Heartbreaking Reads

In an antithesis (or perhaps I’m just a little strange) to the sappiness of the recent Valentine’s Day, I feel like reading something that will utterly break my heart. Soul destroying. Devastation. However, I’m stumped at what to pick. I’m reading The English Patient at the moment and that is supposed to be heartbreaking but I’m finding it difficult to get involved in it. I haven’t seen the movie or know anything about it so I’m quite unspoiled.

I do have a few titles in mind though:

  • The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
  • Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy?
  • Requiem for a Dream – Hubert Selby, Jr
  • Anything by Thomas Hardy …

I need recommendations! I don’t want anything sappy and it doesn’t have to be about love/romance. In short, any book that completely crushed you (and perhaps even made you shed a few tears 🙂 ).


  1. Norwegian Wood by Murakami devastated me more than any other book, probably. The funny thing is that I can’t even quite pinpoint what about it did it. What else… Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, Half of a Yellow Sun by Adichie, and The Night Watch or Affinity by Sarah Waters.

    1. Hmm, didn’t know that was a heart breaking (and I’m using ‘heart break’ a lot in these replies) story but I suppose McEwan seems to favour these sort. i.e, Atonement.

  2. Wuthering Heights? Heart-wrenching more than tear-jerking. Kate Atkinson’s When Will There Be Good News was emotional too.

    And for a YA thought: Elsewhere was pretty heartbreaking in places.

    1. Ethan Frome is on top of the list! 🙂 Recently read Never Let Me Go – it was sad and made me thing of the human condition. An excellent book. Might try out Richard Yates too.

  3. You cheeky one you, Mae. At first I couldn’t think … mind blank but here are some. The first heartbreaker for me was Gone with the wind, followed by Hardy, Tess in particular.

    Then there’s Wharton. The one I keep going back to is The house of mirth. Gutwrenching.

    And I agree with Mee that A fine balance is not really a love story but it is heartbreaking. And with Thomas at my porch re McEwan and On Chesil Beach.

    Oh dear, once one gets going, it’s hard to stop. And really, one should not go past the daddy of them all, Romeo and Juliet!

    1. I don’t think I’ll ever get around to GWTW! I saw the movie and thought that was brilliant though. Tess – I remember just wanting to throw the book across the room!

      Ah, Romeo and Juliet. I don’t think I’ve re-read that since year 10 but I do remember not being at all affected by it! I think I just thought ‘ahh, silly teenagers. What they’ll do for love!’ 🙂

      1. That’s precisely my reaction to tragic teenage love stories. I think …ahhh! they’re so young, they should be able to get over it.

        Somehow, middle-age or old age heartbreak is more heart-wrenching for me.

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