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The Ballad of the Sad Cafe Book Review

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe Book Review

I have just read The Ballad of the Sad Cafe the first book in my attempt to read 100 penguin modern classics. This project is based on the authors in the one hundred writers in one box postcards set. My aim is to read one book by each of them and share them with you  here.

I picked Carson McCullers as my first author for several reasons. I loved her photo; she looks like a young girl with old wise eyes and her photograph intrigued me.

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She was born in 1917 in Georgia and she was an early musical prodigy who also loved to write. Her life was full of losses, ill health, divorce and attempted suicides as well as creativity, opportunity and success. She was clearly a brilliant woman beset by misfortunes who died young but who left a real mark on the literary world. You can read more about her here. For a woman of her time she was very ‘modern’.


Ballad of a Sad Cafe is a novella and forms part of a collection of short stories. It was published in 1951 and is set in a small poor town in Georgia  Georgia It is a strange and haunting story and I have thought about it a lot since I read. it. It centres on an unusual  character called Miss Amelia and how she unexpectedly falls in love with Cousin Lymon, (described  as ‘the hunchback’)

Rather stereotypically Cousin Lymon is seen by all as a rather grotesque character in both looks and personality but Miss Amelia fulls for him completely. Her world turns upside down her and her shop became a cafe for the community.  Her world of order and routine and loneliness comes to revolve around pleasing this man she inexplicably loves. Sadly this love does not seem to be returned.

Of course (as in all gritty stories) trouble comes to town. Trouble comes in the guise of Miss Amelia’s ex-husband Macy who is out for revenge and whom Cousin Lymon completely comes to adore.  It is a tale of unrequited love, adoration without reason and revenge.

The atmosphere and the descriptions are so evocative you become completely immersed in this strange story. Fascinating and eerie stuff.

Did I like it? No, it wasn’t pleasant to read.  But it was powerful and evocative and  I have huge empathy for Miss Amelia. A very strange tale. I am glad I read it.

Impossible to forget.

I hoped you enjoyed my post on The Ballad of the Sad Cafe Book Review

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