By Vita Forest
What’s wrong with a happy ending?
“The truth is hard and tough as nails, that’s why we need fairy tales.”
from Munchhausen by Hollander
While convalescing at home, awaiting the results of a whooping cough swab, with my voice deepened to a sultry level, but missing the resonance required to address twenty-three small children without it cracking into inconsistent seal yelps, I turned in consolation to literature.
As you may know, I have recently finished reading the delightful Brother of the more Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido. Before being laid low, I had handily picked up a couple more of Trapido’s books from the library.
I have finished Juggling (not as lovely as BOTMFJ) and have launched into The Travelling Hornplayer. Some of the characters began to feel familiar, then I realised there were favourites from the aforementioned novels, now years later, bumping into each other across the end pages of those other books. This was not necessarily a cause for alarm.
But then it was.
“No!” I wanted to scream in my cracked voice, as my literary crush from BOTMFJ engaged in a seedy affair in a grimy flat in London while his wife pottered about in The Cotswolds. “No, Barbara Trapido, I don’t want to know this!”
Some books do not need epilogues, do not need sequels. I want to think back affectionately to the “closure”, to the satisfaction of everything ending how it should have.
I want Georgie giving Lu the kiss of life in the bottom of a boat after he has pulled her from a sinking plane, not reading that Tim Winton has written a play reusing these characters in which Georgie is grieving her lover who has been KILLED.
I want Lucy Honeychurch and George Emerson to live blissfully together after she throws over that cold fish Cecil, not the future mapped out in the epilogue of boredom, resentment and cheating.
I certainly don’t want to read about what happens to Darcy or anyone else after the perfect ending (particularly from someone who is not the original author…) but when it is the author – oh, they still need to be very careful.
Melina Marchetta has done it successfully (“Of course,” I hear you say, “Could you stop going on about her!”) J. K. Rowling too. And I didn’t mind meeting up again with Michael Ondaatje’s Caravaggio and Hana once more in The English Patient. But I agree that A.S. Byatt didn’t need to add the epilogue to Possession and I think that Suzanne Collins could have stopped after The Hunger Games. Don’t even get me started about Stephenie Meyer…
So I suppose I will continue reading The Travelling Hornblower but my hackles have been raised. I do not want to fall out of love with Jonathon.
Have you ever wished an author had just stopped?