Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Ballad of the Sad Cafe” as Want to Read:
The Ballad of the Sad Cafe
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,495 Ratings  ·  563 Reviews
In The Ballad of the Sad Café, a tale of unrequited love, Miss Amelia, a spirited, unconventional woman, runs a small-town store and, except for a marriage that lasted just ten days, has always lived alone. Then Cousin Lymon appears from nowhere, a little, strutting hunchback who steals Miss Amelia's heart. Together they transform the store into a lively, popular café. But ...more
Paperback, Penguin Modern Classics, 160 pages
Published March 29th 2001 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1951)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Ballad of the Sad Cafe

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Sound and the Fury by William FaulknerIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteAs I Lay Dying by William FaulknerMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
Best Southern Gothic Literature
24th out of 114 books — 319 voters
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George OrwellAnimal Farm by George OrwellThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldLolita by Vladimir NabokovOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
Penguin Modern Classics
68th out of 293 books — 279 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nov 12, 2015 Dolors rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of words, music and whisky
“The Ballad of the Sad Café”, title of the story that gives name to this collection, includes seven short, in some cases, almost minimalistic tales. Each one of them enhances a different aspect of thematic lines recurrent in McCullers’ works: the isolation and the loneliness juxtaposed to selfless love in implausible triangular relationships.
What distinguishes these stories from others is the musical quality so idiosyncratic of McCullers’ voice along with the silent incursion of her evenly pace

McCullers is one I come to for a reckoning, much as I do with Faulkner and O'Connor. One may bundle them up and slot them neatly under the label of Southern Gothic, but that is not a guaranteed invocation of cathedrals crazed by fecundity of both soil and symptom, an American way of the crooked cross where faith is a matter of lust and amputation. While Faulkner plunges in chiaroscuro and O'Connor sears in holy fire, McCullers sings in the twilight of a human soul, casting back on its years
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Feb 02, 2015 Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
You know those authors; just when you think you've begun to catch your footing running up the landslide that is all the books and authors you want to read, someone trips you up by mentioning, I don't know, "Carson McCullers," and suddenly you're all shaky-clenched fists and "durmurt, foiled again!" Well, (not Johnny) Carson (not Daily) McCullers, I know a bit about you now, and I think I could love you.

*We have lost soul losers who keep on losing.
*Not everyone is completely hollowed out by cycl
Aug 04, 2015 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title novella's Miss Amelia, with her way of dressing and behaving, had me wondering at first if she might be a grown-up Frankie (from The Member of the Wedding), though perhaps Miss Amelia hasn't grown up, at least not in the conventional sense; and unconventional is certainly the word for the story's love triangle. The omniscient narrator's (balladeer's?) riffs on the lover and the beloved had me thinking of Proust, though the straightforward prose couldn't be more different from his.

The m
I've noticed many folks who read and review literature on this site will namedrop other authors in a sort of Iron Chef flowery manner of description, knowing that other literary folk will instantly understand what is meant when saying 'this prose invokes a similar sense of spring as Lord Bigbeard With Tiny Spectacles, and a harmonious interplay of flavors identical to Oppressed In Her Time Strong Woman Author' (I swear every episode of Iron Chef used the spring and harmony phrases, it was like " ...more
Feb 07, 2013 Mariel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: couraged to flourish and muses often
Recommended to Mariel by: Now slow-mo Quasimoto teeter on
She felt that the marrows of her bones were hollow and there was no blood left in her. Her heart that had been springing against her chest all afternoon felt suddenly dead. She saw it gray and limp and shriveled at the edges like an oyster.
His face seemed to throb out in space before her, come closer with the lurching motion in the veins of his temples. In retreat, she looked down at the piano. Her lips shook like jelly and a surge of noiseless tears made the white keys blur in a watery line. 'I
Barry Pierce
In this collection of short stories, Carson McCullers shows that not only can she break you with her prose but she can do it with only a couple of short pages. The main story, The Ballad of the Sad Café, is quintessentially McCullers. Set in the South with a cast melancholy characters. Can you get more McCullers!? The prose is dripping with sand and dust. Even though this story takes up roughly half of the whole book, it wasn't my favourite in the collection. I loved Madame Zilensky and the King ...more
Jul 29, 2013 Algernon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013

The town itself is dreary; not much is there except the cotton mill, the two-room houses where workers live, a few peach trees, a church with two colored windows, and a miserable main street only a hundred yards long. On Saturdays the tenants from the near-by farms come in for a day of talk and trade. Otherwise the town is lonesome, sad, and like a place that is far off and estranged from all the other places in the world.

I picked the book mostly based on the title. Mccullers seems to have a k
Mar 07, 2014 Melanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
There is a dark, syrupy sway to Carson's work that I've always been a sucker for. The Ballad of the Sad Café is faultless.
I devoured it.

