There are some books that just naturally make you cry, even if you’re not the crying sort, or at the very least well up. And if, like me, you are the crying sort, well – I guess you have many a wrinkled page in books. Being ‘highly emotive’ – or, as my husband calls it, “honestly Erika are you really crying at another advert?” – does have its perks, and finding the real, wondrous depths of any form of art is one of the things I pride myself on, even if I do go through waterproof mascara like it’s going out of fashion.
When I was first starting to gradually lean into adult reading in my early teens, I remember asking my mum for advice as to what I could read from her books shelves. She took me through them, and it went something like this; “Okay, well, don’t read these ones, they’re crime and too hard hitting. Oh, and these ones might be okay… wait no, no. Murder. Ah, what about these ones? Proper tear jerkers, these.” From then on, it’s become a running joke. So here are some of the books that have really made me cry over time.
The Phantom of the Opera
I’ve touched before on my teenage obsession with classic French literature, and this was one of those books that first enchanted me. Until recently, I had three copies of Phantom, none of them special, all simply wanted, because this book really did break my heart so many times. I think it’s a highly underrated classic; even as a lover of Victor Hugo, I often wonder why his name is sometimes spoken when Gaston Leroux is not included in a similar discussion.
Many people are now familiar with the title of the book because of the award winning West End and Broadway show, but as always, in my humble opinion, the book does it better. It might not involve wet shirt wearing Gerard Butler, but the magic of the book is both beauty and pain. It made me sob. The unfairness of it all was very fitting for a melodramatic fourteen year old, that’s all I’m going to say.
I have read it again as an adult, and am still captivated by how sublime it all is.
The Song of Achilles
Some of my recent posts have been looking at historical fiction set in and around Ancient Greece, but The Song of Achilles was the first of the sort I read. It was one of the first, and only, full price books I bought for myself in 2011; I moved into my first house just a few months prior, and was on a very tight budget. Nevertheless, I needed the book in my life, and went without luxuries for two weeks to afford it. I still have my cop, bought, read, wept over, read again, wept over again, on my bookcase, and it really is rather battered these days. I don’t regret that at all.
There was something about the depth of the love so obviously being bigger than life itself that first made me cry. Beyond that, the sheer skill of Madeline Miller is enough to make anyone weep, if they are prone to tears, because sometimes, words just are beautiful.
Me Before You
I read Me Before You several months prior to starting this blog, but I still remember just how many tears I cried over those fictional characters. I even knew it was coming! What I didn’t know was how much I would fall in love with people that didn’t exist. Will and Lou totally took over my life and heart. For weeks I was genuinely grieving, prone to spontaneous sobbing, all because of a book. I’m not embarrassed by that, but I am fully aware how exasperating I must sound. It only happens with the really best of books, and I do think being incurably ill myself had something to do with how hard it hit me.
Curiously, I have read some other books by Jojo Moyes since, and whilst I enjoyed them, they didn’t hit me quite as hard. There really was magic in her fingertips when she wrote this book.
The Radium Girls
Kate Moore’s stunning book was heartbreaking to listen to. Captured in a way that feels like a fiction novel whilst retaining its power of fact, the story of the dial painters killed by the product they were working with is one that you can’t help but cry at. The story would be powerful when written by anyone, but it is with Moore’s skill and dedication that their lives, sicknesses, and deaths are brought into sharper focus.
This was one of the books I read ‘half and half’, using a book and then an audiobook, and must also compliment the narration, which captures just how desperate the situation was for The Radium Girls. Not a easy listen, but an important one.
The Other Half of Augusta Hope
I was lucky to read this book prior to publication, and there was something so enchanting about the writing. It wasn’t a book that captured me immediately, but I had to work to love it, and I’m glad I did; some books really are worth the effort. A story of belonging and of finding your place, The Other Half of Augusta Hope felt like it was mending me through breaking me. I cried, and I laughed, and I smiled – and then obviously, cried some more. Beautiful, witty, entertaining, and moving, this book really was one of those that grabbed me once I got into the flow of who, how, and why.
It reminded me in some ways of so many books, and yet was so very different. It went from strength to strength, and I would love to read it again one of these days.
These are just a few of the books that have made me cry, and I’d love to know from some of you which tales have made you need tissues.