I just finished with I Am Half-Sick of Shadows , and it left me so incredibly sad. I've always been particularly empathetic to fictional worlds. Whether they exist in books, movies, or even commercials, I've found myself holding back sobs at some depiction of sadness or incredible happiness. I think that's one of the reasons I found such solace in books as a child. Whenever I was unhappy, or bored, I could just plant myself in the narrative of someone else- feel their emotions for a while. I think most voracious readers experience this. After a while, I had to learn to disengage myself. Often, if interrupted during a particularly intense scene, I tend to take out the emotions of the character- or the emotions I feel on behalf of the character- on those who surround me.
I've had to be wary of particularly depressing books for this reason. When faced with a work of fiction that isn't concluded happily, or has significant amount of sadness throughout the story, I tend to become melancholic for long periods of time. It's why I never saw P.S. I Love You, or read the novel. I can usually tell right off the bat which books are just going to make me miserable.
That's why this came as such a surprise. I expected a lighthearted mystery and adventure through the eyes of a precocious little girl. Instead, what I got was transported into an incredibly lonely childhood. I'm not sure what exactly made this book more sad than the others in the series. Perhaps it's the Christmas setting- a time normally reserved for fiction devoted to familial togetherness and good cheer. Perhaps it was just that the actual murder mystery was rather lacking. The plot was rather thin, and clues were never really thrown in properly. Rather than a long, drawn out puzzle in which red herrings are eventually explained, and motives are really schemed at, you get a few scattered clues and a speedy end to the overall mystery (though I was left with quite a few unanswered questions- like what the hell the chauffer had to do with anything).
In any case, this book reminded me of the loneliest times of my childhood. In that respect, Alan Bradley did a wonderful job of creating an entirely believable girl. I could remember doing foolish things at that age, without thought of consequence (though never on the scale of setting off fireworks). I can remember trying to build inventions that would "catch" the tooth fairy. It also hit home that this little girl who has faced so much death and has missed out on so many potential friendships is my sister's age. An age of awkwardness and isolation that can only really be endured by having at least one good friend who is going through the same thing. Flavia lacks this.
Perhaps another reason the depression resonated with me is because I'm still missing Monkey. While he at least has phone access at this point, it almost makes it harder. Feeling lonely has become a bit normal for me. At least, unlike Flavia, I do have friends, and this feeling will be over in less than two weeks.
I think I'm going to have to at least start reading a happier book before I'm able to go to sleep tonight. The last thing I want to do is go to bed with that sort of depressing aura.