angry book 'review'

I just finished reading a novel that has been well embraced by the knitting community, of which I am a part.  The Friday Night Knitting Club, by Kate Jacobs, is about the owner of a yarn shop, and the hodge-podge group of friends who begin an informal meeting every Friday night.

The dialogue was stilted in places - someone ought to teach Ms. Jacobs about the subtle difference between important details and cumbersome verbiage.  The character development, though, was great.  I ended up liking the people.  I actually wished that the book was a true story, and I could go visit there sometime.  

Glowing review, right?  Right.  Until the last 10 pages or so.  SPOILER ALERT: the main character dies.  SHE DIES.  For no particular reason, other than to 'move' the reader and 'propel' this story from 'good to great.'

I HATE this literary device.  People these days seem to think that you can only appreciate something if it moves you, and it seems that the only way you can be moved is if you are grieving.  NOT TRUE.  

Developing a truly likable, admirable, respectable character is wonderful.  Can't we just celebrate her?  There are so many real people out there who have stories like hers - women who think they're with 'the one' only to discover that they're pregnant and the guy has exited the picture, women who are then forced to make something of their lives - and they DO.  Georgia Walker feels like a real character, because she reflects reality.  Her success story is particularly moving because it can really happen - it DOES really happen.  And it's a wonderful, truly remarkable thing.

Do all the women who have risen above difficult circumstances and kept themselves and their children in-tact have to DIE to be celebrated?  Is the only way for their stories to truly move through their untimely DEATH?  NO!!  Not in my opinion, anyway.

So why did Ms. Jacobs choose to kill Georgia Walker?  I don't know, but it doesn't settle with me.  Perhaps it's a reflection of our postmodern times - or maybe our post-postmodern times.  We must be grieved to be truly moved, and anything less than grief is trifle.  Maybe I should blame the culture.  I don't, though.  Not in this case.  Georgia Walker's death feels like a cheap imitation of literature - an overwrung plot device that the author selected in an overzealous attempt to 'wrench our hearts' and create an 'emotional experience' upon reading her novel.  Truly good authors, though, can bring about these feelings throughout the entirety of their writing, and not solely in the final ten pages.

Of my favorite books, the ones in which I was truly moved because of the entire work and not by a simple plot twist, only one involves the death of a main character, and that particular story revolves around the circumstances of her death rather than playing her death as the culmination of the novel.  Think about the books (and movies) that have moved YOU and see if what gripped you was that death in the final pages, or if there was something else, something magical, present throughout the entire work, that captured you.

In other words, do you have to grieve the loss of a protagonist to feel truly moved by the work?

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you. I can't stand when authors feel the need to kill off characters to add to the emotional strength of the novel. I'm not sure any of my favorite novels have the protagonist die.

    Although I read fairly few novels these days, mostly memoirs. And it's hard to have a dead protagonist of an autobiography...

    By the way, I've been blog-stalking you for a while, hope that's ok. :)


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