What I can and can’t read

I had a revelation the other week.

Not really a full-blown knock my socks off lightbulb moment, more this was a slow burn, a gradual dawning and coming to understand what it is I should read, and what I should not…

This idea cemented itself in me as I had sat on the couch before midnight, finishing the last 20 pages of the novel The Light Between Oceans, while CRYING MY EYES OUT.

I can’t do sad stories. Not now. Maybe even, not ever.

I realised it first when I was reading Burial Rites. A deeply haunting, fascinating tale, but ultimately one that made me sick to my stomach as I finished the last chapter. Actually, sick, in a gagging way.

Following on from that with my latest read, The Light Between Oceans, and though I didn’t feel nausea, I was deeply anxious for the characters from the second half of the novel onwards.

At one point I nearly stopped reading when I thought there was the possibility that MY IDEAL ENDING wouldn’t eventuate.

But I convinced myself, surely it would, surely there weren’t people raving about an amazing book, when it left you on such a sad note?

Well, guess what?

IT DID.

Really, it broke my heart. I have no bad words to say about the writing, the plot, the setting… the author describes the characters and place so poetically, and with such elegance, that to know this book received many awards is absolutely not a surprise.

Even the plot, which ebbs and flows, growing gradually at first, that becomes a can’t-put-this-down, edge-of-your-seat page-turner that you must keep reading towards the end. No faults, at all.

But, I have to question, and I ponder, and I think, again and again and again…

What kind of frame of mind does one have to be in to write this kind of story? How can you feel any sense of satisfaction, knowing readers won’t be satisfied?

And what kind of frame of mind does a reader have to be in, to actually LOVE this type of sad story?

It is driving me crazy.

I’m still IN the novel, the feelings and the melancholy and the feeling of loss still following me, and I feel I will never read an award-winning book again…

Because they all seem to deal with huge, hard, really difficult and sad emotions, and I can’t do sad.

It reminds me of another book I read many years ago, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. She wrote something I still remember to this day. She always felt she had to read a certain type of genre book, but those kinds of books brought her no joy.

They brought her no happiness. So she was going to stop reading them, accept that they weren’t for her, and choose ones that brought her happiness.

This decision brought her a huge sense of liberation, and I think I need to do the same.

Maybe if life was all going to plan, and there were no dramas in my life, and I had no problems… maybe then.

Maybe then I could read a sad story, just to know, awaken the senses.

I get that life will always have it’s problems, but I seriously believe that maybe if my life was devoid of confusion, deep frustration, and things were generally more peachy than keen, then maybe, maybe then I could be happy about a sad ending that made me heave with sobs, my pjs becoming wet from my stream of tears.

Like, if I was bored. Life was so good, it was boring.

Yeah, if I was bored. Like that’s ever going to happen. 🙄

I need to know how you feel. Can you read sad stories? Have you read this one? Am I just overly empathetic and feeling too much?

You know what it made me realise though? I wanted to read stories of youth, of drama, crazy days, love and lust and gossip and secrets, revelations and family, friendship, coming-of-age and acceptance.

All bundled up into a nice little off-the-beaten-track package.

I wanted to read, MY STORY. And you know what they say?

Write the book you want to read.

Well, I better keep on then…

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