With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Hannah Ryan Murphy and Aoife Rooney recall the first book that broke their hearts. Spoilers ahead!
'Harry Potter and The Order of Phoenix.' By J.K Rowling.*
- Hannah Ryan Murphy
It was the summer of 2013, and I had just finished my first year of secondary school. Facing three months off with nothing to do, I decided to try the Harry Potter series. Soon I became engrossed– the magical world of wizardry that jumped off the pages and I began to lose myself in Harry’s adventures.
Then came book five.
Now, this wasn’t the first time I’d felt emotional over a book. I’d been saddened over deaths and the heart-breaking ending of the Darren Shan series. I was distraught at the death in the first “I am Number Four” book, and I’d even shed a tear for Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, shocking myself, as I didn’t usually cry over books. But never before in my life had I sobbed uncontrollably, something which I did after reading: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Why? Well, in my opinion, the most gut-wrenching moment in the entire series takes place here. Sirius Black, the only family Harry has left, is killed protecting him, and Harry’s reaction, his guilt and initial denial, his anger and utter despair in Dumbledore’s office afterwards, made it all the more devastating. I felt every word of it as if I was living through it. I too kept waiting for him to come back, but just like Harry, I was left disappointed.
I felt every word of it as if I was living through it. I too kept waiting for him to come back, but just like Harry, I was left disappointed
Sirius was my favourite character. His death broke me. For the purpose of this article, I re-read his death scene to see if it elicited the same reaction and lo-and-behold, I cried all over again. Though I finished the series and re-read some of the books, I’ve never re-read the fifth one or any one after it, because reading about Harry’s world after Sirius’ death is too much for me. In my head, Sirius survived his fight with Bellatrix and lived a long, happy life with Harry after the war, and that’s what I’m going to continue to tell myself so I can move on with my life. J.K. Rowling who?
'A Child Called It.' By David Pelzer.
- Aoife Rooney
I noticed the smaller, worn book among a sea of James Patterson and David Baldacci novels, the spine sitting inwards, with just yellowed leaves pushed tightly together, willing me to investigate.
I first read Dave Pelzer’s A Child Called It at twelve years old, and it really did break my heart. The first memoir published by Pelzer, details the horrific emotional and physical abuse he endured from ages four to twelve at the hands of his mother while growing up in California in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The memoir, that I definitely read at too young an age, tells the story of a young David, trying to deal with an alcoholic mother, who throughout the course of the book, beats, stabs and burns him. Pelzer talks about how he is not treated like a child, or boy like his brothers are, but an ‘It’, who receives less care than the family dog.
The memoir, that I definitely read at too young an age, tells the story of a young David, trying to deal with an alcoholic mother, who throughout the course of the book, beats, stabs and burns him.
While the memoir is difficult to read, there are some particular events recounted by the author that are both horrific and heart-breaking. One of these is the depiction of the evening that Pelzer’s mother stabs her son’s torso just before his eleventh birthday, which was always a time he dreaded, as birthdays were synonymous with even greater torture.
What follows is heartbreaking. In a stream of consciousness passage, Pelzer depicts coming in and out of consciousness, he looks down to see his mother hastily trying to dress to wound. It is at this point he believes that he is finally free, as she will have no choice but to take him to the hospital. She leaves him, still pumping blood and gasping for breath, and tells him to hurry up and start washing the dishes. It was another two years before David was taken out of his family home and placed in foster care.
While this book is clearly a distressing read, one of the reasons I consider it the first book to break my heart was that when I read it, I was the same age as David, who was going through a childhood that could not have been more different than my own.