Sad Book Journey? Don’t Stop, Be Reading

If a lousy or mediocre novel is making you feel bad, it’s an easy decision to stop reading it. But what if an excellent novel is making you feel bad? I don’t know about you, but I keep reading. After all, some of the best literature ranges from depressing to tragic.

I experienced this while recently reading Felicia’s Journey by William Trevor. The title character is a teen girl who leaves Ireland for England to try to find the feckless young man who got her pregnant. Felicia ends up being “helped” by the oily Mr. Hilditch, a middle-aged guy who has major psychological issues (we later find out why) and might be a serial killer.

Ugh, I thought as I read — this won’t end well. And the conclusion is indeed sad. But I’m glad I didn’t ditch the book. Trevor’s prose was superb, and the melancholy ending was different than I expected. One may figure something bad is going to happen in a depressing novel, but exactly what that something will be isn’t always predictable. Surprise in literature is often a good thing!

Other depressing novels I’ve read that I couldn’t put down? A classic that comes to mind is Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. One is 99% sure that the trajectory of Lily Bart’s life will never stop being downhill, but her story is masterfully told — and there’s always that unlikely 1% chance for redemption in any unhappy book.

Then there’s Richard Wright’s Native Son, in which an African-American character (Bigger Thomas) is dealing with poverty, racism, and a criminal-justice system with little justice. Those three strikes don’t augur well for a happy ending, but the novel is riveting.

Elsa Morante’s History is also a magnificent achievement even as readers can guess than Ida and her son Giuseppe are probably doomed because of their personalities and the World War II carnage that surrounds them.

Or Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, which involves a hostage situation. It’s fascinating how Patchett humanizes the hostage takers almost as much as the hostages, but you just know that there will be plenty of deaths before you turn the last page.

George Eliot wrote novels with both sad and part-happy endings, but there’s something about Maggie Tulliver’s life in The Mill on the Floss that early on gives readers a sinking feeling about her ultimate fate. But what a masterful book!

In Paul Theroux’s The Mosquito Coast, Allie Fox is brilliant but borderline nuts. So when he takes his family from the U.S. to live in the Central American rain forest, it’s like watching a car crash (if a car could drive in a rain forest). But it’s hard to avert one’s eyes.

Then there’s Edgar Allan Poe’s novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. As is also the case with most of Poe’s iconic short stories, things don’t end well, but the horror and spookiness are memorable.

Of course, with certain historical-fiction works, we absolutely know disaster awaits — perhaps from remembering what we read in our high school history books. But if the story is compellingly told, we’re willing to experience the heartbreak. One of many novels in this category is Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, in which we obviously don’t expect the protagonist to reach a ripe old age.

We also expect total disaster, or at best a mixed ending, in dystopian novels — yet are still fascinated by many of them. For instance, George Orwell’s harrowing Nineteen Eighty-Four is almost impossible to put down.

And don’t forget novels whose titles telegraph their “depressing-ness.” To name just two, there are Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None — though readers of the former know it contains a measure of amazing uplift at the end.

In the theater world, some plays are literally labeled tragedies, so upbeat conclusions are clearly not in the offing. But Shakespeare is worth the time, isn’t he? ๐Ÿ™‚

What are some novels that you avidly continued reading despite having a bad feeling about what would happen to the characters?

Here’s Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” — the song referenced in my silly headline!

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area โ€” unless youโ€™re replying to someone else.)

I’m writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

174 thoughts on “Sad Book Journey? Don’t Stop, Be Reading

  1. I’ve probably haven’t read as many novels as most who follow this blog, but novels that have REALLY bleak endings I have read include “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, “Madame Bovary”, “Tess of the D’urbervilles”, “All Quiet on the Western Front” “The Great Gatsby”, and “Giants in the Earth”. I can include plays including Shakespeare’s “King Lear” which has the most depressing ending of any drama that I have ever read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve just bought Crime and Punishment but I’m waiting until I have more time to read it. Once I start, I won’t want to put it down. Great examples you posted and I have to admit to liking a good old tragic read. It’s why I prefer Charles Dickens to Jane Austin.

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  3. Malcolm Lowry’s “Under the Volcano” is a book that promises a bad ending, if not a few, from the title down to the last page. One reads to discover precisely how bad, and one is not disappointed. Starts very slowly, even glacially, but once it picks up speed, hurtles relentlessly, like water circling then disappearing down a drain, bearing the floating world away. I mention this mostly because another commenter wrote something about not reading more than 50 pages of a novel before putting it down, if unmoved. You’d miss the sodden wonders of the Lowry book by that method, and you’d also miss the “Tales of Genji”– so there are shortcomings in this approach, to be balanced against Zappa’s observation..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very well said, jhNY!

      I’ve been meaning to get to “Under the Volcano” for a while — its title sitting on my to-read list for months. Will try to move it up that list.

      Yes, some novels do indeed build slowly!


  4. As JJ McGrath says: Doomed! That would be everybody, mortality round about like a tightening coil over time, so, in a way, if you tell anybody’s story all the way to the end, things will not turn out well, except among worms and undertakers, though not in that order.

    Favorite novels over the years?
    “The Red and the Black”– hero gets it in the neck.
    “A Hero for Our Times”– a senseless killing puts an end to him, toward which he nearly rushes.
    “Moby Dick”– a happy ending, if you’re white and very large– no I don’t refer to Sidney Greenstreet– and a most topsy-turvy and wet one for all save one, afloat on a coffin till rescue.
    “The Leopard”– always less income, always more inheritors of ever-smaller estates, till finally most of what’s left of the family fortune finds its way to the coffers of relic-selling holymen.

    Guess the last novel I read with a happy ending was “Jane Eyre”– which I would have preferred, infinitely, to have ended with Jane expiring on the blasted heath to what actually took place– marriage, money and that tiresome French girl safely away at school.

    But then again, that’s just me, a fellow who likes ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ a little, but ‘suddenly everybody was run over by a truck’ a little more.

    My question: which novels with happy endings should I read? Suggestions welcome!

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a comment, jhNY! Brilliant and funny. That “Moby-Dick” thumbnail was especially hilarious. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Actually, I would call the conclusion of “Jane Eyre” not totally happy, because of Mr. Rochester being so seriously injured.

