1 Day to Book Launch of ‘Midsummer at Eyre Hall’: My Happy Ending, Thanks to Camus, Orson Welles and My Daughter.

Tomorrow is the big day. The Eyre Hall Trilogy is officially complete and available for purchase and download on Amazon as a Kindle ebook.

My proof for the paperback version of Midsummer at Eyre Hall arrived today. I’ll be checking it through carefully, and it will be available to purchase in print before the end of the month.

Today’s post is about happy endings.

 

My Trilogy

The Eyre Hall Trilogy in my hands! What an exciting moment, even though Midsummer at Eyre Hall is the proof copy.

In this final post, I’m going to tell you about one of my greatest challenges. I needed to make sure the end of The Eyre Hall Trilogy was not disappointing for readers who had read the previous books. After their emotional investment and the time spent reading, I wouldn’t want to let them down.

The main dilemma regarding the ending: it  could be happy or not.

As I briefly discussed in my previous post, a happy ending is not mandatory in a romance, or in a gothic romance, or even in a Victorian gothic romance, but in the end, that’s what has happened in The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

Why did I think of an unhappy ending in the first place?

Well, I didn’t want to be accused of promoting false expectations or chosing the easy way to end my trilogy on a marriage or birth, after all, the end, the real end of our lives, is pretty depressing.

I finally decided to stop at a happy moment, mainly because it was my daughter’s request and Camus’ influence, so I followed Welles advice and found the right place to stop in order to have an optimistic ending.

 

Orson-Welles-fun-wise-quotes

 

Before we continue, let’s take a few minutes to discuss happiness. What is happiness? What is a happy ending?

According to Camus, life becomes absurd once we realise that from the moment we are born, we are walking towards our inevitable death.

Life is absurd, but we can make one of two important choices: to live or to die.

We can exert our freedom and refuse to play the absurd game by committing suicide, or we can freely accept the absurdity of life and chose to be happy.

So, if we choose to be happy, we accept our transient nature and implicitly agree to make the most of our time here.

camus qute

Now, back to The Eyre Hall Trilogy. Why is it a happy ending?

Mainly because the main characters, the characters the reader cares most about, are in harmony with the life they lead at the moment the narrative stops. They have made their choices, fought for what they wanted, and they have achieved what they desired, so they are happy at the end.

On the other hand, not all the plot lines are tied up optimistically, and not all the characters are living in harmony. John, Annette and Susan made some unwise decisions which they will have to live with. There is a shadow looming over Michael due to some risky decisions he made, and of course, Jane is getting older towards the end of the novel, and although she is in good health, in Victorian England life expectancy was low, but I wrote ‘The End‘ before she died.

The final moment in Midsummer at Eyre Hall is full of harmony, but the characters, the reader, and the writer are well aware that this is a photograph of a fleeting moment. In any case, I hope you enjoy this temporary representation of happiness.

*****

The following is an extract from Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, where Charles Dickens and Jane Eyre are discussing the difficulty of ending a novel. Mr. Dickens is visiting Jane and they are chatting by the fireplace at Eyre Hall, after dinner. He calls her Miss Elliot, beause it was the pen name Jane used at that time.

It’s one of my favourite intertextual scenes in the novel; the author I most admire chatting to my favourite fictional character about literature. A magnificent moment.

****

Dickens Victorian lady

“The time has come to end this wonderful evening. I would not like to tire you, or I shall not be invited again.”

“Endings are so sad in real life, and so hard to write in fiction. How does an artist know a work of art has reached its end? And what is a good ending to a great story?”

“Indeed. It is no secret that I struggle with every ending.”

“I prefer happy endings, as you know, Mr. Dickens. Readers prefer a satisfactory conclusion. It makes the reading more rewarding.”

“Perhaps you are right, my dear Miss Elliot, but I am afraid it is not always possible.”

“Who should we bear in mind when writing the end, the reader or the story?”

“The reader always. We write for our readers. I had a more pessimistic ending for Great Expectations, but my dear friend Wilkie Collins persuaded me, or shall we say convinced me, that my readers would prefer a more positive ending, so I left the door open for Pip and Estella.”

