THE BOOKTOPIA TOP TENS: Top Ten Tearjerkers

Sometimes we all feel like curling up with a cup of tea and having a bit of a weep. A book is the perfect answer for that kind of mood – you can experience an entire emotional rollercoaster in an evening without ever having to leave your couch.

Each of these books guarantees that combination of escapism and all the feels. There will be no graceful, one-tear-silently-slipping-down-the-cheek crying with these novels. Expect gut-wrenching, snotty, big fat ugly sobs. And whatever you do, do not, I repeat DO NOT begin any of them without a box of Kleenex (or five) by your side. You have been warned.

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10) Elephant Songelephant-song

by Wilbur Smith

Animal stories tend to make for the best tearjerkers – it was hard to limit the list to one! Elephant Song does not disappoint. Perfect for a good, easy weep.

The rangers closed in, firing steadily. Within minutes all the adult animals were down. Only the calves still raced in bewildered circles, stumbling over the bodies of the dead and dying. Six minutes after the first shot, a silence fell over the killing ground on Long Vlei…

In the blinding light of Zimbabwe’s Chiwewe National Park, Dr Daniel Armstrong, world-famous TV naturalist, films the slaughter of a herd of elephant. In London, anthropologist Kelly Kinnear is forced into violent confrontation with the shareholders of the most powerful conglomerate in the City of London, warning them of the destruction of an African country.

Now the time has come to act. Together, Armstrong and Kinnear forge a passionate alliance – and begin the fight against the forces of greed, evil and corruption attacking a land they would both give their lives to save…

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diary-of-anne-frank9) The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank

I don’t think anyone reads Anne Frank’s diary expecting any kind of happy ending, and indeed none exists. Most of the tragedy of this book comes from the knowledge that unlike the Notebook’s and the Never Let Me Go‘s of this list, Anne Frank’s story is entirely true.

Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding.

For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annex” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period.

By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

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8) The Bridge to Terabithiabridge-to-terabithia

by Katherine Paterson

The book that has made millions of Year Four children cry. Reading this book feels like holding your breath, as you know from the first moment that Jess and Leslie’s heart-breakingly innocent adventures in Terabithia cannot last. And when the tragedy strikes, you will weep. Hard.

Jess Aarons wants to be the fastest boy in the class. He’s been practising all summer and he’s sure he’s going to win. But when a girl named Leslie Burke moves into the neighbouring farm his life changes forever.

Not only does Leslie not look or act like any of the girls in school, she also turns out to be the fastest runner in the year. After getting over the humiliation of being beaten by a girl, Jess begins to think Leslie might be okay – she’s clever and funny and not a bit soppy. It is Leslie who invents Terabithia, the secret country on an island across the creek…

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never-let-me-go7) Never Let Me Go

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Unlike most other tearjerkers, the desperation and tragedy in Never Let Me Go is a slow build. You won’t weep from beginning to end. It was only when I closed the book that I begun to cry. And when I did, it was no holds barred. Never Let Me Go is a tale of the futility of life and a loss of innocence which will stay with you for a very long time.

In one of the most acclaimed and strange novels of recent years, Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewed version of contemporary England.

Narrated by Kathy, now 31, Never Let Me Go hauntingly dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School, and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world.

A story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.

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6) My Sister’s Keepermy-sister-s-keeper

by Jodie Piccoult

What could be sadder than a child suffering from cancer? A child conceived as life support for her sister suffering from cancer. Another one to avoid reading in public.

For as long as she can remember, Anna has known her purpose in life. She was conceived and raised by her parents to be a perfectly matched donor for her sister Kate, who has leukemia. Simple. How can she say no, when it’s a matter of life or death for Kate? But after thirteen years of hospital visits and painful medical procedures, under pressure to donate a kidney, Anna finally rebels.

This heartbreaking story of courage and self-sacrifice redefines right and wrong, and prompts the agonising questions: how far would you go to save the life of someone you love? And how much love is enough?

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5) The Color Purplethe-color-purple

by Alice Walker

This book is by no means an easygoing read. The abuse Celie suffers during her life is hard to take, and guarantees almost continual tears. A really, really important novel.

Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to “Mister,” a brutal man who terrorizes her.

Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister’s letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.

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the-notebook4) The Notebook

by Nicholas Sparks

Wept while watching The Notebook? Read the book that sparked the film that single-handedly boosted tissue sales across the United States. A Southern belle, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, a love that outlasts no other. What more could you ask for?

Set amid the austere beauty of the North Carolina coast, The Notebook begins with the story of Noah Calhoun, a rural Southerner recently returned form the Second World War. Noah is restoring a plantation home to its former glory, and he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met fourteen years earlier, a girl he loved like no other.

Unable to find her, yet unwilling to forget the summer they spent together, Noah is content to live with only memories…until she unexpectedly returns to his town to see him once again.Like a puzzle within a puzzle, the story of Noah and Allie is just the beginning.

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3) Tuesdays with Morrietuesdays-with-morrie

by Mitch Albom

For anyone who has had that special mentor, and for everyone else who wished that they had. This book is so beautiful, you can almost forgive it for totally breaking your heart.

Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher, or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, helped you see the world as a more profound place, gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it. For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago.

Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, the insights faded and the world seemed colder. Wouldn’t you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you, receive the wisdom for your busy life today the way you once did when you were younger? Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man’s life. Knowing his old mentor was dying, Mitch visited Morrie in his study. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final ‘class’: lessons in how to live.

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atonement2) Atonement

by Ian McEwan

Who could forget Atonement‘s heart-breaking ending? Briony Tallis mistakes Cecilia and Robbie’s relationship for something far more sinister, and sparks into motion a chain of events that end up destroying their lives. The last chapter of this novel will sit with you like a permanent lump in your throat.

On the hottest day of the summer of 1934, thirteen- year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her is Robbie Turner, her childhood friend who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge.

By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had not even imagined at its start, and will have become victims of the younger girl’s imagination.

Briony will have witnessed mysteries, and committed a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.

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one-day1) One Day

by David Nicholls

Imagine the humour and sexual tension of Ross and Rachel’s will-they-won’t-they combined with the Breakfast Club’s poignant eighties angst. Now add a devastating twist that arrives just when you’re least expecting it, and you have One Day’s tragic punch. Do not read this in public, unless you are comfortable with being that slightly crazy sobbing lady at the back of the bus.

‘I can imagine you at forty,’ she said, a hint of malice in her voice. ‘I can picture it right now.’

He smiled without opening his eyes. ‘Go on then.’

15th July 1988. Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways.

So where will they be on this one day next year?

And the year after that? And every year that follows?

Twenty years, two people, ONE DAY.

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