      Excellent novels with happy endings? L.M. Montgomery’s “The Blue Castle,” John Steinbeck’s “Sweet Thursday,” Steve Martin’s “The Pleasure of My Company” (yes, THAT Steve Martin), and…well…there are not a lot of them…


      • In every discussion of happy endings I always have to ask, “Happy ending for whom?” One character’s happy ending is often another character’s tragedy. With ‘Moby-Dick’ it’s presumably a happy ending for Ishmael. He lived to tell the tale and will live to tell more tales in the future if he ever encounters someone as fascinatingly mad and obsessed as Ahab or something comparable. It’s not so happy for the rest of the crew of the Pequod unless you speculate on the next adventure ‘on the other side’. In ‘Crime and Punishment’ Raskolnikov and Sonya both survive and if Raskolnikov survives his Siberian sabbatical he will presumably be older and wiser and have an oportunity for a better life afterward if he learns from his experience. ‘Grapes of Wrath’, with it’s beautiful and bizarre concluding scene is certainly happy for the old man who gets milk from Rose of Sharon and on some level it’s happy for Rose of Sharon because now, after her baby was born stillborn, she has an outlet for all that millk. Plus, they both survived that huge flood. It may not be so happy for Tom Joad who is now on the run and will probably be hunted down. His fate will probably not be kind. ‘Daniel Deronda’ certainly has a happy ending for Daniel and Mirah, an ambivalent ending for Gwendolen. She is certainly wiser after her painful emotional experience and can grow from that and finally grow up a bit more. These are just a few examples of novels that end perfectly under the circumstances the author has presented to us. A happy ending for me is one that is justified and earned by the events that have preceded it. Whether it is tragic or comic depends on the novel.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Brilliant and wise comment, bobess48! With several great examples to illustrate your point. You’re so right — a happy ending for some characters is not necessarily a happy ending for other characters. And, as you say, the best happy ending — or perhaps another way to put it would be “the most satisfying ending” — is one that “is justified and earned by the events that have preceded it. Whether it is tragic or comic depends on the novel.”


      • Re Jane:

        Yeah, but by skillful nursing and the healing effect of her great love, hubby gets back the use of his eyes, at least enough to no longer be considered blind outright, so even there, I spy that dreaded route to happiness from which I flee.

        I’ll look out for The Blue Castle, and I’ll look inside fearlessly. After all, it’s blue, which so often suits my mood.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, Rochester of England fared better than Rochester of New York (when Kodak tanked). ๐Ÿ™‚

          “The Blue Castle,” while an upbeat book overall, has some dark moments — and some hilariously sarcastic ones. It’s among L.M. Montgomery’s few non-YA novels — and in some ways it’s better than “Anne of Green Gables.”


    • jhNY, “which novels with happy endings should I read?”
      well, obviously none, since your idea of a good ending is the sudden appearance of an avenging truck… that’s a kind of “deus ex machina” ending, isn’t it? Hmmm, you should read (or read again, as the case may be) Shakespeare’s tragedies, they are jolly good fun!!
      On the other hand, some good dark chocolate may give you a sunnier outlook and maybe would help make the happy endings more bearable. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • I borrowed that ideal ending from a National Lampoon creative writing instructional, hoping that here there were enough graying commentators (like myself) who might get a laugh from the reference. Personally, I would hold out for death by pie wagon, as it’s less likely to happen and funnier, but who sees a pie wagon nowadays? Nobody. Until it’s too late, and you’re dead.

        I eat dark chocolate daily, yet my favorite fiction read recently is titled “The Autobiography of a Corpse.”

        “Titus Andronicus” was okay, but I need more bloodshed to stay awake under assault by iambic pentameter.

        Doomed! (Insert appropriate emoticon here)

        Liked by 1 person

  5. So long ago I read “The Good Earth” by Nobel Laureate Pearl S. Buck who spend so much of her life in China. The book endures today as a classic novel of peasant farm life in China during the first quarter of the 20th century. The Good Earth was a (difficult yet mesmerizing for me) epic novel which introduced China and its people to America and the world. It is a universal story of life and hope that still touches a world in need of cross-cultural awareness.
    In recent years it was again introduced by Oprah to the post Buck America. I read the book in my teen years perhaps time to visit her China again.

    Dave I do not continue reading a book if it fails to interest me after 50 pages. If I read more close to 100 then I continue on no matter how difficult or boring it felt.
    “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” I read recently, thoroughly enjoyed reading the book until I reached the closing chapters. I don`t mind taking about it since it was published long time ago..the whole world of Harold was falling apart in from of me and I was devastated. Now the second book is published and was on the library continue the journey..”The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy”
    Am I going to read that? I don`t know..I have Jack Reacher in my mind , haven`t finished that yet but soon ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry it took me a while to reply, bebe. A very busy morning! My newspaper humor column was attacked in a local blog post, and I’ve been spending a lot of time responding to that.

      I may have read “The Good Earth” many years ago, but I’m not sure. Wonderful description of it! Thank you.

      Great point — if one gets to 100 pages, one might as well finish a novel. The few times I give up on a book, it’s well before 100 pages.

      The end of “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” does sound intense. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      Continue to enjoy Lee Child’s new book!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry it took so long..I am still a heartbeat away from finishing ” Make Me”.
        Yesterday somehow I saved myself from an epic disaster. Remember Dave those two dogs and one of them alpha ?

        To make a long story short…around 2 in the afternoon I took my pet 14 pounder puppy out. Normally she is always with leash and I was trying a little at a time without which was a blunder.

        Alpha was out within their fence and started barking and mine chased to him with a cat and mouse run then suddenly mine took off to the creek behind which is at least more than 10-12 ft deep..I panicked and ran to her screaming. She stopped at a point and I grabbed her in my right arm.
        Then no choice but to descend down..had a pair of sandals on.

        Started walking to find a point to climb up..none that I could climb up safely with my dog tucked in my right arm. Fell several times with her still in my arms..called out a neighbor but it was a pin drop silence so quiet. Finally tried to ascend up another end..still sharp, left my sandals in the mud.

