Friday, April 10, 2009

Elements of a Good Love Story (EOGLS), Part IV

(If you missed EOGLS Parts I-III, check back on my website:

Recently my book club read Elizabeth Gaskell's WIVES AND DAUGHTERS, a surprisingly enthralling novel, considering its heft, and one that echoes elements of Austen's MANSFIELD PARK and anticipates Eliot's MIDDLEMARCH. We highly recommend it, but you absolutely must know that Gaskell died before finishing it. Croaked. Kicked the bucket. Gave up the ghost. And, most importantly, put down the pen.

What does this mean? It means the satisfying scene between the devoted heroine and her recently-enlightened lover does not exist. The book ends abruptly with the stepmother wanting a new shawl or something, and then an editor picks up with a "p.s. Gaskell died." What??? In desperation, the thwarted reader then turns to the recent BBC production for a denouement. You'll have to do the same and let me know if it worked for you.

Maybe Gaskell was taking a page from MANSFIELD PARK, which has Austen's least satisfying lover-resolution to a very similar love triangle, apart from Austen's similarly terse sentences in NORTHANGER ABBEY.

All of which brings me to this post's Element of a Good Love Story: details. Not make-out details, but rather, what is each lover thinking and going through? I'm fine if the author wants to hide these things for most of the book, but at some point, I want those details. Who didn't finally breathe a sigh of relief to know what Rhett Butler or Maxim de Winter was thinking? And oftentimes the thinking-and-feeling details provide the reader (and main character) more satisfaction than any physical consummation. Think LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA. Or even Starbuck and Apollo in Battlestar Galactica. (I'm only in Season 3, but did anyone else think things went from poignant to sordid when those two got together?)

I'd love to hear your favorite detailed love scenes, as well as least favorite.

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