This week I FINALLY read a novel (Where the Crawdad’s Sing by Delia Owens). I have no problem buying novels, starting novels, and buying more novels but I have a huge problem finishing them. Usually, my kids are a big reason since it’s very difficult to carve out time for sustained reading and I usually tumble into bed exhausted each night.
As I cried my way through parts of Owens’ novel, feeling my heart swell and break like the waves in the marsh, I reflected that my inability to complete novels may also be due to an unconscious desire to protect myself from feeling too deeply. When I studied English in university I didn’t mind summoning all the feelings and would often even pick poems and novels specifically TO have a cathartic cry.
There are some books that are on my list of “books that make me cry”. These include:
• Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, when Tom says goodbye to Mrs. Bartholemew: “he put his arms right round her and he hugged her good-bye as if she were a little girl.” (sniff!)
• A Month in the Country by JL Carr, with the line “we can ask and ask but we can’t have again what once seemed ours forever…”
• The Children of the House by Philippa Pearce with the sad and lonely children of the stately Charlecote House, in that fragile time on the cusp of the horrors of the First World War and the decline of the British artistocracy. Based on Brian Fairfax-Lucy’s memories of growing up at Charlecote.
• The Swallow: a Ghost Story by Charis Cotter is another children’s book that made me cry my eyes out. I literally couldn’t speak some of the sentences when I read it to my daughter. She did not have the same experience (or at least didn’t admit it to me!)
Life is so busy and complicated at this stage with little ones, work and life. I don’t know exactly why avoiding the big emotions has become such a thing for me but I imagine it is partly wanting to keep things simple. It’s hard to indulge into tears when there’s laundry to do and lunches to make.
Knowing how reading fiction can build empathy and help us to better understand other peoples’ thoughts and emotions, I’m committing to reading more novels this year. Possibly one a week!
Next up – finishing Mrs. England by Stacey Halls. Would you like to join me in this reading challenge? Let me know!