Top Ten Tuesday: Heartbreaking Books

This post topic reminds me of the Valentine's Day a pastor asked my sisters and I to sing for a Valentine's dinner for all the couples in the church... when all three of us were still single. We decided to have fun with that little incongruity and kicked off our performance with a comic routine. Prefacing it with "Here's what we looked like trying to decide what to sing tonight," we sang bits of a bunch of breakup songs, dissing each other's "suggestions". The audience roared. Ah, good memories. I wish I had it on video.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun...

The problem with this topic is that if I think a book is going to leave me sorrowful, I will usually run away as fast as I can. Stay away from me, heartrending modern literary fiction! I have garlic and a rosary! I do not like sad stories.

The problem with this post is that I am hopped up on coffee and in a flaming hurry. (Yes, I did just curse in Wheel of Timeish.) Pardon me if I come off more hyper than usual.

1. Anna Karenina by Lev Tolstoy. Anna, Anna, you may have wrought your own problems but I hurt for you anyway.

2. Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy. Jack Foley, I loved you. And I can't believe what you did. I just. Cannot believe. What you did.

3. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. This was more than heartbreak—it was ravaging. Handle with care.

4. Animal Farm by George Orwell. Mean, mean, mean pigs.

5. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. As far as I remember, this was the first book I'd ever read in which a key character died. I loved the story, but it was horribly sad.

6. Emily's Quest by L.M. Montgomery. Yeah, so it had a happy ending pasted on. I still felt sad for Dean, and for all those years Emily was alone without good reason.

7. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. Heartbreaking because Orual never feels beautiful or loved—but it did have a good ending.

8. The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni. Another happy ending that was reached by far, far too much suffering.

9. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. I loved Lavrans, and it hurt like mad to watch what Kristin did to him. Also, I couldn't bear Erlend.

10. Bambi by Felix Salten. Incredibly beautiful and poignant, but not really a happy book—and it's hard not to break one's heart over Gobo.

Ah, so much pain and suffering. I might just have to go re-read the epilogue of Harry Potter to cheer myself up. :D But in all seriousness, this list only contains books that I thought at least somewhat worth the read.

What books have broken your heart?


  1. Well it's not a book, but a specific portion of a book - even at age 30 I can't read the beginning of By the Shores of Silver Lake without ending up with my face absolutely soaked with tears when Jack the bulldog dies.

    I was re-reading it once while I was living at home during grad school and my mother walked by my bedroom door and asked me what was wrong. When I told her, she was like, "you've read those books every year since you could read, haven't you learned by now to skip that part!" LOL!

    1. HAHAHAHA! OK, I totally forgot about that scene. It's gutwrenchingly sad. But skipping parts in a cover-to-cover read just sucks the power out of the whole story. A member of my family used to fast forward the Mr. Collins scenes in Pride and Prejudice, and I hated that even though they made my skin crawl to watch. :P

  2. WHICH VERSION OF PRIDE AND PREJUDICE?? Is it the one with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, because that one is the best. GOOD CREEPINESS.

    I basically learned to skip all of Silver Lake and Plum Creek. I didn't mind The Long Winter, though, because I knew eventually the trains would get through, but the preceding books made my stomach twist with all the expectation and failure and going-blind-from-fever.

    Anna, oh my goodness. Anna. WHYYYYYY.

    Honestly, The Lord of the Rings breaks my heart a whole lot.

  3. if it's the good version - it's also the one where Mr. Collins looks like Martin Luther... (or rather I realized that one of the paintings of Martin Luther looks like that version of Mr. Collins... who also appeared unexpectedly in The Kings Speech and it cracked me up)

    Plum Creek was always one of my favorites, probably only beat by These Happy Golden Years... The Long Winter was ok, though I've skipped it at times, Silver Lake is probably the one I've read the least times in general though, despite the fact that I WILL skip it at times...

    1. Mr. Collins totally does look like Martin Luther in that version. I have no further insights, other than that he is perfect and Mr. Bennett is perfect and I love Mr. Bingley grinning at everything on a constant basis. Yay for the good version!

  4. Wait, Mr. Collins made it into The King's Speech too? *Googles* OH MY GOODNESS HE DID!!! How did I not know this? Did Mr. Bingley and Jane get in there too, somewhere? It's practically a P&P reunion. :D

    Oh, and yes--that is the infinitely the best version of Pride and Prejudice, in my opinion. I've seen it way too many times, and yet not enough... never enough. I see Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth when I read the book, and that makes me happy rather than angry--which means it gets the stamp of Successful Adaptation.

