Some of the Saddest Novels Ever

The other day I watched the Johnny Cash video of “Hurt,” the Nine Inch Nails song Cash covered to perfection. That under-four-minute masterpiece, filled with musings on mortality just months before the gravely ailing Cash died, might be the saddest music video ever made.

You probably know where I’m going: After watching “Hurt” — which you can see here, and from which the image atop this blog post was taken — I thought about the saddest novels I’ve read. Many VERY well worth the time, even cathartic in some cases, but heartbreaking nonetheless.

One such book is Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard. The plot alone is poignant enough, but the beautifully crafted prose — touching on matters such as life’s fleeting moments of happiness — makes a nearby box of tissues an absolute necessity.

There’s also William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice, which, as a novel with a Holocaust theme, is naturally going to be devastating. But when Sophie has to make that fateful choice promised by the title, the despair gets almost unbearable on a one-family level, too. Another sorrowful Holocaust novel, Erich Maria Remarque’s Spark of Life, takes an even more unsparing look at life in a concentration camp.

Albert Camus’ classic The Stranger, written during World War II, is also an almost total downer.

Going further back in time, I’d add Edith Wharton’s memorable The House of Mirth, which chronicles the dismal descent of a woman (Lily Bart) who is doomed because she has some integrity and is trapped in a patriarchal society. Maggie Tulliver’s limited choices and opportunities as a female make the masterful The Mill on the Floss perhaps George Eliot’s most melancholy novel. And the miserable mining milieu in Emile Zola’s Germinal leaves readers despondent even while admiring the novel’s power.

Obviously, dystopian and/or apocalyptic novels — like Mary Shelley’s The Last Man — can make readers completely disconsolate. I’ll also include George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four here, although that book has a few moments of joy before all hope is crushed.

Other very depressing novels? Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies, Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Andre Dubus III’s House of Sand and Fog, M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans, Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, George Sand’s Lelia, and Sir Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor, to name a few.

What are the saddest novels you’ve read?

My 2017 literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece — which looks at signage, a subdivision, spinelessness, and resurfaced streets — is here.

117 thoughts on “Some of the Saddest Novels Ever

  1. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Stowe, Untouchable By MulkRaj Anand and few stories by Guy De Maupassant. The hours by Virginia Woolf, Hard Times by Dickens … Jude The Obsecure was sad to the point of being boring!! I couldn’t wait it to end!
    For many years I stayed away from serious literary work, as at one point I found myself getting very depressed and low after reading tragic works. It really affected me!

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    • Thank you, Tanya! You named some VERY sad works. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” had a bit of hope at the end, but…

      And, yes, sad novels and stories can put readers in a very downcast mood. I feel I should still read many of the better ones, but it’s nice to also have some happier ones in the mix.

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      • Novels can have more impact than movies, guess phases in life contribute too, yes mix of all genres is fine. I found Things Fall Apart by China’s Achebe also very sad set in colonial times! Even 100 years of solitude by Marquez is gloomy in a way so his other novel, chronicles of death foretold , bloody and graphic!

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        • Novels can indeed have a powerful, emotional impact that most movies can’t match.

          “Things Fall Apart” and most of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s work are definitely gloomy. I tried to like “Things Fall Apart,” but didn’t (I know it’s a well-regarded classic). Loved “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” liked “Love in the Time of Cholera,” thought “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” was okay-to-good. 🙂

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          • Marquez’s works are definitely good but because of his elaborate use of magic realism difficult to understand at times, I liked “Loved In The Time Of Cholera” too even Salman Rushdie makes use of the realism, I like some of his works too! I liked the character of Okonko in “Things Fall Apart” more on lines Greek Tragic Heroes

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  2. I’m reading a novel about WWII that tells of a family during the Holocaust, and also a Chinese family who was uprooted as well and how they found each other and tried to navigate life during the war. The essence of the whole story is so sad, WWII wasn’t happy. But I feel that when you are taught the story of families and how they were treated it really sticks with you. The book I am reading is George Kolber’s Thrown Unto The World. You can really feel the strife of these poor families.

