‘Laughter through tears is my favourite emotion’
Dolly Parton delivered that line after a rather emotional scene in Steel Magnolias, when the group of friends were stunned out of their misery by one moment of hilarity. Viewers by that point had had a good cry (well if they hadn’t I’d be surprised!) and it was time to lighten the mood.
This rare combination of tears and laughter is one not many authors are able to capture – or at least capture well. After all, how do you write a sad book without making readers just feel miserable and depressed afterwards? In a word, hope. Finding the beauty in something awful is extremely hard to do but we are all destined to experience loss and sadness in our lives and it is the need to continue that keeps us from going completely mad.
Sometimes I love a good, fun read. But occasionally I find myself wanting to read something more emotional. It’s almost a way of venting. Two of my favourite writers from recent years, Rosamund Lupton and Jodi Picoult, certainly know how to write some truly miserable stories about death, illness and loss. However, they know when to hold back, allowing the story to sell itself without piling on the pulls at the heart-strings. They also do not wallow. When I reached the end of Sister (still my favourite book from the last few years) and My Sister’s Keeper, I still found myself holding the book to my chest with a smile because there was beauty within the misery. These stories were miserable but they were also rooted in human emotion and the result was touching and endearing.
Sometimes, I’m happy to be miserable.
What are your favourite misery reads and why? As ever, let us know in the comments.