        She is peachy fine…I am basically okay but I had my left leg twisted along pathway and am hurting.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Dave, I always finish a well written novel even if it is obvious it won’t end well. I try to finish the bad ones as well but I take 3-4 times longer than a good literary novel. I have one now that I am about 1/3 of the way through and I am having a hard time reading it. The extreme stereotyping, misogyny, and failure to build up a bigger plot (the PI team found the man they were hired to already) really makes it not a book I want to finish. I will try though so I can give it a truly honest review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, GL! I also try to struggle through novels that are bad or annoying (annoying for the reasons you mention, and other reasons). But perhaps once or twice a year I give up on a book. ๐Ÿ™‚

      And, yes, a great though depressing novel is well worth reading and finishing. Also, as I mentioned to another commenter, a great though depressing novel can be uplifting in the sense that we’re uplifted by how good it is and uplifted by how humankind is capable of creating such amazing works.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey Dave , black is my color and I’m truly a December child so contemplating not finishing a novel for fear of emotional trauma is close to incomprehensible. Strike that as it almost occurred once while reading Jane Erye ” Reader, I married him” so , so sad. I will say as I’ve grown older I tire of mindless violence in either lit or film no matter how well executed , I can’t imagine diving into some of Cormac McCarthy’s more powerful stuff again. Glad you brought up dramatists in your essay , I’ve often said the best thing about Shakespeare is most of the characters die even in the “comedies ” and I once got funny looks from a professor of Ancient Greece by describing Sophocles great trilogy as a family sit-com. Very happy you enjoyed the William Trevor novel and I also found the ending both unexpected and incongruously uplifting, Felicia’s bleak and dire circumstances notwithstanding something in her attitude suggests she’ll be fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the very interesting comment and its droll sections, Donny! Your first line and “Jane Eyre” quip — so funny!

      I agree that Felicia is wiser at the end, and she does have some independence, but her living situation still seems sad overall.

      Ah, yes, Cormac McCarthy. Some of his more bleak and violent novels (“Blood Meridian,” The Border Trilogy, “No Country for Old Men,” etc.) would be hard to read again. As much as I like McCarthy’s work and its amazing prose, I’ve never reread his books and never really wanted to. Though “Suttree” might be nice to revisit… ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Last time I attempted to watch the Hepburn-Robards-Richardson movie of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night’, it struck me that there was much about it to be seen for laughs of the blackest humor variety. Couldn’t stop seeing it that way once so struck….

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m late to the party again, Dave! Besides Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author who immediately popped into my mind was Tennessee Williams. His plays are absolutely compelling and have stuck with me for years – “The Glass Menagerie”, “Suddenly, Last Summer”, “A Streetcar Named Desire”, “The Rose Tattoo”, etc. etc. They are heartbreaking, yet you can’t turn away!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Not so late, lulabelle! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Tennessee Williams can definitely be downbeat, but, as you eloquently note, one can’t turn away from his heartbreaking plays. Thanks for naming several of them.

      And, yes, Steinbeck and Fitzgerald can be downbeat as well, but of course in a compelling way!


      • I don’t know how I overlooked Steinbeck! When I first read “The Grapes of Wrath” in my teen years I was heartbroken about the ordeal of the Joad family, especially when I learned that their was a story repeated many times in real life – at that time I did not know much about the Dust Bowl and that sad period of American history. I found his “The Pearl” equally depressing and compelling. Most of Steinbeck’s work has affected me that way, like seeing a train wreck and not being able to look away, because the tragic lives and individuals he writes about have, paradoxically, a life-affirming power that does not let you put down the book.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Beautifully written comment, Clairdelune.

          I would add to Steinbeck’s depressing but compelling books and stories “East of Eden,” “Of Mice and Men,” “The Winter of Our Discontent,” “The Red Pony,” “To a God Unknown,” etc.

          But of course he also had a part-sunny, part-humorous side in novels such as “Tortilla Flat,” “Cannery Row,” and the happily ending “Sweet Thursday.” ๐Ÿ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

          • I read “Of Mice and Men” during a horrible time in my life. It was the only book in my nephew’s apartment at Auburn University while my darling Puppy was dying there at the veterinary hospital (as it turned out). I had read “Flight” while in high school, and found it SO depressing!

            I was so happy to discover “Cannery Row” and “Sweet Thursday” YEARS later at the recommendation of my oldest brother (who was dying at the time). He had read everything Steinbeck had ever written, plus everything Faulker had ever written, PLUS everything Hemingway had ever written.

            Liked by 2 people

              • Reading a depressing novel while dealing with great sadness in one’s life is a tough combination, lulabelle. But, as in your case back then, sometimes we don’t have many reading options, and have to read what’s there. Sorry about Puppy. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

                Your older brother sounds like he was quite a reader. Getting to everything Steinbeck, Faulkner, and Hemingway wrote is a LOT.

                As we’ve discussed before, when Steinbeck wanted to be sunny and funny, he could do that expertly!

                (I deleted the extra “there” there. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

                Liked by 1 person

            • lulabelle, sorry to hear about your Puppy – I lost a beloved cat a couple of years ago and it still hurts.
              The loss of your brother must have been very difficult – at least you still have the connection with him through your love of books.
              I always read and love your comments, BTW. ๐Ÿ™‚

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          • Dave, you are right about “Tortilla Flat” and Cannery Row”, the are humorous parts. I have read pretty much everything Steinbeck has written, except “Sweet Thursday” , “The Red Pony” and “To a God Unknown”. Would love to have the time to read the ones I missed. but time is growing short! So many books, so little time left to read!
            Like lulabelle’s brother, I read nearly everything written by Steinbeck and Faulkner and Maugham. Between the ages of 12 and 18, I went through the bookshelves of my literate, omnivorous uncle, and those of the father of a school friend. Read them all again in later years, enjoyed them even more in the original English. (BTW, good translations are fine, but any book read in its original language reveals nuances usually lost in translation. In French, you can almost taste Proust’s madeleines…)

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            • I hear you, Clairdelune — “so many books, so little time,” as Frank Zappa said. (The late rock star apparently coined that phrase.)

              As you know, “Sweet Thursday” is a sequel to “Cannery Row.” Not quite as good, but pretty darn good. I have mixed feelings about “To a God Unknown” — a rather strange novel.

              Reading most of Steinbeck, Faulkner, and Maugham — a very good thing! And having a literature-loving uncle and that father of a school friend — also wonderful!

              And, yes, any novel seemingly HAS to be better in its original language. ๐Ÿ™‚ Loved your line about “In Search of Lost Time”!

