Feelgood or Uplit?

“Feelgood ” refers to films or books that portray people and life in a way that makes us feel happy or optimistic. “Uplit” – a new term which I found in The Guardian and which is derived from “uplifting literature” – seems to mean the same thing. It works best when there is some sadness, some realism, to act as a foil for the reasons to hope.

Looking at my recent favourite reads, I see that  they all fall into this category. (And by the way, they are all by women). For example: Joanna Cannon’s The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Three Things about Elsie; Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry; Ruth Hogan’s The Keeper of Lost Things; Elizabeth Strout’s  Anything is Possible;  Frances Garrood’s Dead Earnest. 

A brilliant example of “uplit” is Sarah Winman’s Tin Man with its sunflower-yellow cover and its motif of light and sunflowers. Matt Haig has said “It breaks your heart and warms it all at once.” The kindness of strangers is a recurrent theme – unknown people returning a bike after an accident,  giving a fiver to an unhappy boy – caring colleagues and neighbours – the list is too long to quote here. People forgiving, finding excuses for each other: my favourite is ” He’s just used to being a bastard, he’s one of those men who’ve discovered later he’s got a heart. Makes him a better dancer.” This novel shows friendships across generations, between men who have been lovers, between a woman and her husband’s beloved friend, across cultures. And it tells us that people can manage, “can handle things.”

It seems that “uplit” is becoming a popular sub-genre.

Do you share my enthusiasm?  What would you add to my selection? And are there classics that fit the bill –  War and Peace partly does, I think, and what about Jane Austen?


3 thoughts on “Feelgood or Uplit?

  1. This has nothing to do with anything except the passage of time and the growing compartmentalism of English, but in 1937 there was a once famous sound broadcast of the Coronation Naval review by an ex-naval commentator whose name I no longer remember. Before the broadcast he had been intensively wined and dine by his naval hosts, and when the time came for the broadcast they took him up to the bridge and left him to get on with it. The world was informed enthusiastically and repeatedlythat the Fleet was “all lit up, and when I say that I mean all lit up with little lights” Listeners diagnosed what would now be called the broadcaster’s “issue” quite correctly, and the phrase “all lit up” entered the language immediately. remaining current for at least thirty years.

    “Uplit” in Scots would be the exact equivalent of the English “Lit up”. Not the most fortunate of candidates for this new use.

    • Jim
      It was Lt Colonel Tommy Woodroffe. You inspired me to google this and you can hear the broadcast online. I agree – an unfortunate usage.

      • I must try and find the broadcast – no idea it was online. Perhaps only the truly ancient will really remember anything about it, but I can still even hear folk I knew saying “all lit up” – usually with great affection – about friends of their’s who’d had a few too many. No one uses that kind of talk in “War and Peace” – someone should have pointed that out to Tolstoy.

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