Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made You Cry

This week’s topic is “Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases for the Rest of 2015” but since I’m not hugely into contemporary fiction, and am not even aware of any particular books that are going to be released for the rest of the year, I thought I’d tackle an older topic instead.

Books that made you cry.

That seems wildly appropriate at the moment, as I’m 36.5 weeks pregnant and getting teary over all sorts of things lately, like sweet photos of my nieces and nephew cuddling together (understandable) and my husband recounting a scene from ’90s comedy he watched the other night (downright silly). So a good book with a couple anguishing scenes is sure to turn on the waterworks these days.

Let’s do this, then!

1. The Midwife by Jennifer Worth
The Midwife I re-read half this marvellous book when I was pregnant with my daughter and could not finish it for the heart-wrenching stories of women in such difficult situations. The East End of London after the second World War was apparently a hardscrabble place to live; but the hard hearts of people on top of the lack of work, housing and food left me flooding my pillow with tears.

2. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
Anne of Green GablesI love everything about Anne of Green Gables, and one thing that LM Montgomery shows so well is that when we open our hearts to love, we also open our hearts to the pain of loss and death. The chapter “The Bend in the Road” breaks my heart every time I re-read this lovely story.

3. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
MillWho could but weep reading these tortured, impassioned words of Stephen Guest? “Perhaps they have told you some such fable about me. Perhaps they tell you I have been ‘travelling.’ My body has been dragged about somewhere; but I have never travelled from the hideous place where you left me . . . Maggie! Whose pain can have been like mine? Whose injury is like mine? Who besides me has met that long look of love that has burnt itself into my soul, so that no other image can come there?” If a brief letter can say so much, imagine what the whole of the novel will do to a reader.

4. The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers
Last Sin EaterIf there is one thing that makes me cry in a book, it is the raw heartache of fraught relationships between parents and children. This book is mostly about social divisions that form when the gospel is brought to a tiny Appalachian village, but it begins with a lot of soul-rubbing bitterness between a grieving mother and daughter.

5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Jane_Eyre_book_coverAnother book that gets me every time. Every word in Jane Eyre is powerful and full of passion – and Jane’s agony when she discovers that Mr. Rochester has deceived her is excruciating.


6. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
gone with the windGone with the Wind gave me my first ‘literary hangover.’ I sobbed my way through the end of the novel and languished for days after finishing it, heartsick over Scarlett’s dreadful, callous selfishness, wondering how a person could care so little for the people in her life. A tearful hour describing Scarlett and Rhett’s relationship and the ending of the novel to my husband finally purged the hangover away, but left me timid about re-reading this wonderful novel again any time soon.

7. Little Women by Louisa May AlcotLittle Women
I’m sure I can’t have been the only one who was emotionally devastated when Jo refused Laurie’s proposal!

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Places in Literature

1. Prince Edward Island in Jane of Lantern Hill by LM Montgomery: LM Montgomery had a gift for describing the beauty of the world and the sense of home her characters had because of that beauty. Here’s one example, from Jane of Lantern Hill.

There was a tangle of sunbeams on the bare white floor. They could see the maple wood through the east window, the gulf and the pond and the dunes through the north, the harbour through the west. Winds of the salt seas were blowing in. Swallows were swooping through the evening air. Everything she looked at belonged to dad and her . . .

Dad did not always read from the masters. One day he took to the shore a thin little volume of poems by Bernard Freeman Trotter. “I knew him overseas . . . he was killed . . . listen to his song about the poplars, Jane: ‘And so I sing the poplars and when I come to die / I will not look for jasper walls but cast about my eye / For a row of wind-blown poplars against an English sky.’ What will you want to see when you get to heaven, Jane?”

“Lantern Hill,” said Jane.

2. Helstone Cottage in North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell: Margaret returns to rural Helstone after living in a smoky, crowded city and is moved by its loveliness. I had the same feeling last month on leaving bustling, wintry Hamilton to visit my parents’ farm in British Columbia. ☺

But as she returned across the common, the place was reinvested with the old enchanting atmosphere. The common sounds of life were more musical there than anywhere else in the whole world, the light more golden, the life more tranquil and full of dreamy delight.

3. The place where Aslan is in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis: I could barely choke out these words while reading this part of the book to my son last month.