“And are you pleased with this modification?”

“Yes. I have no doubt the story will be more acceptable with the altered ending. After all, I think Wilkie was right. It is for the better.”

“I must admit, it is one of my favourite novels, and I am glad you decided to present a happy ending. Would you read the last chapter before we retire?”

“It would be a pleasure, Miss Elliot.”

She handed me a copy of Great Expectations. I opened the last chapter and read the ending she wanted to hear.

‘I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.’

Seconds later, I closed the book and watched a single tear slide down her cheek.

“Thank you, Mr. Dickens. That is the most perfect ending anyone has ever written.”

I wanted to add that it was a mere illusion, because there can be no happy ending to any story. We will have to surrender everything we have, in the end, and we will leave this planet as naked and helpless as we came, but I was silent. Why spoil the magic moment?

*****

What kind of endings do you prefer in the novels you read or write?

Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction ‘Oliver and Trip’ A Tribute to Charles Dickens

This Flash Fiction was written in response to Charlie Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly prompt

Carrot Ranch 20th Jan
January 20, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a boy and his dog, showing the value or benefit of such a relationship. Be creative, uplifting and demonstrate that such a relationship has merit. If the prompt takes you somewhere darker, know that writing into the dark often retrieves the light. Let it have a purpose.

This week’s prompt has taken me to Victorian England. Those of you who know me will not be surprised!

Dogs feature prominently in Dickens’ work. He was a dog lover all his life. More about Dickens and his dogs here

Dickens walking his dogs
Dickens took long walks in the afternoon, ten miles or more, with the dogs as his sole companions. Illustration from Princes, Authors, and Statesmen of Our Time, Henry Bill Publishing Co., 1885

In my flash the boy and the dog will grow a bond because, sadly, they’re both given the same food to eat, and both wish to ‘join forces’ and escape from their cruel ‘owners’.

It’s inspired by an episode in my beloved Oliver Twist, but more later. Here’s my flash!

****

Oliver and Trip

An Undertaker’s Cellar. London, 1837.

The undertaker’s wife pushed me down the stairs into the coal-cellar, where I almost tripped over a shaggy dog. 

‘Oliver, you can ‘ave what Trip’s left on his plate. Probably found himself a big fat rat last night, so ‘e ain’t hungry this morning.’

She kicked the animal viciously. ‘Don’t be greedy and let the little beggar eat some o’ them bits o’ meat!’

Trip backed away and growled, but I was so hungry I decided to risk it and put my fingers on his food. 

‘We’ll get out of here together,’ I whispered as he licked my hand.

****

This flash is inspired by some characters and events in Oliver Twist, published by Charles Dickens in 1837.

Just in case you think I’m exaggerating in my Flash Fiction, there follows an extract from Dickens’ novel, where a similar event is described.

Oliver had just been ‘brought’ or ‘bought’ from the poor house to work at an Undertaker’s and he is given the dog’s food to eat, which he devours hungrily.

Notice also how, in the passage, Dickens, ardent and active social campaigner, directs his wrath at a ‘well-fed philosopher’, no doubt some contemporary politician/s, who will never witness the ‘ferocity of famine’.

Here’s the extract from the end of Chapter IV (The undertaker, Mr. Sowerberry, who has just collected Oliver from the workhouse is speaking to his wife, Charlotte. Trip is their dog.)

****

‘Here, Charlotte,’ said Mr. Sowerberry, who had followed Oliver down, ‘give this boy some of the cold bits that were put by for Trip. He hasn’t come home since the morning, so he may go without ‘em. I dare say the boy isn’t too dainty to eat ‘em—are you, boy?’

Oliver, whose eyes had glistened at the mention of meat, and who was trembling with eagerness to devour it, replied in the negative; and a plateful of coarse broken victuals was set before him.

I wish some well-fed philosopher, whose meat and drink turn to gall within him; whose blood is ice, whose heart is iron; could have seen Oliver Twist clutching at the dainty viands that the dog had neglected. I wish he could have witnessed the horrible avidity with which Oliver tore the bits asunder with all the ferocity of famine. There is only one thing I should like better; and that would be to see the Philosopher making the same sort of meal himself, with the same relish.

