Depressing Novels

I have a confession – I don’t read a lot of fiction novels. My tastes really do run towards the fantastical – lots of high fantasy and futuristic sci-fi. I love the imagination and escapism of these kinds of novels and for that reason tend to steer clear of general fiction.

So getting close to the eve of NaNoWriMo, I find myself a little ignorant in the ways of other genres, which is somewhat of a problem given the story I’ve chosen to write.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the story I’ll be working on, even though I’ve decided to let it grow organically, and one of the stumbling blocks I see before me is that there really isn’t a lot of happiness in it. I don’t know whether the story will end on a high or a low note, but it’s got me thinking about depressing fiction – in fact I think I’ll even write a blog post about the most depressing movie I’ve ever seen (it still haunts me 13 years later).

When I think of depressing and sad fiction, I think to myself “who would read something so bleak for fun?” and I had a quick squiz around the blogosphere at lists people have compiled of novels they consider depressing and I realise that I have actually read quite a few of those books myself, and even more surprisingly, liked them.

You’ve got your “classic” depressing novels, like George Orwell’s 1984 and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (interestingly, both were required reading at my high school), and then others that people have suggested – The Lovely Bones, The Road and Revolutionary Road came up quite a lot in the forum posts I read. I haven’t read these last three, although The Lovely Bones has been on my reading list for a while.

One of THE most depressing writers out there, in my opinion, is Virginia Andrews. The Flowers In The Attic series was absolutely horrific. Watching Cathy, the narrator, go from a young girl with dreams of being a professional dancer to a bitter, angry, selfish, destructive and manipulative crazy person hell bent on revenge is understandable to some extent, but the lengths that she went to were extraordinary and totally unfathomable to me.

But with that series, along with the other books, what kept me turning the page was I couldn’t NOT know how it turned out, no matter how awful things were getting.

What about the rest of you?

What is your take on sad or depressing novels? Love them? Hate them? Have a few you’d like to add to the list?

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