“Please, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Before we go, will you tell us when we can come back to Narnia again? Please. And oh, do, do, do make it soon.”
“Dearest,” said Aslan very gently, “you and your brother will never come back to Narnia.”
“Oh, Aslan!” said Edmund and Lucy both together in despairing voices.
“You are too old, children,” said Aslan, “and you must begin to come close to your own world now.”
“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me there, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are – are you there, too, Sir?” asked Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

4. The Shire in The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien: I don’t have a quote for this one, but I love the cozy English village feel of the Shire, with its tasty beer, convivial atmosphere and snug little homes with real fires burning in the fireplaces.

5. The Roman Empire in A Voice of the Wind by Francine Rivers: I’ve always found the ancient Roman Empire fascinating. This story moves from the Jerusalem temple as it’s being destroyed to the homes of barbarian warriors in remote Germania to the wealthy, pagan cities of Rome and Ephesus. Mesmerizing!

6. The High City in St. George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges: a glittering vision of the heavenly city.

There against the evening sky they saw a mountaintop that touched the highest heavens. It was crowned with a glorious palace, sparkling like stars and circled with walls and towers of pearls and precious stones. Joyful angles were coming and going between heaven and the High City.

High City

7. The golden realm of childhood in The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot:

The two slight youthful figures soon grew indistinct on the distant road – were soon lost behind the projecting hedgerow. They had gone forth together into their new life of sorrow and they would never more see the sunshine undimmed by remembered cares. They had entered the thorny wilderness, and the golden gates of their childhood had for ever closed behind them.

8. Pemberley House in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: the splendid building that first made Elizabeth think of what it’d be like to be Mrs. Darcy. ☺

They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; – and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal, nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration.

Yep, I can imagine myself living here . . .

Yep, I can imagine myself living here . . .

9. London in Bleak House by Charles Dickens: O London, with its sprawling never-endingness and bustling crowds of people and no end of things to see and do!

I’m linking up with the Broke & the Bookish again for Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten Tuesday: Inspiring Quotes from Books

I’m linking up with the Broke and the Bookish again for Top Ten Tuesday; this week’s meme is Inspiring Quotes from Books – which actually made me realize that my commonplace book is full of poetry quotes, but only a few quotes from books. Will have to rectify that!


“Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment, I never knew myself.”
– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

jane eyre

“I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you–especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.”
– Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

george eliot

“There are few prophets in the world; few sublimely beautiful women; few heroes. I can’t afford to give all my love and reverence to such rarities: I want a great deal of those feelings for my everyday fellow-men, especially for the few in the foreground of the great multitude, whose faces I know, whose hands I touch, for whom I have to make way with kindly courtesy.”
– George Eliot, Adam Bede


“‘The way of humility. Ah,’ thought Margaret, ‘that is what I have missed! But courage, little heart. We will turn back and by God’s help we may find the lost path.'”
– Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South


“Emelina and I just took each other in. All morning I’d felt the strange disjuncture that comes from reconnecting with your past. There’s such a gulf between yourself and who you were then, but people speak to that other person and it answers; it’s like having a stranger as a house guest in your skin.”
– Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

aslan pic

“At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”
– CS Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe


“Everything had changed. Anne felt that she would be glad when the summer was over and she was away at work again. Perhaps life would not seem so empty then.
‘I’ve tried the world – it wears no more
The colouring of romance it wore’

sighed Anne – and was straightaway much comforted by the romance in the idea of the world being denuded of romance!
– LM Montgomery, Anne of the Island

jean webster

“Did you ever hear of such a discouraging series of events? It isn’t the big troubles in life that require character. Anybody can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage, but to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh – I really think that requires spirit.”
Jean Webster, Daddy Long Legs

If You Loved Jane Eyre, Try These Seven Books

If I had to choose a favourite novel, I’d pick Jane Eyre.  There’s so much to love about it!  Charlotte Bronte’s writing is vibrant, the dialogue between Jane and Mr. Rochester sparks with energy, and the spooky gothic elements make the book a little darker and a little richer.  And Jane herself is a marvellously complex and venerable character, full of passion and moral fortitude.  In China Mieville’s words, “Charlotte Brontë’s heroine towers over those around her, morally, intellectually and aesthetically; she’s completely admirable and compelling . . .  She takes a scalpel to the skin of the every day.”

