DAY 25. – The most surprising plot twist or ending.

My first choice here is The Life of Pi. It should be obvious that the story of Pi and Richard Parker cannot possibly be true. A boy in a boat with a Bengal tiger, obviously it could not happen. But the skill of Martel’s writing means that you are completely drawn into the situation. You never doubt it for a moment and in fact, if you are like me, you want to believe in the story that Pi spins even when you know the truth.

As this is a story about faith and belief, it is fitting that belief wins over the rational, logical version of events. For me, before this book, I never really understood the impulse towards religion but this book suggested how it was a solace in difficult times and how it helped people cope with terrible events. I wouldn’t say that I am now religious but I at least understand why you might be.

My second choice is The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. This is a disturbing book with one of the most unsympathetic narrators I think I have ever come across. This is a bildungsroman like no other, although you could say it follows in the tradition of books such as The Catcher in the Rye and A Clockwork Orange. The violence is gruesomely inventive and unlike anything else I have ever read. Even the horrors of the book could not prepare me for the ending. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read it but it is cruel, humurous and wonderfully inventive. It puts the rest of the story in another light.

Day 22 – A plot device that annoyed you – Atonement and The Time Traveller’s Wife

I’ve changed the title of today’s blog a little as I couldn’t think of any plot devices that had annoyed me over and over. I don’t read many series or books that are really similar to each other so instead I have chosen to look at two plot devices that I found so annoying they really spoiled my enjoyment of the books.

I really did enjoy reading Atonement by Ian McEwan. From the opening of the novel in Cambridgeshire, to the scenes of fighting and the horrors of working as a nurse in the second world war, I was convinced by the characters and the way their lives interwove. I think it is the fact that I had been so taken with the novel and its supposed resolution that annoyed me so much when I finally got to the end.

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In the final section, it is revealed that the previous chapters were a novel written by Briony and in fact tragic lovers Robbie and Cecilia were not reunited in ‘real life’ but in a fiction within a fiction. Writing the novel was Briony’s atonement for the fact that she accused Robbie of rape and ruined any chances the pair might have had of actual romance. I admit that I felt a little cheated by this and I still feel it is akin to the sort of ending children write all the time, a more sophisticated version of ‘and then I woke up.’ The story is not the story you thought it was. Briony claimed that she did not want to give readers a hopeless ending but in actual fact the ending was much worse for giving hope and then saying that they could only have it within a fiction. Very disappointing.

My second choice is The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I found this book interesting and annoying in just about equal measure.

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The concept was exciting and Henry was a good romantic lead. The idea of the time travel wasn’t that hard to swallow once the story got going and I liked the muddled chronology of their romance.

However, what did annoy me was the way that despite the fact that Henry supposedly has no control over when he will travel and where to, he manages to get winning lottery numbers so that Clare will be able to carry on with her art without having to worry. I felt that this was a narrative cheat. Either Henry could control his travel or he couldn’t, but not control when it suited him and Niffenegger.

Incidentally, as this doesn’t directly fit with the title of today’s blog, it goes without saying that I found the end of this novel really irritating. The idea of a women waiting all those years because she knows she will have one more glimpse of the man she loved seems a little too like a fairy tale for my taste. It did not seem romantic, just out-moded and a little depressing. Most of the women I worked with at the time loved it so, hey, what do I know.