Sunday, February 07, 2010

Top 10 Weepies

What are the Top 10 Weepies of All Time? This question popped into my mind as I read the unhappy ending of Daniel Deronda. Poor Gwendolen! I didn't cry, but almost.

Below is a list of some exceptionally sad books. I have rated them as follows:

*A few tears

**Gentle mewling


1. Faithful Ruslan by Georgy Vladimov. If you haven't read this tragic Russian novel about a dog, get thee to a secondhand bookstore. The main character, Ruslan, is a prison dog in a Stalinist labor camp, and when the camps close, life as he knows it ends. The guard dogs are released, and though they struggle to survive in a nearby village, Ruslan is bewildered, misses his favorite guard, and doesn't understand what happened to his world, which he attempts to re-create. This excellent, astonishing novel by a Ukrainian writer whose citizenship was revoked raises questions about humanity, dogs, and survivors.


2. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I always weep over the scene --well, it involves Beth. If you haven't read this great American novel, you simply must.


3. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn. This poignant popular novel about a mining family in Wales is surely one of the most underrated books of the 20th century. The despair of the strikes, the poverty, and the descriptions of the hideous slag are balanced by the unsentimental voice of the narrator, his brothers' courage, activism, and frequently witty dialogue.


4. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I defy you not to cry over parts of this brilliant novel set in the Congo. Overall, it is a comedy, but parts are terribly sad.


5. Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain. This stunning memoir of Vera Brittain's experiences as an Oxford student and nurse during World War I is deeply moving.


6. The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Why are animal books so sad? This winner of the 1939 Pulitzer Prize, set in the backwoods of Florida at the turn of the (20th) century, tells the story of Jody and his pet fawn, for whom his parents have little tolerance.


7. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. A so very, very, very unexpected, tortuous plot: a tragedy in New England centered on the taciturn Ethan Frome, his cranky invalid wife, and his feelings for her sweet cousin, Mattie. Edith Wharton can really WRITE.


8. Stoner by John Williams. "I don't know if it's a weepie, but it's a sad book," says my husband. This is a novel about a depressed scholar, whose education allowed this poor farm boy to transcend class--and yet he is unhappy in the academic world. I haven't yet read this, but it's on my list.


9. The Works of Love by Wright Morris. A tragic, beautifully written novel about the midwest and isolation. In 2008, I described the hero, Will Brady, as "a man with no connections, because of the geography that shapes him. Born on the empty plains of Nebraska in a dugout, Will grows up in the town of Indian Bow, where there is "a depot, a cattle loader, several square frame houses with clapboard privies..' When he moves to the tiny town of Carbury (Will takes a train; trains and hotels are the connection in the novel for lonely ), working at the hotel seems the height of sophistication. But he wants and needs a wife. Where does he look for one? The town whorehouse, where he "connects" with the same woman every weekend. When he proposes, all the women laugh at him. A young prostitute with whom he has never had sex leaves her baby behind with his name on it: he raises the son as his own."


10. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. All you have to say to me is "Father Time" and I burst into tears.




Buried In Print said...

Oh, I am terrible at rating books. Looking at your scale, I'm thinking that the books I'm going to recommend are akin to the way you've described The Poisonwood Bible: there are other emotions at the forefront of these novels throughout but some scenes that are soooo devastating. So, I'm not sure how to rate them but I think they are wonderful: Timothy Findley's Not Wanted on the Voyage and Barbara Gowdy's The White Bone, though brutally, sobbingly sad at times.

Frisbee said...

Thank you so much for your recommendations. I've never read anything by Timothy Findley, and I did read something once by Barbara Gowdy (her first novel?) and then forgot about this very good writer. Perhaps I'll read some of these contemporary books this year, because, as you can see, I've been stuck in the 19th century this winter!

Sheena said...

The Time traveller's wife, by Audrey Niffeneger. I wept buckets.

Frisbee said...

Another one to add to my list!

Ellen said...

One novel I kept crying over and couldn't stop: the ending of La Storia or History by Elsa Morante. I couldn't stop crying. A woman has a disabled child who is killed; he is mocked, needled and jeered at and never has a chance. Then the police break in and before he dies, kill his dog. She is taken away to an asylum We are told she died that night and her body carried on for 9 years. It takes two harrowing chapters.

I just became hysterical in crying over the ending of The Remains of the Day. Anthony Hopkins staring at Emma Thompson on that bus was beyond endurance.


Don't miss A Single Man with Colin Firth. You may be able to control your grief but the film is as forceful on loss and desperate joy suddenly towards the end as ever a film I've seen.

Frisbee said...

Ellen, I did read History some years ago and it was traumatic.

The Remains of the Day is such a good film and I should see it again.

Sometimes crying over a book or a movie is therapeutic. The scnenes that inspire emotions make it clear what we need to cry about.

Barbara C. said...

You have to make that eleven books.
You forgot "Where the Red Fern Grows"! Sigh!