She employs her signature style study on heartbreak, cruelty & loneliness, as seen with The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

Set in a town that is 'lonesome, sad, and like a place that is far off and estranged from all other places in the world', with a striking central character Miss Amelia, whose violent & abrupt marriage inspires her to adopt years of solit
Jun 02, 2010 Abailart rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I've just read this again after more than half a lifetime. The town hasn't changed. The intense feelings and moods are as I remember; the grotesqueries, the eroticism which is inverted into a thrilling sense of dread are the same. The book is the stuff of dreams. It's wetly lyrical, swamp stinking and dry, horrible and very, very funny. Biting in its demolition of cherished character types, a distorting mirror of the absurd upon the southern mythologies. The cafe, of course, is sad because it's ...more
Nov 02, 2008 Trevor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
There are seven stories in this volume – of them I would guess that in six month time I will remember only two. Those are the title story and the story called The Sojourner. And to celebrate, those are the only stories I’ll talk about here except to say that one of the problems I found with the other stories was that they lacked a real sense of place.

McCullers's The Heart is a Lonely Hunter has been one of the most remarkable books I’ve read all year – perhaps it will become one of my favourite
This is an excellent collection, with the titled novella being my favorite and having some truly wonderful prose throughout. It struck me as a southern tall tale crossed with that terrible "love gone wrong" plus Southern Gothic. So many parts equal a glorious whole for the reader if not for Miss Amelia.The descriptions of the café and the changes wrought on the town and its inhabitants are exciting to read, so full of life.

But the pride that the café brought to this town had an
effect on almost
Poignant short story of repressed feelings, mystery and missed opportunity in a small impoverished southern community, concerning Miss Amelia, cousin Lymon the hunchback, and Marvin Macy.

It also contains several even shorter stories in the book, several with an overtly musical theme - like the title of this volume, much of her other work and indeed her life. In particular, Wunderkind probably echoes her thwarted plans to study at the Juliard (she lost the fees on the subway, so took a creative
Note: Spoilers Ahead

The novella "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" is a Southern Gothic work with eccentric, lonely characters in a rundown Georgia town. Miss Amelia Evans is a six foot two inch rugged woman. She's the owner of a general store, and does a bit of healing with herbs on the side to help the townspeople. They gossip about her ten day marriage to Marvin Macy which ended after she refused his sexual advances. Marvin left town for a life of crime, and landed in the penitentiary.

A hunchback d
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I always enjoy Carson McCullers and this collection was no different.

The best two stories were the title story and Wunderkind.

I went looking after I heard this bit from the title story:

"...Every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. So there is only one thing for the lover to do. He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole ne
Jun 11, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
I'm focusing on "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" for my review, but the book also includes other short stories.

Miss Amelia runs the store in an impoverished, dull town where nothing much happens. She is a tough, business-like character with a harsh life and a hard attitude. She is respected, and slightly feared, in the town although she is consulted as a 'medicine woman' and treats all who come asking for her advice with their ailments.

Change occurs when a stranger, Lymon Willis, enters the town. He
Diane S ☔
Jul 13, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this story. Can see it a an Appalachian country ballad set to music. The St Wunderkind was very good too,. She is such an authentic writer, very attuned to time and place.
I will write reviews as I complete each story.
Seven stories and seven different narrators:
David Ledoux, Joe Barrett, Therese Plummer, Kevin Pariseau, Suzanne Toren, Edoardo Ballerini, Barbara Rosenblat
I have asked Audible to tell me which narrator narrated which story. Have yet to receive a reply.
The Ballad of the Sad Café :
3 stars
What I liked was the feel of the town. It was an entity in itself. The townspeople are not individuals, but a group. Oft
Aug 13, 2014 Zanna rated it really liked it
McCullers' voice in this haunting tale (like that of Ngugi wa Thiong'o in A Grain of Wheat) often takes on the folk ballad posture of an anonymous (or perhaps dispersed) community member. She labours over the authenticity of this tone, fleshing it with a complete vocabulary of cultural experience available in the town, emphasising its remote status and insularity without superiority, and often repudiating stereotype. Despite this refusal to retreat to the default god-author position, she is able ...more
Meghan Krogh
Jul 01, 2016 Meghan Krogh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xx
Technically, perfect. Emotionally, I never finish a Carson McCullers without feeling really down.
Dec 10, 2012 Tfitoby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tfitoby by: Melanie
Shelves: lit, short-stories
Carson McCullers is beloved of those Southern Literary Trailers who flow through my Goodreads timeline, receiving regular glowing praise. I've never felt the urge to read Lonely Hunter, but on finding this intriguing (and slight) old Penguin I knew it was my time to meet Ms McCullers.

The titular novella is quite something. A haunting tale of a human triangle that culminates in an astonishing brawl, the story of Miss Amelia, a formidable southern woman whose cafe serves as the town's gathering pl
Oct 03, 2014 Shaun rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
Carson McCullers was obviously a talented writer, and while I didn't love "The Ballad of Sad Cafe" with a capital "L"(personal preference kind of thing), I did enjoy the other short stories included.

Recommend this to those who appreciate the "literary" genre. I haven't read a lot of Eudora Welty's work, but "The Ballad of Sad Cafe" reminded me of the one novella I did read by Welty, The Robber Bridegroom, in terms of story telling and overall quality of writing.
Razvan Zamfirescu
Spicuiri din recenzia finala care se gaseste pe blogul meu

Volumul de la Polirom adună 7 povestiri dintre care doar trei mi-au plăcut în mod deosebit: Balada tristei cafenele, O problemă domestică și Un copac, o stâncă, un nor.

