Friday, June 18, 2010


I read this article at Crazy Aunt Purl this morning, and was going to comment on it, but comments are off, so I thought I'd just write my own blog post instead. She talks about wanting to know the ending of a movie before she sees it, and about books, she says:

I flip to the last page in a particularly engaging mystery book. Yep, you heard me. I like to know how it ends because then I can go back and enjoy the unraveling of the story. After all, it's fiction, it's fantasy. Maybe it's because in real life I never know what will happen next. Or maybe I'm just wound too tightly. It doesn't bother me one bit but Lord it seems to freak other people out. The idea of the surprise ending is sacrosanct.

I'm going to mention some spoilers of my own, so you might not want to read this if you haven't seen The Phantom Menace, or read John Harvey's "Cold in Hand," Elizabeth George's "With No One as Witness," or the Harry Potter series.

I don't know if I've ever written about that topic before, but I'd be surprised if I haven't. While I'm reading a book I'll sometimes start to worry that the hero, the dog, the child, whatever, is going to die or be killed. I don't actually read the ending, but what I do do is kind of flip through the last pages and see if the dog, cat, hero, child, etc., is mentioned or, specifically, if they have dialog. If they do, then no worries, I can relax and enjoy the story.

The movie that I remember most clearly being shocked when the hero died is The Phantom Menace. I couldn't believe they killed Liam Neeson off! I was completely invested in that character and was completely stunned when he died. There are a couple of mystery books I can remember that killed off major characters very suddenly and surprisingly, one is the Elizabeth George's With No One as Witness, one of the "Thomas Lynley" mystery series. His wife was killed off, and she was pregnant. The relationship between Lynley and Helen was lovely, and I was looking forward to its unfolding. But she was murdered on her doorstep in a senseless killing.

I recently read a John Harvey book, "Cold in Hand," I believe it was. He was in the first months of a romantic relationship with a major character, another police officer, and she was killed in a shootout. That was another one that I just couldn't believe, I thought surely she would survive, but no. There again, I thought the domestic scenes were the most interesting, but I suppose I may be in the minority there. I don't know what the motivation of the writer was, but I found myself very disappointed.

I guess the other big one is the death of Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series. I knew how that one was going to turn out before I read the book, so I wasn't surprised.

I don't necessarily want to know how all the books I read turn out, but I also don't really mind "spoilers." I don't want to know all the details, of course, but in general I read for the enjoyment of the story, not for the outcome. I read a lot of mysteries, but usually I don't actually care "whodunit." I don't generally try to figure out the mystery, I just read the book. Because it's a story. It isn't true, someone made it up, so they can make it be anything they like. So it doesn't really matter. It's the story that's important. At least that's my opinion.

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Joanna said...

Hmmm...I hate to know how things end and do everything in my power to *not* see anything at the end of a book before I get there. Sometimes, I annoy myself by seeing something at the bottom of the next page...not to mention the end of the book. Heh.

Willa said...

I do that, too -- try not to look at the bottom of the page or the next page -- it's not that I don't like *any* surprises, I just don't want to be surprised by something awful happening to a character that I like.

Jennifer M. said...

I've done the same thing, flipped ahead a few pages to see if the character is still alive! I hate suspense, real or fictional.

Part of the reason I like rereading books I've liked is watch that unraveling happening.

Sharon said...

I'm kind of like that too, Willa. I don't mind spoilers especially if I'm afraid something is going to happen to a character I care about, but I do not want to go to the end and read the ending. To me, thats what I enjoy most about reading a book is the buildup to the end. My boss goes to the last chapter and reads the entire chapter and the one before it before she ever reads a book. If I do that, I might as well not read it at all. That would just spoil the whole thing for me.

April said...

I especially worry about pets and kids and will skim the last few pages in order to see if there name is mentioned. Just like you, I want to be able to relax and enjoy the book.