              Liked by 1 person

              • Dave, I learned something today: I did not know that “Sweet Thursday” was a sequel to “Cannery Row”. Thanks! Now I feel compelled to re-read the latter then follow up with the sequel… where’s that magic wand when I need it… sheesh, all I have is a bedraggled broomstick… no bag of gold today. ๐Ÿ™‚

                Liked by 2 people

                • Actually, Clairdelune, I didn’t know that either until I started reading “Sweet Thursday” and realized I was seeing some of the same characters from “Cannery Row”!

                  Yup, a magic wand sure beats a “bedraggled broomstick” (nice alliteration!). And your mention of a bag of gold reminds me that Steinbeck’s first novel — a pirate adventure — was “Cup of Gold.” ๐Ÿ™‚

                  Liked by 1 person

                • Clairdelune, I absolutely LOVED “Cannery Row” and “Sweet Thursday” which I read back to back! The neatest thing about the books is that “Doc” is based on a real man – Ed Ricketts who was a marine biologist and a personal friend of John Steinbeck, but I bet you knew that. I became so FOND of the characters that it was hard to let them go. I’ve told Dave before that I wanted another sequel called “Finally Friday”.

                  I didn’t like “Tortilla Flat” nearly so much and I have never finished it (yet), even though it’s on a shelf with the bookmark still in place. I got so bored. They got drunk, they stole a chicken, they got more drunk, they stole a chicken, they burned down a house because they were drunk, they got drunk, they romanced a man’s wife, etc. etc. ๐Ÿ™‚

                  Liked by 2 people

  9. Howdy, Dave!

    โ€” What are some novels that you avidly continued reading despite having a bad feeling about what would happen to the characters? โ€”

    I donโ€™t recall any. If one believes ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny โ€” as I do, based on all the evidence of the multiverse โ€” then one anticipates having bad feelings about what will happen to all characters in all stories, not only from an emotional perspective but also from a rational perspective (i.e., stars go supernova every day): It isnโ€™t a coincidence that the phrase โ€œIโ€™ve got a bad feeling about thisโ€ in multiple variations is one of most widely remembered quotations associated with the first six episodes of George Lucasโ€™ celluloid nonuplet โ€œStar Wars.โ€ In the very different cinematic universe of โ€œBody and Soul,โ€ the character Charley Davis so brilliantly portrayed by the performer John Garfield made a similar point even more pithily, โ€œEverybody dies.โ€

    Doomed! Doomed!! Doomed!!! Every character in every story is doomed. And so what? I want an author to tell me something I didnโ€™t know, such as how brightly a star will shine before the dying of the light. Accordingly, I avidly continue reading today the first installment of Henryk Sienkiewiczโ€™s Trilogy, โ€œWith Fire and Sword,โ€ in which his richly drawn characters day in and day out deal with the horrors of an uncivil war, mostly in a land we now call Ukraine.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

    P.S.: Thanks to your influence, I have secured a copy of William Carlos Williamsโ€™ โ€œThe Great American Novelโ€: Assuming I do not get hit by the M104 bus in the interim, I expect to read it in the year 2525. Despite my above bloviating about ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny, I plan to live forever (or die in the attempt).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Love your take on this, J.J.! Assume the worst fate for fictional characters, see what happens, and hopefully find the ride interesting along the way. VERY eloquently stated by you. And at times funny, too!

      As for your P.S. and the year 2525, did Zager and Evans write “The Great American Single”? ๐Ÿ™‚

      By the way, I took out “Goodbye, Columbus” from the library last week on the recommendation of you and PatD. Can’t wait to read it!


      • โ€” By the way, I took out โ€œGoodbye, Columbusโ€ from the library last week on the recommendation of you and PatD. โ€”

        Nice! I should note that word count was my primary differentiator when I ranked the novella โ€œGoodbye, Columbusโ€ No. 1 and the novel โ€œPortnoy’s Complaintโ€ No. 2 on my previously provided Philip Roth Rereading List: I love both of them. Because of my constitutionally short attention span, however, I habitually prefer good (or great) short stuff over good (or great) long stuff.

        โ€” Canโ€™t wait to read it! โ€”

        One bonus of โ€œGoodbye, Columbusโ€ comes in the form of the short stories that are packaged with it: Although the details are fuzzy, I recall also liking them, to varying degrees.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well, I do like reading short novels (shall I say “novellas”?) as well as longer ones! There are definitely benefits to both — novellas enable one to read more books per week or month, while excellent long novels can get VERY engrossing and put one in another world for a couple of weeks. (I know I’m stating the obvious here.) Actually, probably the majority of novels I read happen to fall in the mid-size range (not by intent).


  10. I was thinking through this topic with an eye to my favorite author, Jane Austen, and I agree with many critics that writing love scenes is not one of her strengths. I also feel that her novels end with a “happier ever after” vibe that I enjoy but aren’t very realistic. The best ending to me was the Marianne Dashwood/Colonel Brandon relationship, which didn’t occur overnight, but took time for her to finally get over her passionate feelings for Willoughby and appreciate the steadfast love of Colonel Brandon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Jane Austen’s love scenes often lack something — passion? — even though her novels are so much about relationships. Still, her writing is wonderful, witty, and insightful — and the inevitable feel-good endings are what they are. They certainly don’t fit the theme of this week’s blog post. ๐Ÿ™‚

      “Sense and Sensibility” DOES have a very satisfying conclusion, though, as we’ve discussed, that book is not among my favorite Austen novels. I’m sticking with “The P’s”: “Persuasion” and “Pride and Prejudice”!


      • Yes, I agree with you on your rankings of ‘The P’s,” but I was thinking about the illness, and near death, that Marianne faces mostly because of her great passion for Willoughby. I think that it is the only one of Austen’s novels that addresses that issue (that I can think of) where one of the major heroines dies or is even close to death. Yet she is able to overcome her lot in life with good family and the friendship, and eventual romantic relationship, with Colonel Brandon.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Great points, Kat Lib, and nicely stated! Not every Jane Austen novel addresses mortality that way. More often, someone is, say, a widower with the spouse having died before the novel’s time frame (which, if I’m remembering right, is the case with the heroines’ parents in “Persuasion” and “Emma”).


