In a recent book column ‘A Passion for Books’ novelist Pat Barker was interviewed. One of the set questions asked was, ‘(The book) that made me cry’. Her answer was ‘I don’t cry over books…’ She went on to say she cried with laughter over a Helen Simpson book.
Barker is an award-winning author of over a dozen books, including the Regeneration Trilogy about the trauma of the First World War.
What I can’t fathom is that no book has affected this novelist’s tear ducts.
Authors write to entertain, but they also strive (not always successfully) to engage the reader’s emotions, to walk inside someone else’s head, to evince an emotional response – whether that’s amusement, anger, compassion, or even hate. It's a fine balance to tread between mawkishness, sentimentality and the shared human condition.
I couldn’t begin to list all the books that have brought a tear or two to my eyes. Not the entire book, you understand, but certain scenes.
I’ve shed a tear while reading Gone With the Wind, War and Peace, Jane Eyre, An Old Captivity, Call of the Wild, Clan of the Cave Bear, David Copperfield, Forever Amber, Frankenstein, I Love Galesburg in the Springtime, O Henry short stories, Shane, Sophie’s Choice, The Girl of the Sea of Cortez, The Grass is Singing, The Magic Toyshop, The Rainbow, The Raj Quartet, The Time Traveller’s Wife, This Thing of Darkness, White Fang, To Kill a Mockingbird, Mead’s Quest, The Snake Den, Lonesome Dove, Strummin’ the Banjo Moon, Fluke, Playing on Cotton Clouds, Schindler’s Ark, and Truth Lies Buried, to name a few…
Can you name a book that has brought tears to your eyes? (I don’t mean tears of anguish or annoyance at the quality of the writing!)