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    • Thank you, Lesa! Well said, and that sounds like a really good (and sad) book.

      Setting a novel all or partly during a major war (like WWII) while focusing on one or a small number of affected families can make for very compelling reading.

      Other all-or-partly-set-in-WWII novels that I feel do this well include Elsa Morante’s “History,” Rosamunde Pilcher’s “The Shell Seekers,” Jennifer Ryan’s “The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir,” and Louis de Bernières’ “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin,” among others.

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  3. “Revolutionary Road” by Richard Yates is one of the saddest books I have ever read. I am a girl, so I am not too ashamed to admit that I cried twice at the end when reading the novel both times. For me personally, it was very moving and traumatic at the end. A couple striving “to live” and sees their American Dream fall.

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  4. The very last words of IB Singer’s novel “The Family Moskat”, are uttered by a man who has devoted a literal lifetime of studying holy texts, only to emerge from his meditations to shout in the streets, as the first bombs fall on Warsaw in 1939, that Death is the Messiah.

    The most moving film I have ever seen was behind me by age 6– a simple tale of two men, each with a little house of his own, who found a daisy growing right on the property line between them. Each man claimed the flower for himself, words were exchanged, fences were erected then destroyed, shouting ensued, and the men came to blows– blows which killed the pair of them. Not certain, but I think the daisy remained between them– or at least, their graves. The men were seemingly incapable of other action, of compromise of any kind, and the heedless cyclone of violence in which they were irrevocably caught up seemed, to tiny me at least, to say something terrible and profound about humanity.

    Stansfield, the psycho kiiler cop in the movie The Professionals says “Can you hear it? It’s like when you put your head to the grass and you can hear the growin’ and you can hear the insects.” Yep, you can hear the insects eating the grass and eating the other insects. It’s a world of life devouring life that we live in. Maybe that character in “The Family Moskat” is right. And that might be the saddest thing of all.

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    • Editing mishap: “But that might be, at least a little, because of my own past experience.” (1st sentence in paragraph 2) That’s an orphaned line now, which I wish I could remove. Can you remove it for me Dave, or is that beyond your on-site powers? Also, the line at the end of that same paragraph “As does the end of “The Family Moskat.””– that too is no longer operative.

      Thanks!

      I apologize for my time-wasting haste!

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        • jhNY, sorry I didn’t reply to your 1:28 PM comment sooner. I had an airport drop-off, and got stuck in a ridiculous amount of traffic driving home. (I hate the Garden State Parkway in the summer.)

          “Death is the Messiah” — sad, but a lot of truth to that line. So much “worship” of death, or at least worship of the money that can be made from death. (Bomb manufacturers and the NRA, I’m looking at you, among others.)

          And that film with the daisy you expertly summarized says a LOT about humankind, and none of it positive. 😦

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  5. Sad you say? Anything by L.Ron Hubbard!

    DAVE!!!!! Ok, I think you mean in the emotional sense, not the truly pathetic, mind-numbing way L.Ron Hubbard wrote.

    Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck has always been an emotional downer. Great now I’m so sad I can’t finish my tuna fish sandwich, thanks, Dave. 😉

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    • LOL, Jack! I’ve never read L. Ron Hubbard, but I’ve heard enough about him to know…not to read him. 🙂

      I think I also depressed myself writing this post…

      Thank you for the funny comment!