          • Off topic, Dave, but I wanted to let you know that I had another fall this week and broke my left wrist . It’s splinted up right now, surgery is scheduled for Friday, then will have a cast on for a few weeks. So, I probably won’t be doing much commenting except on a limited basis — you know I have enough trouble with two good hands on this tablet, ๐Ÿ™‚


            • So sorry to hear that, Kat Lib. Damn. Not fair for you to have go through a health issue again. The best of luck with the surgery Friday, and definitely don’t keyboard more than you have to. Your comments will be worth waiting for, whenever you’re comfortable writing again. Of course, if you want to comment on a limited basis, everyone here is always eager to read what you write. ๐Ÿ™‚


              • Thanks for your good wishes and your very kind comments. The good news is that it’s my left side this time rather than my right-dominant side when I broke my elbow last year!


                  • FYI, my surgery went well, although still somewhat painful. I’m actually counting down to when I can take my next pain pill. I can’t take any narcotics — which is probably a good thing — but what they gave me works fairly well and I won’t become addicted! I’ll try to check back after tomorrow’s blog.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Glad the surgery went well, Kat Lib, but sorry about the pain. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Good luck managing it with those non-narcotics pills.

                      My next blog post tomorrow afternoon or evening will include a mention of “The Vendetta Defense,” which I thought was excellent. Compelling, humanistic, and at times VERY funny. I’ll give you credit in the first comment for recommending that Lisa Scottoline legal thriller!


      • Dave, I suspect that at the time when Jane Austen was writing her novels, passionate love scenes were frowned upon in certain social circles. Not that such scenes did not take place in private; from all accounts, those “genteel” ladies and gentlemen were just as well acquainted with… well, “the birds and the bees” as today’s citizens, but the topic was not considered appropriate for the supposedly “delicate” psyche of the young women who read the novels. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Dave, back again after a long absence due to the usual crazy workload plus dealing with household breakdowns (am getting to know with several repairmen), but I always try to find time to read your column even if I do not have time to comment.
    Interesting topic this time โ€“ donโ€™t laugh, but the earliest book I read and found extremely depressing was โ€œPeter Panโ€ โ€“ at the age of six I found it heartbreaking and haunting, I never forgot the mental image of Peter outside the window looking in at the happy scene of his parents with the new baby. I suppose that say something about my psyche! ๐Ÿ™‚ I have not read โ€œHouse of Mirthโ€ but I saw a TV movie with Gillian Anderson who was excellent as Lily Barth, but the end was VERY depressing, especially when it could have been avoided IF ONLY… but that is true many times during one’s life, yes?.
    I also found depressing most novels by Russian writers, but loved them at the same time. Samuel Butlerโ€™s โ€œThe Way of All Fleshโ€ was maddening and sad at the same time โ€“ I felt like kicking Ernest in the rear and kept hoping he would stop being such a spineless wimp. โ€œ1984โ€ has been mentioned already along with its ability to predict; the recent happenings in Europe again reminded me of John Brunnerโ€™s โ€œStand on Zanzibarโ€ written several decades ago, and his description of teeming hordes trying to cross the Straits of Gibraltar to seek refuge in Europeโ€ฆ And the daily reporting of the current political jostling for a place to a job in the White House brought to mind once again a depressing short story by Cyril Kornbluth, โ€œThe Marching Moronsโ€. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Yes, dystopic science fiction novels and stories are proving to be predictive, a worrisome thought. Eons ago in my teen years I read the โ€œUSA Trilogyโ€ by John Des Passos (in translation) and even though it is not meant to be a depressing book, I found it so then and also years later, when I read it again in the original English. Something about the part about Sacco and Vanzetti gives me the blues.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Clairdelune, for your engaging and wide-ranging comment! And glad you have at least a brief break from your exhausting workload!

      “Peter Pan” IS a melancholy book in its way. And, yes, one thing that makes novels such as “The House of Mirth” depressing is the “if only” factor you mention — if only a different decision had been made, etc. It haunts a reader. And, as you say, that’s true in life as well as in fiction.

      I’m trying to think of a famous Russian novel that has a lot of upbeat moments! Not easy. Of course, those books have some of those moments (in such works as Gogol’s “Dead Souls” and Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov”), but the overall affect tends to be gloom, psychological darkness, tragedy etc.

      Some depressing novels of the past definitely do remind us of today’s depressing events — adding to the grief we feel when reading those novels, even as we admire them.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Good eve, Dave. Firstly, I like the play on words in your post headline. A depressing novel, namely all that encompasses the spinster, creepy Ms Havisham in Dickens “Great Expectations”.
    I didn’t find “Fault in our Stars” depressing,rather the book is indeed sad, but its also a brave, joyful love story of being thankful for each day, its an inspirational, courageous book.
    Another genre, musicals, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. When Gavroche,the street urchin said adieu I was really depressed,too many fatalities regardless if French revolution seemed no one left standing. ๐Ÿ˜ข

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Michele! Good to hear that “The Fault in Our Stars” is uplifting in addition to being sad. That’s a potent combination found in some excellent novels. Very nice description of that book.

      And very relevant mentions of Dickens’ “Great Expectations” and Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.” Another iconic Hugo novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” is also downbeat but compelling.


  13. What a GREAT topic! I had never given this much thought. I tend to stick to comic novels. Life holds enough tragedy for me. I don’t want books to bring me down. That being said, I did read through to the end of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. Probably used up a couple boxes of Kleenex.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for the kind words, Roz!

      I hear you — life can be sad enough without reading sad books, too. But I’ve found some melancholy novels to be so impressive that the skill of the writing and storytelling is uplifting, even if the plot isn’t. Among the many examples of that would be various novels by Dostoyevsky and George Eliot.

      One of these days I have to read “The Fault in Our Stars”! In the meantime, I’ll start stocking tissues… ๐Ÿ™‚


  14. Dave, two real good examples with Wright’s Native Son and Theroux’s Mosquito Coast (the latter I couldn’t put down). I’d suggest Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s List (every bit as good as the film.) Also recently read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (would seem to fit) as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Schindlerโ€™s List” and “The Jungle” definitely fit in with this theme, Joe. Thanks for mentioning them!

      Also, “The Mosquito Coast” is indeed riveting (along with being highly disturbing), and “Native Son” is a masterpiece I need to reread one day. The only time I read it was in high school!