Nu are rost să vă spun despre ce este vorba în fiecare povestire pentru că, până la urmă, v-aș fura tot ce este mai fain și interesant în volumașul de față, însă am să vă spun pe scurt că într-una este vorba despre felul în care dr
I liked the eponymous novella and “A Domestic Dilemma”, other stories not so much, 3 stars is the overall rating for the collection.
May 16, 2012 Mosca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Although I live today in the rural Southwestern US, I was born and bred in the american South. I left in 1975 at the age of 25. There was/is much to become alienated with about the South; the racism, the right-wing idealogies, the chauvanism, the narrow-minded parochialism. But there is much to love also: The vast and complex flora--springtime lasts five months; and each week there seem to be at least four different varieties of flowers in bloom! The lay of the
May 22, 2016 Steven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although the other short stories in this collection were really good it's Carson McCullers ability to write about the sad and lonely nature of small town life that really showcases her talent, and in 'The Ballad of the Sad Cafe' she has beautifully crafted a simple and somewhat bewildering little tale that involves three main parties, the lady owner of a small store(which would later become a cafe), a strange hunchback who she takes to her heart, and her ex con husband who is back in town and lo ...more
Aug 26, 2008 Christina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The Ballad of the Sad Café” has an intensity which I can only liken to a Tennessee Williams play. Fantastic. McCullers mixes odd, complex characters together (like a wandering hunchback, the wealthiest woman of a small town, and the bad apple who is her ex-husband) and manages to make their stories believable. As satisfying as a large novel.

Interesting to note in “Wunderkind” another young woman with an almost painful yearning to play and be one with classical music, similar to Mick Kelly in Th
May 22, 2016 Jana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lovely, touching words. All stories deal with loss, loneliness and time, and yet they are all completely different. The use of music in plot and musical language in metaphors are particularly fantastic. Gosh.
May 15, 2016 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book somewhere in Frankfurt while attending the famous Frankfurter Buchmesse (which was quite an extraordinary experience, by the way). There was a 5 books 5 euro deal going on and The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories was my fifth. I knew nothing about its author or its content, but the title seemed to call out for me.
There, for a few hours at least, the deep bitter knowing that you are not worth much in this world could be laid low.

The Ballad of the Sad Café was, without a
Another little gem that should not be missed by all American fiction fans.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • A Curtain of Green and Other Stories
  • Let the Dead Bury Their Dead
  • The Little Disturbances of Man
  • Pale Horse, Pale Rider
  • The Lonely Hunter: A Biography of Carson McCullers
  • In a German Pension: 13 Stories
  • The Grass Harp, Including A Tree of Night and Other Stories
  • The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake
  • Selected Stories
  • The Magic Barrel
  • My Sister's Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles
  • Ladies and Gentlemen
  • Night Soul and Other Stories
  • After Rain
  • I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down: Collected Stories
  • Julia and the Bazooka and Other Stories
  • Poachers
  • A Childhood: The Biography of a Place
Carson McCullers was an American who wrote fiction, often described as Southern Gothic, that explores the spiritual isolation of misfits and outcasts of the South.

From 1935 to 1937 she divided her time, as her studies and health dictated, between Columbus and New York and in September 1937 she married an ex-soldier and aspiring writer, Reeves McCullers. They began their married life in Charlotte,
More about Carson McCullers...

Share This Book

“First of all, love is a joint experience between two persons — but the fact that it is a joint experience does not mean that it is a similar experience to the two people involved. There are the lover and the beloved, but these two come from different countries. Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which had lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. So there is only one thing for the lover to do. He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward world — a world intense and strange, complete in himself. Let it be added here that this lover about whom we speak need not necessarily be a young man saving for a wedding ring — this lover can be man, woman, child, or indeed any human creature on this earth.

Now, the beloved can also be of any description. The most outlandish people can be the stimulus for love. A man may be a doddering great-grandfather and still love only a strange girl he saw in the streets of Cheehaw one afternoon two decades past. The preacher may love a fallen woman. The beloved may be treacherous, greasy-headed, and given to evil habits. Yes, and the lover may see this as clearly as anyone else — but that does not affect the evolution of his love one whit. A most mediocre person can be the object of a love which is wild, extravagant, and beautiful as the poison lilies of the swamp. A good man may be the stimulus for a love both violent and debased, or a jabbering madman may bring about in the soul of someone a tender and simple idyll. Therefore, the value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover himself.

It is for this reason that most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone wants to be the lover. And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many. The beloved fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. For the lover is forever trying to strip bare his beloved. The lover craves any possible relation with the beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain.”
“But the hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes. The heart of a hurt child can shrink so that forever afterward it is hard and pitted as the seed of a peach. Or again, the heart of such a child may fester and swell until it is a misery to carry within the body, easily chafed and hurt by the most ordinary things.” 116 likes
More quotes…