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    • Some years ago, I picked up 70 some-odd Astounding Science Fiction pulp magazines from the late 1940’s-early ’50’s in a Salvation Army store for about 50 cents each– for the covers mostly. I’m not saying that the interior contents were necessarily bad, though much of what I scanned through was, but that the acid in the paper had made it so brittle the pages would literally crumble with normal handling. But among those magazines and pages I stumbled on something of significance, if only to the history of popular delusions: the issue in which, for the first time ever, L. Ron Hubbard revealed Scientology, its original precepts, space-warts and all, to a waiting world– well, if not a waiting world, to a few hardy and presumably gullible subscribers– after which, in the back of many subsequent issues, there were small advertisements for the cult and the opportunity, if acted on quickly, to become auditors. As usual, these precious items are stuck in some unreachable place high on a closet shelf and behind a bunch of stuff…

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    • Thank you, Anonymous! That trilogy was indeed ultra-depressing — though I did get through all three books, helped by Cormac McCarthy’s amazing prose. Virtually all of McCarthy’s work is downbeat — also including “The Road,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Blood Meridian,” “Outer Dark,” etc. A good thing he’s such a great writer! 🙂

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  6. I must be the only person on the planet who prefers the NIN version of “Hurt”. Don’t get me wrong, I love Johnny Cash, but I’m a big fan of Trent Reznor too. A Johnny Cash song that I do love is his cover of U2’s “One”. I highly recommend it if you haven’t already discovered it.

    I randomly read my first Jodi Picoult book after a colleague recommended her. Based on what my colleague is like, I was expecting girly, and romance, and maybe some emotion. But I was not prepared for the heartbreak that “My Sister’s Keeper” dished out! Even when I knew the heartbreak was coming (such as with the boyfriend) I still ugly cried while turning the pages. And Picoult’s writing is so engaging that you have to keep turning the pages, even though you know there can only be more pain and suffering coming.

    Fortunately, Lionel Shriver’s “We Need To Talk About Kevin” was only that harrowing at the end. But the last few pages has more pain and loss and heartbreak than many other novels manage in hundreds of pages.

    The ending of “Grapes of Wrath” has also stayed with me, however Grandpa’s end in the van is one of the saddest things I’ve ever read. I could start crying now just thinking about it!

    Reading Elena’s comment about depressing vs tear-jerking made me think of JK Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy” which was both depressing and sad. I had to read that book for my book club, and surprisingly I was the only person who liked it. The rest of the group wanted to know what was wrong with me for liking something so broken. But the writing is exquisite, and I just loved the characters, no matter how broken they were.

    Thanks for another great topic, Dave.

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    • Thank you, Sue!

      I’m a fan of alternative rock (which is sort of what NIN’s music is, though I guess it’s more “industrial rock” or something). And, with some exceptions (Dixie Chicks!), I can take or leave country music (though Johnny Cash and the Dixie Chicks were/are of course not only country music stars). But, for “Hurt” specifically, I’m one of the people who strongly prefers Cash’s version. 🙂 Still, I think the original, very different NIN version is darn good, too.

      Though I didn’t like the ending, I agree that “My Sister’s Keeper” is a VERY skillful, powerful novel.

      I still need to get to “We Need To Talk About Kevin”! My favorite Lionel Shriver novel so far is “So Much for That,” which is harrowing for much of the book (because of a terminal illness and the depiction of America’s extremely problematic health-care system for all but the rich), but then ends on a partly/wonderfully upbeat note.

      The grandfather’s death in the truck, and Ma Joad’s brave/stoic reaction to that until California was reached, was indeed an incredibly memorable scene in “The Grapes of Wrath.”

      I really admired “The Casual Vacancy,” too. It definitely deserves to be on a depressing-novels list.

      Great comment, Sue!

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        • Thanks, Dave. I’m not a big fan of the song “One” and the radios absolutely overplayed the Mary J. Blige version, but the Johnny Cash version is so different, and I really like it. I’m also not the biggest fan of country, but Johnny Cash has a rawness about him that’s hard not to be mesmerised by. I also really like his version of Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage” despite already being a big fan of the original.

