I always like the end of the book. You’ve fallen in love with the characters a long time ago, you’ve seen what they’ve done and what has been done for them, all you need now is the catharsis, so you can walk away feeling empty or feeling fulfilled. I’ve read so many books where there’s no payoff and it sort of ends and you’re left with more questions than answers.
Like “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. It took me three years to finish that book because I could not feel anything for Offred. She downright infuriated me. But the premise of the book was fascinating, and that’s the only reason why I kept reading. I had to know the end, even if it was going to piss me off further.
Conversely, the Gemma Doyle trilogy was perfection to me. I had bought “A Great and Terrible Beauty” ages ago but never got around to reading it. During a particularly bad period of writer’s block, I decided to get out of my funk and read it. I was hooked immediately and bought “Rebel Angels” and “The Sweet Far Thing” before I was even done with half of “Beauty.” That’s how well I believe that they were written. I was emotionally – and monetarily – invested. I HAD to know what happened.
Historical fiction has always appealed to me, particularly the era in which Gemma’s story takes place. I believe there was so much potential in 19th-century life. The divide between classes, the stereotyped image we have of the Wild West that I’ve always had an affinity for, and all that fun stuff we like to idealize. If I had had enough sense to take that final semester of French sooner, I probably would’ve transferred to a school that specialized in 19th-century French literature.
But speaking from a history minor’s point of view, I cannot fantasize that life would be easier because it wouldn’t have been. The technological and medical advances in the 20th and 21st centuries are good enough to keep me grounded in this time. But it’s fun to play around with those idealizations.