Monday, September 14, 2009

Happily Ever After

I have just finished reading “The Time Traveller’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger. I felt compelled to finish it this afternoon. You see, it had become apparent to me over the last few days that there was a pretty big chance I was not going to like the ending. However, the book was far too interesting and I had read far too much to abandon it, so it sat on my night table, kind of haunting me every time I went into the bedroom. I really needed to get it over with, so just before lunch I sat down and read the last hundred or so pages in one sitting.

I can’t bear endings that are not a hundred percent happy. I feel compelled at this point to say that The Time Traveller’s Wife is an excellent book, extremely well written and I don’t mean to criticise the author in any way. In fact, she should be praised! After all, there is no rule that you have to write happy endings. In fact (I’ll word this carefully so as not to give the game away), you could argue that the ending of The Time Traveller’s Wife is a happy one - certainly the last few pages of the book are lovely. But a hundred percent happy it is not, and as such, it seemed at first that it did not work for me. You see, over the last few years I have tried to only read books that I am pretty sure are going to have happy endings.

I know I am not alone in this because recently I was with a group of ladies and we were discussing this very thing. This was sparked by a friend’s confession that she only liked books with happy endings. It was a lively discussion and we found that as a group we were pretty much split down the middle. Half of us really wanted happy endings, and the other half was not concerned whether the ending was happy or not as long as it was a good story. The exception was one lady who said that she felt cheated by happy endings because real life was rarely like that and it seemed a really “Hollywood” thing to do. And it was her who made me realise why I keep trying to avoid books and films with less than perfect endings.

Just like most people, I really hate feeling unhappy. By avoiding sad endings even in fiction, I was trying to protect myself from feeling upset by controlling my environment. But controlling our environment is something that none of us is really able to do. We may try, but in the end, we are not in control of very much beyond how we carry ourselves through life and how we handle everything - both good times and bad - stories with happy endings and those without. All our experiences and how we handle them shape who we are and who we become. The worst experiences in my life have shaped me as much as - and sometimes even more than - the wonderful ones. Maybe all the books I read don’t have to have happy endings after all.

The Time Traveller’s Wife is a fascinating story and a really wonderful read. Not only that, but it appears to have taught me something rather valuable as well. It is available at most book stores, and of course, the film is out in cinemas now too.

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