          “Kevin” is the only Lionel Shriver book that I’ve read, but I will absolutely get to her other books. Have you read “The Mandibles”? I’ve heard such mixed responses to it. “Kevin” was quite painful for most of the book, but it wasn’t really sad until the end. It has such a shock that I absolutely didn’t see coming, but was done so well by an obviously talented author.

          And yes, Grandpa’s death was even more sad because of the reactions by the family. What a terrific novel!

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          • Thanks, Sue! In the pantheon of U2 songs, “One” is not super-high on my list, either. A very nice tune, but not among my favorites of the band. I prefer — to name a few — “A Sort of Homecoming,” “The Unforgettable Fire,” “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “All I Want Is You,” “Acrobat,” “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses,” “Stay (Far Away, So Close),” “Walk On,” and, from their latest album, “The Little Things That Give You Away.” Oh, and U2’s Johnny Cash-sung “The Wanderer”!

            Cash has done many tremendous covers, in addition to the excellent songs he wrote himself.

            Lionel Shriver is a master at interesting endings! I read “The Mandibles,” and thought it was excellent but at times uneven. Sort of an A-. Every novel she writes is very different — with “The Mandibles” being her effort at dystopian, futuristic fiction. “So Much for That” is still my favorite of hers, but I haven’t gotten to “Kevin” yet.

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            • Dave, I think you know that I’ve been a great fan of Lionel Shriver through the years, but my favorite will always be “Kevin.” I don’t want to give any spoiler alerts, but it is so spot-on with current events as well as other things happening, that it still took my breath away when it ended. I gave it to my sister to read, but even though she loved “So Much for That,” she couldn’t get into this novel at all. Which is OK, as we’ve both got our favorites, etc.

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              • Kat Lib, Lionel Shriver is very worthy of being a fan of! I’m looking forward to finally reading “Kevin” at some point. Shriver definitely has her pulse on current events, yet her novels are not preachy. (Well, maybe sometimes a bit preachy. 🙂 ) Her mostly non-preachiness (characters, plot, and writing style are emphasized most) puts her in the company of Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver, and other socially conscious living writers who are, first and foremost, great storytellers.

                And, yes, we all have our favorites. For instance, I’m finally trying George R.R. Martin’s “A Game of Thrones,” which of course has millions of fans — include some commenters on this blog. But I’m not loving it yet — maybe partly because I’m still in the many-different-characters-being-introduced stage. 🙂

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      • Sue and Dave, I agree with you both about “My Sister’s Keeper,” which I thought was very engaging and interesting. However, I agree with Dave that I didn’t like the ending at all, and in fact actually threw it in the trash when it ended. I was talking to my sister, who hadn’t read the book but saw the movie and loved it. I found out later that they changed the ending to make it more palatable for those of us who were hoping for a better and fairer resolution.

        P.S., Yes I know life’s not fair, but even though I know that someone is probably going to die at the end, I wasn’t prepared for what actually happened.

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        • Thanks, Kat Lib! Interesting how the movie rectified the book’s jarring conclusion.

          I have no problem with novels ending on a downbeat note, but there was something about the finale of “My Sister’s Keeper” that just didn’t seem right. Perhaps the only thing that could explain it would be Jodi Picoult wanting to REALLY rub in that life isn’t fair.

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          • I sometimes read these comments, and I realize how old I am. I didn’t recognize either NIN or Disturbed, and while I might enjoy some of what I’m hearing, I’d rather listen to the originals of the songs. Although I do like many covers of songs, I still at least want to know who are recording the covers rather than guessing at who are doing them. For example, I fell in love with Miley Cyrus this past week or so in covering “Jolene,” “So What Have You Done with My Song,” and “Lilac Wine,” which come under her “The Backyard Sessions,” YouTube recordings. A week or so ago, I’d have said that I couldn’t stand her, but I now feel completely different. Why am I thinking about what Elizabeth said about Darcy? Ha!

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            • I hear you, Kat Lib. I’m also out of the loop with some music and bands, but having daughters who are 28 and 10 has helped give me some extra knowledge of what’s been going in pop culture the past two decades or so.

