a long time.
Hopefully today’s blog post hasn’t thoroughly depressed everyone! I do maintain there’s nothing like a good cry though, so as ever feel free to share the books that reduced you to tears!