    Silver Lake is the Little House book I've read the least and therefore remember the least about, but I loved them all.

  5. the only thing I don't like about that version of P&P is that it completely ruined forever any idea of what my original imagined idea of Darcy was... Darcy *IS* Colin Firth... No matter how hard I attempt to get back to my original view, there's no way to do it. I can hear their voices as Darcy and Lizzy so well that I hear their voices when I read P&P FANFICTION, even if it's a phrase that I've never heard them utter ever...

    (and here to think I put off watching that for several years (until I was given it for Christmas 2000)because I was afraid it would ruin my favorite book...and in one sense it did since I can't ever get my original version back, but at the same time I love it so much I can't really mind it)

  6. I think that I sob harder every time I re-read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery.... My husband thinks I'm slightly crazy to teach it when it has a part that's incredibly heart-wrenching, but I and all of my students love it so very much. It's definitely worth it!

    1. I don't even think I've heard of that one! Sounds like it's good. :D

  7. Jenna said, "This post topic reminds me of the Valentine's Day a pastor asked my sisters and I to sing for a Valentine's dinner for all the couples in the church... when all three of us were still single."

    It's a well known fact pastors are heartless callous beasts. Well, at least we're just clueless sometimes. :)

    Regarding Bridge to Terabithia, yes, heartbreaking. Read it once. That was enough. It's truly a book that should be banned for children. Not because it's not good or because it should never be read but because children will learn the world is a cruel, heartbreaking place soon enough. They don't necessarily need to be ushered into it any earlier than junior high.

    I wouldn't necessarily call Till We Have Faces heartbreaking. Unless it's that type of heartbreaking book I run to and embrace.

  8. Jenna said, "The problem with this topic is that if I think a book is going to leave me sorrowful, I will usually run away as fast as I can. Stay away from me, heartrending modern literary fiction! I have garlic and a rosary! I do not like sad stories."

    Aside from the rosary, I'm in perfect agreement. Although saying I don't like a story that will leave me sorrowful isn't the same as not liking stories that contain some sadness, even some heartbreak, and might be bittersweet. But books that leave one feeling desolate & despairing & heartbroken, especially if you think the author's just been jerking around with your feelings, yeah, them I don't like. Mockingjay I'm looking in your direction.

  9. HAHAHA, George! Honestly, I suppose we were just a good pick for performing because we weren't paired off and therefore were not eligible for attending otherwise. And it wouldn't have been so bad if we hadn't all had reasons for being a little overwrought about the whole singleness thing at that moment.

    Till We Have Faces is a great novel with a great ending. I just felt so sad for Orual most of the way through, partly because she didn't feel lovable and partly because she kept digging her own grave deeper and deeper. But I do love the story.

    And yeah, I'm with you. Sadness in a story and bittersweet endings aren't a problem for me. Desolation and despair most definitely are. And jerking around with feelings will inspire downright fury. :)

  10. I'm trying to catch up on your posts this week. I'm in complete agreement with authors that just yank you around in their black pool of sadness and despair. So:

    Mockingly--Just. No. Excuse.

    My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. The plot...the end.... Why?? This author inspired me to coin the term "Jodi Picoult Syndrome" to describe the modern literary novel drenched in gloom, despair, and dysfunctional misery.

    Pat of Silver Bush and Mistress Pat by LM Montgomery. Lucy Maud needed antidepressants, in creating this bizarre protagonist.

    Les Miserables--I still get weepy thinking about Valjean crying into Cosette's little clothes.

    LotR, especially the ending, but it's a good sad.


  11. Yes, LOTR is a good kind of sad.

    Where the Red Fern Grows is also heartbreaking in a way I don't find appealing. I suppose something like Old Yeller and books of that kind would fall into the same category.

  12. Ah, yes, the Old Yeller genre. I avoid animal books and stories to this day. The beloved critter almost always heartbreakingly dies at the end; t's like losing a pet. And how many kids were traumatized by Bambi?

    I meant Mockingjay above, not Mockingly. ;-)


  13. This is a bit different but I would say Tuck Everlasting would be heartbreaking in a good kind of way. Here's the different thing, though. I've never read the book but saw a movie adaptation, but I think it conveyed the same theme as the book.

  14. Oh, and The High King by Lloyd Alexander. Heartbreaking but good.

  15. Oh, and The House at Pooh Corner. Absolutely, tear-jerking, heartbreaking at the very end. It's a good kind of it, but still bittersweet to the max.


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