Here are seven more books to try if you, like me, loved Jane Eyre:

northanger abbey 1. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – Jane Eyre has an element of the gothic about it (secret wife hidden up in the attic, the mysterious communication across the miles that occurs between Jane and Mr. Rochester, etc.). For an entertaining read that pokes fun of the genre of gothic novels, try Northanger Abbey. It’s the story of Catherine Morland, a young woman whose vibrant imagination gets her into all sorts of trouble while she visits Northanger Abbey, the home of a young man she admires.

adam bede 2. Adam Bede or The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot – Charlotte Bronte is an expert in exploring the mental landscape of her characters, and George Eliot is equally gifted in this regard. I read Adam Bede earlier this year and found her insights into the hearts of Adam, Hetty and Dinah very moving, and though I’m just in the early stages of reading The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot seems equally up to the task in that novel.


gone 3. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – I love the lively, witty dialogue between Jane and Mr. Rochester, and, for me, the only other book whose dialogue has come close is Gone with the Wind.  Rhett Butler’s words are snappy and passionate and make you appreciate every moment of his presence.


144852 4. Emma Brown by Clare Boylan – at her death, Charlotte Bronte left behind the first twenty pages of a novel titled Emma which Clare Boylan uses as the first two chapters of her novel that centres on the mysterious identity of a young girl deposited at a small boarding school. The book is a little melodramatic, and a fair bit of 21st century sensibilities seep through, but it’s still fun to read and to wonder where Charlotte Bronte would have taken the story.

a6da9cc604de267b7da60f4965ac8fb1 5. The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery – the feel of Jane Eyre and The Blue Castle are totally different, but there are a few similarities between the novels, namely the oppressive households in which orphans Jane and Valancy are raised, and the unorthodox road to love they each take. Plus the happy endings in both novels are sweetly satisfying.


Daughter-of-the-forest6. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier – there’s a small element of the fairytale in Jane Eyre: she’s thinking of the Gytrash (a North-of-England spirit) when she meets Mr. Rochester, and afterwards he frequently refers to her appearance as unearthly and elf-like, even suggesting that she bewitched his horse. If you’d like to dive straight into a fairytale, try Daughter of the Forest, a loose retelling of The Six Swans in which a young woman must maintain complete silence while weaving shirts from nettles in order to return her brothers to human form.

51yC01qKOWL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 7. The Brontes by Juliet Barker – a comprehensive and compelling biography of Branwell, Charlotte, Anne and Emily Bronte. Well over 1000 pages, it’s a daunting book, but it’s fascinating reading for anyone interested in learning more about Charlotte Bronte’s life. Particularly intriguing are the passages about the elaborate imaginary worlds the siblings created and the unexpected and tender romance near the end of Charlotte’s life.

I’m linking up with the Broke and the Bookish again today.  See more “Ten Books for Readers Who Liked . . . ” posts there!

Favourite Heroines in Books

I’m linking up with the Broke and the Bookish again, this time for a list of my favourite literary heroines. Here we go:


1. Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre) – Jane has a spirit that won’t be squashed, despite being orphaned, oppressed by her relatives and deprived of the basic comforts of food and warmth at school. She’s resilient, capable and passionate, and she has the courage of her convictions.

2. Anne Elliot (Persuasion) – both Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen created characters outside the convention for heroines: Jane Eyre is plain, and Anne Elliot has lost the bloom of her youth. Like Jane, Anne triumphs as a character (though she’s not as sprightly as Jane). She’s loyal and kind, patient and passionate. And I admire Anne for looking back on her life and not regretting being guided by principle, even though it cost her a great deal.

3. Lucy (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) – Lucy’s sweet, true and awfully brave for such a young lass.

4. Pat Gardiner (Pat of Silver Bush, Mistress Pat) – Pat’s an unusual heroine in that she’s quite fearful of change in her life. But her heart gradually opens up to new experiences and to love, and it’s beautiful to see the change in her.

5. Jo March (Little Women) – Jo has a passionate zest for life, she’s driven and she’s such a good friend and sister.

6. Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice) – witty, lively and possessing a set of fine eyes, I’m sure Elizabeth is on many a Top Ten Heroine list. What I like best about her: she holds her own with the formidable Mr. Darcy and she’s not afraid to admit her faults.

