Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, this week’s topic is: Ten (Eight) Books That Will Make You Cry
I didn’t make it to ten on this one, because mostly I like books that make me happy…but I did manage to come up with a handful of beautifully tragic ones!
1) Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – Life is just so hard for everyone. You’ve heard “I Dreamed a Dream,” right? Then there’s the entire last 30 pages where I just want to weep over Jean Valjean and his wretched stubbornness about self-denial. And, and, and…Gavroche, and Eponine, and Enjolras, and M. Mabeuf, who grows poorer and poorer and finally sells his last book. Not quite on the level of Fantine, of course, but book-lovers will understand!
2) The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux – For most of this book, the Phantom is a straight-out monster, simple and unlikable. Then Leroux finishes with a tragic scene of the Phantom talking about how he felt when he let Christine go…and I have to conclude that Leroux meant us to pity the Phantom after all.
4) The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne – This one is sad in a very different way. In the last chapter, Christopher Robin comes to tell the animals that he’s going away (to school, I assume), and he won’t be able to come play with them anymore. He tells Winnie the Pooh to go out to the Enchanted Place sometimes and remember him, and he’ll be there really. And it’s just heart-breaking…even though everybody does have to grow up, of course. Which brings me to the next book…
5) Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie – The end of the story gives us a brief account of the Lost Boys when they became adults. It begins with the sentence “All the boys were grown up and done for by this time; so it is scarcely worth while saying anything more about them” and concludes with “The bearded man who doesn’t know any story to tell his children was once John.” Christopher Robin’s growing up feels like the natural sadness of something inevitable; this feels like a very morbid view on the whole thing, which mostly makes me sad for J. M. Barrie, if this was really his feelings on what it meant to grow up.
6) The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein – Another kids’ book with a tragic air. Between the poor, self-sacrificing tree, to the boy who keeps taking and taking and taking and finally winds up as a sad old man with an empty life… I’m not even sure what the message here is supposed to be, other than that life is hard and also, we’re destroying the environment.
7) The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean – This one only half counts, since the book doesn’t actually make me terribly sad at any point. But–because of this book, the sentence “I am just going outside and may be some time” puts a (mostly metaphorical) lump in my throat every time I think of it.
8) Phantom: The Story of His Life by Susan Kay – This is sort of the same as #2, but not! It’s the story from birth to death of the Phantom of the Opera, and there are different emotional moments than Leroux provided. Erik’s childhood is so sad (first his mother refuses to kiss him on his fifth birthday, and then his beloved dog dies…) The part that always gets me, though? Erik is trying so hard to be hopeful about Christine, and the only prayer he can come up with is an echo from childhood: Please, God, let her love me and I’ll be good forever. Which is heartbreaking enough, but then he decides to go up to the Opera’s roof to pray, thinking God will hear him better from there. And Christine and Raoul are also on the roof, and… Well. I’m very, very sad for him.
Are we all reaching for tissues by now? Perhaps I should send you to some funny Discworld moments! Or leave a comment and share about your favorite, beautiful sad books.