    • I saw the movie “Schindler’s List” first, then against my better judgment I tried to read the book, but could not get far into it – I was still affected by the movie and the book was an overdose of pain and sadness. I was very young at the time of those events, but old enough to know what was happening and experience the daily fear of hearing German boots coming up the stairs. Some traumas are never fully overcome.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I totally understand, Clairdelune. You experienced or were close to those events, and viscerally reliving them in a book has to be beyond painful. It must have been especially excruciating for you to sit through the “Schindlerโ€™s List” movie, too. “Some traumas are never fully overcome” — absolutely.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. While ‘Crime and Punishment’ could perhaps more accurately be titled, ‘Crime, Punishment and Rebirth’. Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ on the other hand could be ‘No Crime, Capital Punishment’. It’s another novel in which you see that the character is a rat in a maze very early on so the bleak end is actually almost a relief for all the psychological torture that has preceded it. Of course, it’s been around 30 years since I read it so I may be misremembering some details. At least, with the similarly doomed protagonist in ‘1984’ he did something actively criminal but his torture was pysychological, physical, the entire torture spectrum so a merciful death would be an uplifting end for him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “The Trial” and almost everything else by Kafka is indeed downbeat, bobess48, but almost impossible to resist.

      And I like your thought-provoking take on what can be an “uplifting” ending. Death is indeed a relief in some cases. I also think of the novels “The Awakening” (Kate Chopin) and “Martin Eden” (Jack London) that have conclusions that are harrowing yet serve to take a couple of characters out of their psychological misery.

      Great comment!


  16. Hi Dave … You are very punny (that’s a good thing) ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thank you for some wonderful examples of depressing books. “The House of Mirth” and “The Mill on the Floss” both come up so often here, and in such a variety of topics; these two are now on my plan-to-read-at-some-point list ๐Ÿ™‚ And you are so right about George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” being impossible to put down; here’s another depressing thing about that book — seeing it persistently coming true!
    Edgar Allan Poe is sort of the epitome of absorbingly depressive output, in my opinion. He wrote such beautiful poetry, too — not all of which is depressing, but there is always a hint of melancholy present (or is that just the reader knowing too much about the writer’s personal life and injecting that into his work? Nah. Poe was depressed and he wrote depressing stuff, and we’re all the better for it). ๐Ÿ™‚ In terms of poetry and depression combined, one cannot overstate the brilliant loneliness expressed in the writings of Emily Dickinson.
    Down another road, I was interested to see “The Mosquito Coast” on your list. I haven’t read the book, but I did see the movie, and it was rather depressing itself, but riveting; given that the book is always better than the movie, I can only imagine that the book would be engrossing reading.
    Again, Dave, thank you for another thought-provoking theme … and another smile-worthy title ๐Ÿ™‚

    There are three books which come to mind as so depressing that two of them — both thanks to Stephen King, “The Shining” and “Pet Sematary” — affected my sleep for several days and wormed their way into my dreams; another, Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood”, hung over me like a pall for about two weeks. “In Cold Blood” was the only book that, for a long time, I actually regretted having read. Oddly, it didn’t stop me from watching the original movie by the same name sometime later and, once again…depressing! “In Cold Blood” is one of the most depressing movies I have ever seen. Here’s a tidbit about the movie that probably can’t be found by researching the internet (I tried): there was a period of time — I’m pretty certain it was the mid-to-late 70s — when “In Cold Blood” wasn’t being shown on television. The reason? Local television stations all over the country stopped running it when it was discovered there seemed to be a correlation between suicides and the showing of that movie, especially when the movie was shown between midnight and 2:00 am. This was a blurb I read in the newspaper just once, but it stuck with me because I had seen it myself, and it was just flat-out morbidly depressing. Anyway, in keeping with the basic truth that the book is always better/more powerful/more depressing, etc. than the movie, this tells you something about my reaction to the book. ๐Ÿ™‚

    On a lighter note, I hope you’re having an utterly wonderful weekend, Dave!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I first saw ‘In Cold Blood’ on network television in the early 70’s, I believe. It definitely had that visceral impact heightened by the sound effects at the end and the black and white photography. I didn’t read Capote’s book until the 80’s but by that time I had seen the film a couple of more times so with his book I was too absorbed in the mastery of the writing to really get as emotionally involved as with the movie. Speaking of bleak films, one that certainly left a gut punch in my consciousness was ‘Looking for Mr. Goodbar’ from the novel of the same name by Judith Rossner. It’s another one where you see that the main character is doomed (Diane Keaton played her in her finest performance in my opinion). When you meet the guy you THINK is going to deliver the bad news, a coked up, hyperactive little hustler (first time I ever saw Richard Gere) it is not going to happen with him but with someone else now better known who makes a fairly rapid transition to psycho. The way the final scene was filmed just left a pall in the minds of the audience. We all sat there stunned and traumatized. Later I read that novel and the doom is not as visceral, so the prose actually had an anaesthetizing effect.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I also both read the “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” novel and saw the film, and I agree about it being a relatively rare case of the movie having more impact. I also remember how different Diane Keaton seemed in that film compared to “Annie Hall” of about the same time. Proof of her terrific acting ability.

        That might have been the first Richard Gere film I saw, too. I later saw him live on Broadway in “Bent” — late ’70s, I think.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I read that book and saw that movie and found them so disturbing. I can’t remember in which order I did this, yet I turned around and did BOTH, knowing how disturbing the ending would be the second time around!

          Liked by 1 person

              • You’re welcome, bebe! A while ago, I also posted that same Lee Child link in a separate reply addressed to you in another part of this comments section. Hope you received a notification!

                Also hope you enjoyed the Tai Chi! And I’m eager to know your final thoughts on the new Reacher book, whenever you finish it. (No rush!) I just started Child’s “Running Blind” (one of his earlier ones), and it’s of course already got me hooked. ๐Ÿ™‚

                Liked by 1 person

                • I did finish the book on time so i could return it tomorrow .
                  Well, Dave the book was intense and this time Reacher was not fighting by himself had a very capable woman by his side..also he was hurting while being brutal toward the horrible folks. That`s all i am going to say..and want to discuss the book with you after you read it might be a while for you to borrow it.

                  Also read the nice article on Lee Child and to no ones surprise it is still number one after the release. Also good to know Mr. Lee writes one book per year which is managable.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Great that you finished it, bebe! Those library deadlines can be effective taskmasters sometimes. ๐Ÿ™‚

                    The book definitely sounds intriguing, and I’m sure I’ll read it. I look forward to discussing it with you then! It’s interesting that Jack Reacher and the series are “evolving” a bit.