****

It pains me to listen to some critics/readers, both his and our contemporaries, say Dickens’ writings were ‘too melodramatic’. I’d reply, ‘You weren’t there. You didn’t walk down the cellars, or inside the chimneys, or live in the poor houses. Don’t you dare classify abuse and suffering as melodramatic!’

There can be no doubt in our minds that this ‘piece of fiction’ happened often enough to be described by Charles Dickens. We’ve come a long way, partly thanks to Mr. Dickens’ honest descriptions of cruelty and exploitation in Victorian England.

This is why I believe literature is more enlightening than history to understand our past. History tells us the facts, whereas literature tells the real story of what happened to real people, not only the names of the Kings and Queens who reigned or the battles fought.

Writers are telling the real story, so please keep writing, all of you!

Compassion in 19th Century England and Today

1000speak

Today, 20th February, bloggers are taking part in the 1000 Voices for Compassion initiative, by blogging on the topic of compassion. Have a look at #1000Speak on twitter to read more about what other bloggers are writing about compassion in our lives today.

I’ve been thinking about compassion over the last two centuries, and how the concept has evolved, and finally what it means to me in my daily life.

There was little in the way of social security in the Georgian or Victorian era. In fact, the orphans, homeless, and unemployed of the time, were in danger of losing their health and their lives, by literally dying of cold and starvation. Another option was stealing, which they often inevitably had to indulge in, and could lead them to prison or the workhouse. Another option, especially for women, was prostitution, which would most often be a protracted death sentence.

 

NPG P301(19),Charles Dickens,by (George) Herbert Watkins

Dickens at his desk, 1858, by George Herbert Watkins

 

Compassion was the only option. Families, friends, neighbours, and generous and compassionate people had to be understanding, feel empathy, and assist those in need.

There are plenty of literary examples in fiction in novels many by Charles Dickens (Bleak House, Oliver Twist), Elizabeth Gaskell (Mary Barton, North and South), and Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre).

Other international authors such as Emile Zola, Balzac, Tolstoy, and Mark Twain, were also writing novels based on social issues.

There are also history books which sadly confirm these fictional accounts such as: Ideas of Childhood in Victorian Children’s Fiction: Orphans, Outcasts and Rebels  The Workhouse  Social issues in Victorian England

Nowadays we take the welfare state for granted. The social benefits we all share in Europe, by giving into the system through our taxes, and later redistributing it back into the system, with unemployment benefits, pensions, national health system, education system, etc., have greatly improved the quality of our lives.

This does not mean the system is perfect, or that we can shrug off our responsibility by saying, ‘I pay my taxes, I don’t need to be compassionate.’

So many people in the world, even in our own, developed countries, are experiencing the harshness of the economic recession. We cannot close our eyes to the severe social deprivation and injustices happening around the world. On the other hand, we cannot solve all the world’s problems.

But we can all do something which can help to make the world a better place. If we each do a little, we’ll all do a lot. In Spain people say, if we each add a grain of sand, we’ll all build a mountain.

 

1024px-Libya_4608_Idehan_Ubari_Dunes_Luca_Galuzzi_2007

 

Everyone needs to be compassionate, and everyone will be in need of compassion at some time.

The great thing about compassion is that you don’t need to go out of your way to be compassionate. It’s not something you have to do outside your daily life, because compassion is part of our lives.

I’m fortunate to be able to help many people every day in my job. I help adults who didn’t finish school, to get their secondary school-leaving certificates and learn some basic English. I also help others who have completed their Secondary education to pass their university entrance exams and improve their English, and thus their job prospects.

First I need to walk in their shoes, and then I need to help them reach their goals. None of them have had, or have, easy lives. Many are unemployed, have very low self-esteem, or serious learning difficulties.

It’s my job to teach them, but it’s my vocation to be compassionate, encouraging and caring.

We’ll all need compassion at some moment in our lives. We’ll all need a compassionate doctor, teacher, friend, colleague, etc., If we each care for those near us who need some, hopefully someone will also care for us, when our turn comes.