              You offered a great Elizabeth/Darcy analogy when mentioning how our first impressions are sometimes wrong!

              As for song covers, sometimes they ARE better than the original versions. Jimi Hendrix’s take on Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” might be the classic example. And I like 10,000 Maniacs’ version of “More Than This” better than the original Roxy Music version, to give one more example. Still, I think the initial versions tend to be better the majority of the time. After all, those musicians are performing their own creations.

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            • Hi Kat Lib 🙂

              I’m undecided about the ending of “My Sister’s Keeper”. I’d heard a LOT of talk about how the movie was so very different and so I was already forewarned that it was going to be controversial. And then when I got there, it felt right somehow. My take from it wasn’t so much that life isn’t fair, but that you can’t control everything. No matter how much you think you’re in charge of things, life just happens, and even the best laid plans of mice and men… oh wait, that was a different sad book.

              It’s always nice to hear other people’s reactions and interpretations though. I love talking books, and it’s probably even more enjoyable when people disagree. As long as it’s civil and interesting, and of course, around here, Dave wouldn’t have it any other way!

              I know what you mean about not staying up to date with music. I’ve never really listened to Disburbed, but I was aware of their cover of “The Sound of Silence”. As you’d know, Nine Inch Nails recorded the original version of “Hurt”, but Johnny Cash’s version is much more popular. As I said above, Johnny Cash is very mesmerising, but I think Trent Reznor is better at conveying the pain and anger. But I’m happy for people to disagree with me, even Trent himself! That is kind of the point of art.

              I hope you’re feeling better after all your dental work 🙂

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  7. Well if you didn’t bring up Sophie’s Choice I was going to! Gosh talk about a devastating piece of literature. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. I also have to say Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” was one of the saddest stories I’ve ever read. That poor family just can’t get ahead of anything and my heart just breaks at the finale. I also agree about Atonement, not much redemption for anybody in that book. The film adaption was pretty good, and beautifully shot! Especially that scene at Dunkirk Beach.

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    • Thank you, M.B.! Yes, three heartbreaking novels — all set, or partly set, in the 1930s and ’40s. I haven’t seen the “Atonement” movie. I found the novel very compelling, until what I felt was an unsatisfying ending. But “The Grapes of Wrath” conclusion you alluded to is one of the most memorable in literature; I’ve heard that Steinbeck came up with it first, before writing the novel.

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      • Oh that is very interesting about Steinbeck! I could believe it too. That ending has definitely stuck with me through all the years and books therein. I think there’s even a writing quote somewhere (can’t remember who said it) about how you can’t write the first sentence until you know the last!

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  8. Arundhati Roy “ the god of small things “ was so sad there was not a single happy moment in the book. That was my first and last book by her.
    There is another one out but I am not touching that 🙂

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    • Yes, bebe, “The God of Small Things” was ultra-depressing — though really good. Especially for a debut novel. Arundhati Roy’s long-awaited second novel? I can understand shying away from it. I suppose I’ll eventually read it, but I wasn’t bowled over by the reviews I saw.

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  9. First of all congratulations on Maggie’s achievement also Maria s.
    Incidentally last night on PBS they were having a program of all four great ones, it was a spectacular show. Cash, Nelson, Kristopherson, Jennings .
    I like all of then and Johnny Cash’s voice could hit such low notes.

    I stay away rom novels with devastating endings, our real world is going worse each day when trump became the president.
    Now with McCain’s passing he could not bring himself away from his petty mind with some positive words.
    Trump’s world will be with a sad ending when no one will shed a tear.

    Now with “The mice and Men” what a novel when no one wins. Lenny and George who needed whom ?

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    • Thank you, bebe, for the kind mentions of Maggie and Maria! 🙂

      Sounds like a great PBS program. I guess the four men you mentioned got together for a while in a group called The Highwaymen. And I agree — Johnny Cash’s low notes were so impressive.

