Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers (4/5)

First published: 1951
Page count: 78

The back says: The Ballad of the Sad Café is set in a small town in Georgia and tells the story of Miss Amelia, a lonely somewhat eccentric storekeeper. Her unrequited love for the crippled Cousin Lymon helps her to become a kinder person, and the whole town benefits from the café she then opens. Unfortunately, Miss Amelia’s past catches up with her, bringing with it tragic consequences.

I say: This was an unexpectedly dark read. Possibly because I cannot recall where I heard about it or why I felt compelled to read it.

However, I am glad that it fell my way.

Amelia is a stern owner of a store in a small town where she is somewhat respected and feared by the townspeople. Earlier on in her life she was married for ten days, which ended in disaster, and after which she kept everyone at bay. That is until a “hunchback” shows up one day claiming to be her cousin. Much to everyone’s surprise, Amelia takes him in and through him and his desire to socialise turns the store into a café.

Now, everyone in town talks about her being in love with him, which I don’t necessarily disagree with, but I do not think it’s a romantic love so much as a deep friendship and gratitude towards someone who brings out the best in us.

We are told quite early on that it is going to end in disaster, which automatically means that I start looking for clues in everything. There’s a languidness to the story with sinister undertones that I really enjoyed and that kept me on my toes. Somehow I simultaneously expected the end to be worse and yet not as bad, meaning that the consequences were harsher than the event itself. The implications were a tad dark, even for me, and it left me rather dispirited. In a strangely pleasant way, I should add.

I like having my emotions jarred.


  1. Hmmm... One to look out for. If I see it I'll buy it, but I'll be hesitant to read it :)

    (I will, though!)

    1. Haha. Read it and be amazed (I hope).

      I have now borrowed from the library The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, also by McCullers. I expect amazing things.