In general I try to avoid depressing books. Some people LOVE them because they find that they are the only true and realistic books out there.
To that statement, I call bull shit. A book does not have to be depressing to be real. Books that I categorize as beyond depressing are A Fine Balance and Freedom.
I'll start with A Fine Balance. It mainly follows four people in India in the 1970s- taking their lives from sad to pure and utter despair. I will say that I admire this book and would even recommend it to really understand deep pain and suffering around the world. The insight to life in India in the 1970s is greatly depressing and sad. To be flippant for a moment, I'd save yourself the hours of pain and suffering that it will take you to read all 624 pages and just watch Slumdog Millionaire a few times. Close to the same effect.
As for Freedom: Yes, in some parts Jonathon Franzen is able to be real and hit the nail on the head. (The Mom correctly points out to her son that fighting is good for a relationship that it allows the couple to grow and exchange ideas.) But as I was reading the 576 page book, I kept thinking about how I didn't like or even care about any of the characters. I am a character person. I want to feel for them; I want to route for them -- at least, in A Fine Balance I was routing for the four main characters. I was desperately hoping that life would get a bit better- at least for one of them. But in Freedom, I could have cared less.
Someone I know thought Freedom was the first novel that she had read that perfectly captured the intricacies of marriage and relationships. Relationships are intricate and life is complicated, but marriage and relationships can be fantastic, and they can grow- which was completely left out of the book. Maybe I am being naive. I have only been married for two years- so I still relish in the amazing-ness that is marriage and relationships. I choose to be positive. I choose to live life in a positive way and not to believe that their is only crap out there. Suffice it to say, I hated Freedom.
That said, I also recently read a depressing book that I loved and thought was really well written. It's called One Day. It follows one day a year of two friends/lovers and how their lives and relationships develop over those 20 years. I'll be honest, it's depressing (which is why it's included in the Depressing Book section), and sometimes the characters aren't all that great of people, but at least I found myself routing for them. And recently, I found out that the book is going to be a movie:
I don't know if I'll see the movie in theaters (I'll need a few full size boxes of tissues), but I will remember the message of the book. To live life, to enjoy life, and to be thankful for what I have.
Sometimes, I do want to read about the realness and hardships of the world. But most of the time, I want to read books that inspire me and that make me want to be a better person. Or books that just allow me to share in the happy moments of someone else's life (real or not). So that my friends is why in general, I avoid depressing books.
Next review: Inspiring Books.
What kind of books are you drawn to?