      There certainly is so much depressing stuff going on now in real life that it’s harder to also read depressing novels. But I still can’t resist the better ones.

      Trump’s behavior toward McCain is breathtakingly awful — i.e., typical of the White House occupant. You’re right that no one will be sad when Trump dies.

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        • Thank you, Kat Lib!

          I had posted on Facebook that my older daughter Maggie had a front-page New York Times byline with this important/harrowing story:

          And I had also posted on FB a video of my athletic younger daughter Maria rock-climbing. 🙂

          I think those were the two things bebe was referring to.

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          • Congrats to both of them! It’s interesting that both of them are traveling different paths, at least for now. Maggie as a journalist/reporter is doing great work on an important subject. Who knows, I might end up seeing her on one of the political shows I watch on MSNBC! As for Maria, you couldn’t pay me enough to go rock-climbing, but good for her! I don’t know how this happened, but all of my siblings and I are terrified by heights, which lets us all out of any kind of climbing whatsoever!

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            • Thanks! 🙂

              Yes, different paths. Ten-year-old Maria is also a good student and an excellent violin player, but athletics are her greatest strength at the moment (soccer, softball, gymnastics, and, this summer, figure-skating and rock-climbing camps). Maggie, now 28, has always been an intellectual and a terrific writer, but she also has done some gymnastics. No TV appearances, yet.

              Sorry you’re afraid of heights. I can tolerate heights, but have never done any formal rock-climbing. I prefer elevators or stairs for getting high up. 🙂

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              • I love the fact that they are both so well-rounded, as I think you probably are as well, though it seems Maggie has found what she should be doing (of course I say this as someone who knows nothing about her). And Maria has time to figure out what she wants to do, though as someone who would have loved to play the violin, well, you know where I’m going with this…

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    • Thank you, Michele! Those three excellent novels are not exactly upbeat, are they? (I didn’t like the ending of “My Sister’s Keeper,” but did like the book a lot before that ending.)

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  10. There have been several mentions of “The Fault in Our Stars,” which had me use up a half box of tissues from crying, then I used up the other half box when I read it for the second time. Another John Green novel, “Paper Towns,” was alternately very funny and very sad. I had recommended it to a physical therapist I was seeing, and the next time I had an appointment, before she even said hello, she chastised me by saying (or yelling?), “But you didn’t tell me about the ending!” I was a bit apprehensive about her working on me after that. 🙂

    There is of course “Little Women,” and as many times I’ve read it, I still cry every time when Beth dies.

    I’ll write more later when I get back home after my root canal — ugh!

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    • Thank you, Kat Lib! Ha — risky to recommend a sad (or partly sad) book to one’s physical therapist. 🙂

      “The Fault in Our Stars” was indeed a tear-jerker, though John Green’s terrific novel was also inspiring.

      I think Beth’s death in “Little Women” is one of the saddest moments in 19th-century literature.

      Sorry about your root canal today. 😦 I had one about two weeks ago — ugh. But it certainly took care of the pain.

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      • I’m a little ahead of schedule today, so I wanted to add a little bit about my physical therapist (one of many through the years), but told me at one point that her parents only read Stephen King novels and were the only books in her home. When at age of around 13, her brother started reading them all, she at age 11 decided she could read them all as well, which she did. Isn’t that weird? She’s obviously branched out from there with other books, e.g. “Paper Towns” but this just floored me.

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          • Yes, she also hated Amy over the whole burning up Jo’s writings thing. I found it hard to believe that anyone who could read all of Stephen King would get so upset about that episode. As you know, Amy was my favorite Little Woman, and so, I’m not sure why she couldn’t be forgiven her for that one act. I can remember several things I got in trouble for as a child, though I must admit, nothing as extreme as what Amy did.

