Happy endings

4 November 2014

I have just finished reading Nancy Thayer’s latest novel Nantucket Sisters. Who knows why? I think this is Chick Lit (terrible name!), which, according to a recent article in The Guardian, is a genre whose day is almost done. My excuse is that English-language books are hard to come by here in Ipoh and I had read an earlier Thayer novel as a teenager and really enjoyed it. Never mind, it did make me think about happy endings and how novelists arrive at these endings without their seeming contrived. Even more difficult to achieve is the happy ending that the reader is not convinced is going to eventuate until it actually does.

This makes me think of Jane Austen’s masterpiece Pride and Prejudice. Every time I read it (and I have read it dozens of times) I find my disbelief suspended till Mr Darcy says “You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.” Elizabeth’s feelings, of course, have changed completely. We’ve known this for some time. But it is still with relief that we hear Mr Darcy call her “dearest, loveliest Elizabeth”.

Contrast this with “I never stopped loving you,” Ben says. “Oh, Ben. Wow, I think you’ve literally knocked me off my feet.” And the reader has been expecting this since almost the beginning of the book. What’s more the last line of Nantucket Sisters is “It’s like a morning in heaven”!

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