Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Crying Game (or Books That Make You Weep) - Lucy Coats

I've been thinking a lot about Philip Pullman's work lately, probably triggered by all the debate about the discounting of the long-awaited La Belle Sauvage (coming this October) and its effect on indie booksellers (which Rowena House talked about in a post earlier this month). Not only thinking either -- I've just re-read the whole Northern Lights trilogy and associated novellas with immense pleasure. And, as usual, I dreaded getting to Chapter Fourteen in The Subtle Knife, entitled 'Alamo Gulch'.

There are parts of certain books which make me cry, every time I read them. And not just cry. It's the ugly sobbing kind of crying which leaves a hole in my heart. I know it's going to happen, but I love those particular books so much, that I would never not re-read them. So why does Lee Scoresby and Hester's end do me in? I've read so many books where characters I love die, with never a glimpse of a watery eye, so why that one? And why Chapter Twelve of The Darkest Road, the third book in Guy Gabriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry, the one where Diarmuid dan Ailell takes the long road home? Every time I get close, my heart rate goes up, and I have to steel myself to turn the page to where that particular battle to the death starts. (There are more too, but I won't list them all, to spare you!)

Trying to make sense of emotional reactions to books is always hard. My critical brain is asking me to discover what exactly it is in that piece of writing which pulls at my heartstrings, and how the writer did it, what trick they used, so I can use it too. My heart though, is saying 'it just is that way, don't try to analyse it'. But having thought about it for this piece, I think I do have some sort of answer. What pulls my heart apart is a character of great gallantry and wit, who sacrifices him or herself for others. It's as simple as that.

I'd love to know what books make you all cry every time (if you can admit that any do!) and why. Or am I alone in my recurrent weeping?

16 comments:

Steve Gladwin said...


I so agree Lucy. Fionavar is my absolute favourite series of books and oh that scene is moving but there are a few others as well, like Darien and his father and Kevin Laine. Just wonderful.

Sue Purkiss said...

With you on the death of Lee Scoresby and Hester - what a wonderful character!

Rowena House said...

I finished A Monster Calls in a tent during an outdoor storytelling festival, sobbing away as silently as possible so my son & his friend in the tent next door couldn't hear me. Overwhelmed.

Katherine Langrish said...

This may sound silly, but I always cry at the end of 'Finn Family Moomintroll', even though it's happy really - "It is autumn in Moominvalley, for how else can spring come back again?"

Maybe it's the Nordic melancholy,for I also cry whenever I read Astrid Lindgren's 'The Brothers Lionheart'.


Both wonderful books!

Keren David said...

I finished Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls and cried and cried and cried. Unfortunately I was in a crowded cafe with my familywho had no idea why I was crying, and I couldn't stop to explain. Kudos to Sally.

catdownunder said...

A book you won't, in all likelihood, know Lucy - Storm Boy by Colin Thiele - if you want to weep buckets of tears then you will over Mr Percival's death.

Mary Hoffman said...

I am a hard-hearted bitch and hardly ever cry when reading. I am moved, yes, but not in tears. On the other hand, the cheesiest film can make me weep - odd isn't it?

Ann Turnbull said...

I used to cry over the grief of Lucy and Susan when Aslan died - every time I read the book. And the death of the Little Match Girl. And the end of Peter Pan and Wendy: when Wendy grew up. The more a story made me cry, the more I'd want to read it again - I LOVED being made sad!
I can't remember crying as an adult reader, though. Like Mary, I'm often moved, but not weeping. These days, it's the news that makes me cry; I find real-life tragedy increasingly unbearable.

Penny Dolan said...

Take care where you weep! A while back, I nearly had an accident when I welled up, sobbing, as I listened to "The Wreck of The Zanzibar" while motorway driving.

Pippa Goodhart said...

Oh, I've sobbed many times over Laura's dog Jack dying in Little House on the Prairie! But I'm also a cryer at happy moments in stories. Is it very wrong that tears came to my eyes when I read the happy ending part of my own story that I'm working on at the moment? Do any of you cry at your own stories?

Leonie said...

Gosh
...
Knight's Fee and Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliffe. The Persian Boy by Mary Renault. So many really, but mainly in the past. I cant remember a recent read that has actually made me cry...

Jen Robinson said...

Well there's Matthew Cuthbert's death, of course. Last time I read that I was listening on an audiobook while walking in the park. It wasn't pretty :-).

Helen Larder said...

'The Stone Diaries' by Carol Shields. The 'lists' at the end of the book left me sobbing for a long time. I think it was to do with the poignant, economic way Shields summed up Mercy's life xxxx

Emma Barnes said...

Little Women. Charlotte's Web. And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer - the last chapter especially. Every time.

Lynne Benton said...

For me it's the happy bits that make me cry - and like Pippa, I do cry at my own stories sometimes. In fact if a story I've written can make me cry then I feel I've got it right! Thank you for a fascinating post, Lucy.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

I cry relatively easily in books. The most recent was in The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. I've had to pass books over to my children to finish reading when I've been too choked up to finish reading it out loud in the past. I don't want to spoil the book Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski (it's really old and probably really dated) but the last line had me sobbing. Like Pippa, I cried at many points whilst writing my most recent book and the illustrator cried whilst illustrating it.