            As you can probably tell, I’m regressing here. I can’t believe Trump can’t just come out and admit that John McCain was a war hero. Why is that so difficult for him? I’ve not been watching the news after my root canal was done, so if I’m wrong about this, I’ll admit it, but for goodness sake’s, can’t he even be a little bit gracious about this?

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            • Yes! Many crazier things have happened in Stephen King novels than in “Little Women”!

              Sadly, “graciousness” and “Trump” are two nouns that have nothing to do with each other.

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  11. Of recently read novels, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas ranks up there as one of the saddest. A very profound book about the innocence of children in the midst of unspeakable horror. I also had a few crying spells reading The Shell Seekers. I didn’t read Sophie’s Choice but I cried for a week after I saw the movie. And another recent read, A Thousand Splendid Suns left me reeling with emotional distress. A wonderful book but deeply disturbing. I want to read the Kite Runner, but decided I need some space before I can handle it.

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    • Thank you, Molly!

      Much of “The Shell Seekers” IS very sad, especially with the bad luck Penelope has in life. (Though it’s inspiring how she perseveres with a positive attitude.)

      I really should get to “A Thousand Splendid Suns” one of these days. I thought “The Kite Runner” was excellent, but, to use your phrase, deeply disturbing as well.

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  12. Since some people have mentioned sad books about animals, I’ll throw in “Black Beauty,” as one of the original animal activist books. Also “My Friend Flicka.”

    A book that I always found to be a tear-jerker, and thus read for that reason, was “Rilla of Ingleside.” It’s the last “Anne” book by LM Montgomery and is about Anne’s youngest daughter. It’s set during WWI and Rilla watches the rest of her siblings go off to war, with only some of them coming back.

    That being said, the conclusion is hopeful and uplifting. For an absolutely depressing view of human nature, The Golovlyov Family or The Petty Demon by Sologub are very depressing. Not tear-jerking because the characters are so annoying, just depressing.

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    • Thank you, Elena! “Black Beauty” IS very sad — as is the fate of horses in such works as “The Red Pony,” “True Grit,” and “Germinal.”

      And, yes, “Rilla of Ingleside” is often quite melancholy — with World War I, a major character’s death, and the poignant motif of the dog waiting at that Canadian train station for its person’s return from the front. But, as you allude to, L.M. Montgomery as an author never could be totally downbeat (though her life often was).

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      • Yes, I believe that Anna Sewell wrote “Black Beauty” as a way to teach people about the ways horses were treated so poorly way back when. I still think this is a problem. The shelter I’ve adopted my kitty and two dogs from was originally set up to house retired race horses.

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        • Thanks for that information, Kat Lib! Many people certainly needed and need plenty of education on treating horses (and other animals) well. Unfortunately.

          Then there’s the issue of how chickens, pigs, cows, etc., are often horribly treated on corporate-owned “farms” before being slaughtered for food. In that sense, novels such as Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” are incredibly sad. But I guess that’s sort of another topic.

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          • I wish I could be so fatalistic that I can always say, “Everyone dies.” I know that is true, and I wish I could remember the movie that it was in. I’m thinking it was Hermione in Harry Potter, but I could well be wrong.

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            • Howdy, Kat Lib!

              — I wish I could be so fatalistic that I can always say, “Everyone dies.” I know that is true, and I wish I could remember the movie that it was in. —

              “Everybody dies!”: One of my favorite lines delivered by one of my favorite actors, John Garfield, in Robert Rossen’s “Body and Soul” (1947), and an excellent coda for Dave’s blog post this week.

              J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

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                • Howdy, Dave!

                  — Thanks for asking, Kat Lib, and thanks for replying, J.J.! —

                  Of course, I can’t recall which of the Harry Potter characters delivered Kat Lib’s variant of the line in which film, but I would guess it may have been Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) in either “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” (2010) or “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” (2011). As I almost remember, it was in any case a pretty matter-of-fact reading, which I would characterize as being consistent with the character of that character.

                  J.J.