                    Yes, one book a year does seem like a very good pace and plan. I’m sure Lee Child is now used to the rhythm of when in a year he starts a book and when in a year he finishes it.

                    Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve always wanted to see “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” — mainly because I’m such a fan of Diane Keaton — and your comment has reminded me to do that. Thank you, bobess48!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Pat!

      I’ll have to ration the song-related wordplay in my headlines, but I figured I’d do that one more week. ๐Ÿ™‚

      “The House of Mirth” and “The Mill on the Floss” are indeed well-worth-reading (and downbeat) novels, but I totally understand that it’s hard to get to everything. I believe you recommended Philip Roth’s “Goodbye, Columbus” a while ago, and I just took it out of the library a few days ago. I have the idea that book is more funny than sad, but I may be wrong…

      Yes, the prescience of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” makes it doubly depressing when read or reread in today’s age of surveillance, perpetual war, doublespeak, etc. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      Eloquent paragraph about Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson! Both were exquisite poets — and you’re right that almost everything Poe wrote was melancholy. “Poe was depressed and he wrote depressing stuff, and weโ€™re all the better for it” — fabulous line.

      Thanks, also, for your interesting thoughts about “The Shining,” “Pet Sematary,” and “In Cold Blood.” I didn’t know about reports of that “In Cold Blood”/suicide connection — wow.

      Hope you’re having a great weekend, too!


      • I’m so glad you’re going to read “Goodbye, Columbus”, Dave. As I recall, it is very funny, often in that way Philip Roth has of suddenly turning a phrase to the point of spontaneously surprised laughter by the reader. But it is also melancholy. I read it so many years ago, when I was in my early 20s. I look forward to your impression of this little gem.

        Liked by 1 person

    • bobess48, thanks for reminding me about “The Shining” – both the book and the movie haunted me also, the haunting magnified by Jack Nicholson’s performance : I wondered about him at the time, the madness in his eye was just a little TOO real! ๐Ÿ™‚
      You are right about Emily Dickinson also, I did not think about her poetry. However, her “brilliant loneliness” as you aptly described it, does not really sadden me, I understand it and accept it as the price she pays for her talent.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Clairdelune, but the thanks should really go to PatD, I believe, who mentioned those writers and books. Emily Dickinson is definitely one of my favorite poets (I purchased a complete (I think) collection of her poetry for my Kindle and really should read a poem or two when I have short intervals of time, not enough to get very far with a novel. Thanks for the reminder!

        Liked by 1 person

        • OOOPS, bobess48, my bad! Sorry, I clicked on the wrong thingy and got confused… Seriously, I had just read your great comments about “In Cold Blood” and “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” so your name was typed on auto pilot. ๐Ÿ™‚
          If your life is anything like mine, good luck finding those intervals of time to read for the sheer enjoyment of it… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

          Liked by 1 person

  17. OK, I am now back to my laptop and hope there won’t be any more silly mistakes One of the saddest books I’ve read in the past few years is the YA novel by John Green, “The Fault in our Stars,” about two young cancer patients who meet and fall in love. When I read it the first time, I wasn’t quite sure how it would end, but I figured it would not be a happy ending. I was right, and I cried through the last three chapters; but even when I read it for the second time, I still cried through the same last chapters. Although not nearly as sad, there were no happy tied-up endings to two of his other books, “Looking for Alaska” and “Paper Towns.” Another fairly recent book that I found heart-rending, was “Still Alice,” by Lisa Genova, mainly because it was a very well-written novel about a woman going through early-onset Alzheimer’s. I was going to say that she was a very intelligent professor, but that doesn’t make it any less tragic than anyone else to go through either Alzheimer’s or any form of dementia. This doesn’t run in my family, but one of my brothers-in-law has a form of dementia that is difficult to see happen.

    To get back to the classics, bobess mentioned many of the books I would have, e.g., “Anna Karenina” and “Madame Bovary,” but one I found very sad was “The Wings of the Dove,” by Henry James, even though you knew she (“the Dove”) was doomed, but to still see her taken advantage of is very sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve heard great things about “The Fault in Our Stars” from you and others, Kat Lib, but it’s always checked out of my local library. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ It certainly sounds very sad — sort of double the tragedy of Nicholas Sparks’ excellent “A Walk to Remember,” in which one of the young lovers is terminally ill.

      “Still Alice” was made into that Julianne Moore movie, wasn’t it? What an awful situation when people have dementia, especially long before they’re old.

      Henry James could certainly “do sad” with the best of them. I haven’t read “The Wings of the Dove” yet (I want to), but novels such as his superb “The Portrait of a Lady” were very melancholy in many ways.

      The laptop seems to be working nicely! ๐Ÿ™‚


      • Yes, “Still Alice” was the movie that won Julianne Moore an Oscar (I believe), which I admit I haven’t seen, nor have I seen “TFIS” nor “Paper Towns.” I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like seeing movies of books that I really loved. I saw both “The House of Mirth” and “The Wings of the Dove” before I read the books.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I haven’t seen the film, either, but I think you’re right about that Oscar! And I hear you about being reluctant to see movies based on cherished books. Some exceptions, of course — I loved the “Harry Potter” films, for instance. And seeing movies that inspire one to read the original books — nice!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Dave, it’s great to know you also loved the “Harry Potter” movies!! I LOVED them all, they were at once magical, science-fiction oriented, and humorous; the wondrous special effects were a delight. And, “magically”, all performances were top class. I have been looking for a complete set of the movies on DVD, so I can watch them again whenever I need to put a little distance between me and the real world. ๐Ÿ™‚
            P.S. I sure would like to have one of those magic wands…

            Liked by 1 person

            • Clairdelune, I agree about those eight “Harry Potter” movies being exceptionally high quality — as you noted, the acting and the special effects and the sets and more. They really do put a viewer in another world — and do justice to the seven wonderful novels. Some stuff from the books obviously had to be cut for the films, but the decisions were usually good ones. I’m sure it helped that J.K. Rowling had a LOT of input.

              Liked by 1 person

  18. I know itโ€™s not the exact thing that youโ€™re talking about, but I recently read โ€œThe Lovely Bonesโ€ which begins with a young girl being raped and murdered. I found most of the book pretty forgettable, but Iโ€™ll always remember the beginning, which I thought was a beautiful piece of writing, despite being so obviously tragic

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read “The Lovely Bones” about a decade ago, Susan. It’s a sad and beautifully written novel.

