I began writing this blog on 29 March, one week into the lockdown. The shock and horror had slightly muted by then and I’d begun to say to myself, as so many others said, get on with it, you can’t battle it, use the time. Six weeks on, seven weeks into this isolated / distanced world, I’m at the point of please, please give me some hope of an ending.
Nothing is as yet forthcoming and I realise again, that I must stop railing against the situation. There is much that I haven’t achieved in all these weeks with few interruptions, but I have finished my novel. I have found the way out!
This postcard of the painting by Eric Ravilious was where it all started; the beauty and mystery of this greenhouse scene. That’s where it had to come to completion.
The Greenhouse Legacy, which I’ve been writing since August 2016, had taken many wrong turns, gone down unnecessary rabbit holes. I was in search of an ending that was credible and satisfying. I thought I’d achieved this with a first draft in January. Redrafting is like revisiting and talking to old friends. However three quarters of the way through this exercise, I knew my main characters were not happy with the conclusion.
Solitude and fear combined to force me to overcome negativity. Dithering and sulking would get me nowhere. Nevertheless, to come to that point where you can happily say ‘it’s done’ is hard. My own frustration that I couldn’t even go to a favourite coffee shop, made me shrug off the feeling of failure tapping me on the shoulder; if I couldn’t do it now, when would I? It is this hideous period of being shut away with no distractions that I have to thank, for it is done!
The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles has three alternative endings. A post-modern historical novel, it flips from what is described as a traditional happy ending to two alternatives decided by the toss of a coin. In Life after Life by Kate Atkinson, situations change during the novel as if the tape as been rewound giving an opportunity for different life chances. When reading An American Marriage by Tayara Jones recently I wanted a particular ending, finding my sympathy with one character, but at the same time knew that it would be crass. She, of course, brought this prize winning novel to a credible conclusion. Her characters could go on living honestly.
My novel is built around the theme of memory, the destructive nature of memories suppressed as against the pleasure of remembering and talking of times past. Gina and her mother, Elspeth, share a secret, a horrific happening in a scene which they both ‘revisit’ with different consequences. There has been no resolution to that grim ‘once upon a time’ scene, the memory never laid to rest. The story spans the years of Elspeth’s disastrous marriage, finding love with another man, the birth of his child, Gina, and his untimely death. All is bound in secrecy for fear of scandal. Suffering from dementia as an old woman, Elspeth begins to expose the lies she guarded all her life. The years of deception and denial rolling back.
Rarely in life are endings as you expect or necessarily want. We bumble along making the most of the ways and means of life, doing our best to keep those we care for happy. That is the most we can hope for in the end.