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                  • J.J., Luna Lovegood is an excellent guess as to which “Harry Potter” character said some version of “everyone dies.” I can picture Luna saying that in her deadpan, pragmatic, unsentimental, slightly spacey way.

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            • I think now, if I remember correctly, that it came from the Broadway show based on “The Secret Garden,” which I saw back in the early 1990’s. It was said by a young British speaking girl; hence my confusion with Hermione. I’ll have to listen to the recording of it at some point today, but I really loved it. Thanks to Dave and J.J. for weighing in on this not so important question, but these are the things I think about throughout the day, and into the evening before I fall asleep!

              Liked by 1 person

                • It makes sense when thinking about the entire plot of “The Secret Garden” unless they changed it dramatically from the book. There were a lot of life and death matters covered in the show, growth and regrowth as well. There were a lot of young girls at the matinee show we attended, and I hope they were able to handle it OK. I guess this show fits in with this week’s category about sadness.

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  13. One of the saddest books that I’ve ever read is a book called “The Education of Little Tree” written under the pseudonym of Forrest Carter. The book was supposed to be autobiographical, but turned out to be a hoax (as far as being autobiographical). Forrest Carter was a pseudonym for a white supremacist from Alabama who was a member of the KKK, etc. Obviously, he was a despicable man but his “novel”, as it turned out to be, was mesmerizing and so incredibly sad. I literally sobbed at the end of the book.

    Other novels that I found profoundly sad involved animals. “The Yearling”, “Old Yeller”, “Flowers for Algernon”, to name a few. I know that “Flowers for Algernon” wasn’t ABOUT the mouse, but I grieved for him too.

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    • Thank you, lulabelle! Sad novels featuring animals can REALLY pull at the heartstrings. I also grieved for the mouse in “Flowers for Algernon,” and the fawn’s fate in the magnificent “The Yearling” was devastating.

      That’s an absolutely fascinating backstory to “The Education of Little Tree”!

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      • And wasn’t that Johnny Cash video the most amazing piece? Visually stunning and his rendition of that song was mesmerizing!!! I’ve watched it many times.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know I read this book many, many years ago, But I quite honestly don’t remember a mouse, so I’ll have to reread it because something like that as an animal should should stand out in my mind! As I told you earlier, I had to have a root canal done today. The most interesting part of the whole thing was that the dental tech pointed out to me a groundhog that lives in the back of their property. I’d thought it was maybe a mole or vole, but I think she was right. In the past few days I’ve seen that critter, a hummingbird twice, and a couple of deer. It’s fun to see animals here that I wouldn’t see back at any of my other homes. I’m just waiting to see a black bear, which showed up in Bill’s daughter back yard!

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        • If I’m remembering right, Algernon is an experimented-on mouse — just as the novel’s human protagonist (Charlie) is also experimented on. Initially a success, but…

          You’re definitely living in an area with some open space, Kat Lib! Nice to have all those animals around. 🙂 Though a bear can be a bit scary…

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          • Oops, I forgot to mention the fox that ran across the yard the other day, as well as the blue heron that flies across the creek every now and then! I’m trying to keep these in mind as I’m melting away from the humid heat. Who knew it would get this hot up here in the mountains?! I keep thinking about the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, who was crying out at the end, “I’m Melting! Oh, What a World!” That’s pretty much how I’m feeling the last couple of days!

            Liked by 1 person

            • A fox (not the “news” network kind) and a blue heron — nice!

              Ha! Or maybe it’s not so funny. But that “I’m melting!” quote fits today and yesterday perfectly. My overheated cat is stretched out like an elongated pancake in front of a fan…

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        • I have seen a groundhog as he peered above the hole leading to his den, and a huge hawk tearing a squirrel to bite-sized bits— not in my old stomping grounds of rural Tennessee, but right here in Manhattan! The groundhog was living by a path in Central park, and the hawk was visiting Riverside.

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