      One of course knows early on what happens to the girl in Alice Sebold’s book, so I guess a big part of the anxiety for readers is wondering what the killer’s fate will be.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Hi Dave, you won’t be surprised to know that even before I got to your third paragraph I already was thinking about “The House of Mirth,” one of my favorite novels, as well as a favorite movie with Gillian Anderson, as noted by bobess. The first really sad book I remember reading as a kid was “Old Yeller.” Of course, I still can’t read or see a movie of “Little Women” without crying when Beth dies

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry, Dave, I meant to correct Both to Beth, but I somehow managed to post comment instead! This new tablet of mine is terrible for posting comments so I think I’ll switch over to my laptop. Just to finish my thought on “Little Women,” even though more positive things happen at the end of the novel, there is still a feeling of melancholy after Beth dies.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I thought of you, Kat Lib, when I wrote that “House of Mirth” paragraph! What an outstanding Edith Wharton novel, despite its tragedy.

        “Old Yeller” is indeed sad. When one sees an animal die in a novel — and/or expects to see that happen — it can make for a tough read. For instance, the death of the horses in Zola’s “Germinal” and Charles Portis’ “True Grit” is awful. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

        “Little Women” is definitely an example of a book both uplifting and melancholy. Which I guess can often describe life, too.

        (I corrected the Beth spelling. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sorry about your annoying tablet.)


  20. The king of the tragic ending for me is Thomas Hardy. ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ had a Jane Austen-like bow tying ceremony with the marriage ending, but none of the others of his great tragedies has anything but a disastrous ending for the major protagonist, culminating in his last great tragdy, ‘Jude the Obscure’. The deck is stacked against Jude Fawley from the beginning and especially after he and his cousin Sue Bridehead openly live in sin and have children together. For this novel, I highly recommend the Christoper Eccleston/Kate Winslett film version ‘Jude’ from the mid-90’s. Even though it ends before the novel does, the emotional whiplash you’ve experienced by the time it ends completely devastate the viewer. You already mentioned ‘The House of Mirth’ which is another one, also made into a superb film with Gillian Anderson. There are the ‘Mirth’ predecessors, ‘Madame Bovary’ and ‘Anna Karenina’, but at least with ‘Anna’, there’s the double-threaded story, and the one with Levin (the Tolstoy surrogate) ends more happily than Tolstoy’s own marriage did. ‘Crime and Punishment’ is commonly thought of, mainly by people who haven’t read it, as a downbeat, despairing slog. Yet, as you pointed out, there is actually hope for a spiritual rebirth for Raskolnikov. Of course, we have to wait until the very last page to find it, but it’s there. Likewise, ‘Brothers Karamazov’ ends with a ‘Jesus and the little children’ like scene with Alexei, as I recall (it’s been 20 years since I read that greatest of novels). With novels such as these, there’s almost an exhilarating power that comes from an artistically masterful tragedy. There are many others, varying in auality, but I’d better stop there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great point about Thomas Hardy, bobess48! And — as I know you agree — a number of Hardy’s novels fit the theme here of being books well worth reading despite the tragic endings. “Jude the Obscure” is indeed a dark, memorable novel.

      And excellent discussions of those other iconic novels, and the way very depressing books can have a silver lining here and there.

      You remember the ending of “The Brothers Karamazov” correctly! (I reread that masterpiece during the past year.)

      “With novels such as these, thereโ€™s almost an exhilarating power that comes from an artistically masterful tragedy” — terrific line! Deep books such as “The Brothers Karamazov” and “Crime and Punishment” are SO satisfying despite — and because of — the melancholy they contain.


      • Yes, “Tess” IS a tearjerker, Almost Iowa. Thanks for mentioning it!

        A year or two ago, I did read one Thomas Hardy novel — “The Hand of Ethelberta” — that had more upbeat moments than that author usually offers. Not as good as Hardy’s more downbeat books, but still very good.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, bebe! Glad you like the topic!

      As you know, Lee Child’s terrific Jack Reacher novels contain a lot of depressing stuff, but there’s usually a measure of justice by the end. Still, some good people get hurt. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      Liked by 1 person

      • OK, I give in – I MUST read some books by Lee Child! I will get a couple on Amazon – could you recommend some titles? And I will keep my fingers crossed, hoping I will actually get some time to read them… there is a stack on my desk of unread sci-fi and Scientific American magazines from last year, a beloved book by Khalil Gibran, and the “want to re-read” autobiography of Karl Jung… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
        Yes indeed, Harry Potter’s magic wand would be useful right now. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 2 people

      • I simply love the I said i`ll be back later. Just took a look at NYT`s top list. You would have guess it right my hunch says..” Make Me” by Lee Child is number one in it`s first week.
        I am at a point there is no telling…I need to get up and get ready for my chores, bills need to be paid, puppy walk, fantastic day outside yet I was reading the book.
        ” Girl in the Spider`s Web” is number 2 and ” Go Set a Watchman” is number 3 and is sitting on my coffee table untouched still.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thanks for the kind words, bebe!

          A much-deserved number one for Lee Child! While I haven’t read the new novel, the Jack Reacher books are irresistible — as you know. I’m glad “Make Me” is currently doing better than the next two books you mentioned. I definitely will NOT read a “Girl…” novel not written by the late, great Stieg Larsson.

          Sounds like you have a lot to do on this beautiful day, but it’s hard to avoid reading an absorbing book. ๐Ÿ™‚ I just finished Lisa Scottoline’s “The Vendetta Defense” (excellent legal thriller recommended by Kat Lib) and am now deciding whether my next read will be Child’s “Running Blind” or Philip Roth’s “Goodbye, Columbus.”

          Liked by 2 people

            • Thanks, Clairdelune! I’m about two-thirds of the way through “Goodbye, Columbus.” I like it, but don’t love it — though the last third of the novel will have an impact on my ultimate opinion. ๐Ÿ™‚ One thing I’ve enjoyed is seeing my town — Montclair, NJ — mentioned twice so far. Both times referred to as sort of a snobby/elitist town; in that respect, it has changed somewhat for the better since the book’s 1950s time frame!

              Liked by 1 person

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