I have been mulling this over for a while, yet it still might come out a little jumbled so bear with me. I was watching ‘The Café’ (a drama on the telly, but this post is about books) the other day and from about ten minutes in I knew I was going to love it. It’s situated in a café on a British seafront where the owner, her mother and her daughter (a jobless budding writer) spend most of their day chatting with its frequent customers. Sounds a bit non-descript so far but it’s honestly not. There’s a wonderful array of characters (a competitive old woman and a gay man who makes his living as a human statue are my favourites) a possible love story, but it’s the tone of the show that gets me the most. It’s in some parts utterly hilarious, in a gentle yet knowing way, and yet also in another moment quite heartbreaking – it is from some of the people behind The Royale Family so makes sense. I love the balance, which is pitch perfect in this case and am now desperate for books that match that balance of happy and sad in equal balance.
I should state I don’t mean any melancholy books, I also don’t just mean hilarious books. You see after an episode of the café I am left feeling a little emotional (I haven’t cried yet, but I can’t promise I won’t) but generally extremely uplifted and happy (from all the giggling) and like I have actually been part of the place, emotions and lives these characters inhabit.
I have been trying to think of examples and one, though it wasn’t quite perfect, was ‘A Spot of Bother’ by Mark Haddon (read pre-blog, its hard to imagine that time now). The last one I can recall doing just this was ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman which hit the exact note of making me laugh out loud before that heartbreaking sense in your gut from page to page, beautiful and spot on. I am sure there are others out there. I was tempted to say ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls (watch out for a Nicholls giveaway tomorrow) as it almost has that feel yet not quite. Maybe that’s because it is a love story (hence I haven’t mentioned ‘Bridget Jones Diary’ etc) rather than a family tale, and I am now thinking if a family at the heart of a happy-sad novel is what makes it work… Or maybe not? Maybe the atmosphere, tone, pitch and delivery have to be just right? Maybe it is just me and the mood I am in, maybe ‘happy-sad’ isn’t really a type of book, I think it is out there though, what say you?
Anyway if you have any recommendations of these sorts of stories I would love to hear about them (and you could win such a book as part of the Savidge Reads advent calendar today too) as I would like a lot more of them to immerse myself in during 2012, suggestions anyone?