Why? It's because I am afraid that I'll have to go through pain. I don't mean some imaginary pain, but true physical pain. I'm either too sensitive or my imagination is too vivid, or both. Whatever the reason, when I'm reading a book and a character is suffering (I mean severely suffering), I'm feeling his or her pains in my body.
A particular page of a sensitive author may well have revived a prostrate soul: and I who read the page, I who am touched by it . . . by feeling similar emotions I enter into some sort of communion with those whose fate I so deeply grieve. (Germaine de Staël, The Influence of Literature upon Society)For example, I've recently read Michelle Moran's Madame Tussaud and it was a very difficult and disturbing reading for me precisely because I was feeling constant pain. Do not misunderstand me. I truly liked Moran's writing style and I heartily recommend her book. But, her vivid description of the events of the French Revolution triggered my empathy for the innocent people and what they had been through which in turn was causing me instant pain.
So, poorly written books cannot frighten me; in worst-case scenario, I can simply abandon them. By contrast, well-written books with a lot of suffering can cause me sleepless nights and heartaches, especially if I can't get those vivid pictures out of my head. This is the reason why I'm particularly afraid of reading Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, which is number 27 on my Classics Club list.
And, what about you? Does your body aches sometimes, when you're reading tragic stories? Do you have restless nights?