7. Eowyn (Lord of the Rings) – it’s been a while since I read LOTR, but I recall being drawn to Eowyn for her unrequited love of a good man, her lack of self-pity and the way in which she chose healing over the sword.

How about you? Who are you favourite literary heroines?

Top Ten Books I Want To Read


1. At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald – a Victorian fairy tale about a young boy and a beautiful woman who personifies the North Wind. I really enjoyed The Princess and the Goblin last year and would like to read more by GM.

2. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – a fellow book-clubber highly recommended this debut novel about an Icelandic woman charged with murder.

3. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson – an epistolary love story written in the 18th century; it has the dubious distinction of being one of the longest novels ever written . . . but if the writing is excellent, perhaps that’ll be a delight?

Cold Mary

4. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons – any time a review notes the writing has the “comic aplomb of Evelyn Waugh” I take notice. This is a story of a young woman going to live with relatives at Cold Comfort Farm, where cows are named Feckless, Aimless, Pointless and Graceless. Sounds rather droll!

5. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset – a long character-driven story set in medieval Norway. Sounds delicious!

6. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell – I enjoyed North & South, and so have been contemplating reading another novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. This one looks interesting.

peace mill

7. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot – George Eliot creates beautiful and believable characters, and there’s nothing I love more than a well-crafted character-driven novel. I read Adam Bede in January and loved it, so I’m looking forward to reading more GE novels.

8. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger – I’ve been thinking about reading this book for about a year as it’s listed as many book bloggers favourite novel, and a recent post by Anne in which she said, “I don’t know if I’ve found a more lovable girl than Swede since Anne Shirley” made me want to read it all the more!

9. The Sea of Tranquility by Katya MillayModern Mrs. Darcy describes this YA novel as unputdownable and one of her favourite books of 2014.

10. The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery – I read most of L.M. Montgomery’s novels last year but missed this one. I love her bubbly, tender stories of love and friendship.

I’m linking up with The Broke and the Bookish again for Top Ten Tuesdays.

Top Ten Books I’d Like to Read With My Book Club

I love being a part of a book club; there are few things more enjoyable than delving into the meat of a book with literary-minded friends. Here’s my list of ten books I’d love to discuss:

Collage One

Books I’ve Read/Am Currently Reading:
1. The Divine Comedy by Dante – I’m currently half-way through The Inferno and find the vivid imagery so striking (and gruesome!). I’d love to explore the book in more depth.
2. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – when I finished reading GWTW last year, I was so full of riotous emotions I just had to talk to someone about it! My husband ended up patiently listening my thoughts, but a book club would have been the perfect forum for all that venting.
3. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – while movies (Cast Away) and reality TV shows (Survivor) focus mostly on physical survival, Robinson Crusoe uses his desertion as a means to plumb the depths of his spiritual life. Utterly compelling.
4. Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers – I finished reading this book last week and while the mystery really bored me, I was fascinated by slowly developing relationship between Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane – so much intellectual headache involved! I’d love to hear what others think . . .

Collage Two

Books I Haven’t Yet Read:
5. Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory or The Once and Future King by T.H. White – we’ve started reading our son some Arthurian stories (he loves The Kitchen Knight by Margaret Hodges) and I’d love to have a deeper knowledge of the legends myself.
6. The Mill on the Floss or Silas Marner by George Eliot – I finished Adam Bede earlier this month and was blown away by George Eliot’s beautiful and believable characters. I’d love to read more of her novels!
7. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger – Sarah Mackenzie describes this as a broken story in which “good is good, bad is bad, and bad wins.” Sounds like the perfect book to read carefully and discuss thoroughly!
8. Any book by Marilynne Robinson (Housekeeping, Gilead, Lila) – I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Marilynne Robinson’s writing that I feel sure her books would be excellent for book club.
9. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset – a really, really long character-driven story set in medieval Norway. Absolutely up my alley!
10. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – this was listed as a favourite book of 2014 by so many bloggers. My curiosity is piqued. 🙂

I’m linking up with The Broke & the Bookish today for Top Ten Tuesday (in which every every week a new Top Ten list is posted).