*SPOILERS FOR HUNGER GAMES 3, 1Q84*
I recently re-read a beautiful book by Kerry Drewery, ‘A Brighter Fear’; one of the most touching, haunting and true-to-life novels I have come across in the ‘Young Adult’ genre. The novel follows the story of Lina, a teenage girl from Baghdad. It starts in 2003, as the bombs begin to fall on the city. It is a story of love, family and survival. In a review on the website ‘Good Reads’, one reader commented that while she really enjoyed the novel, the ending was ‘too inconclusive’, and she was angry that she didn’t get chance to find out what happens to every character.
I found this an interesting comment, and one that, now I have noticed it, has been written about many different books on the Good Reads website. It’s an interesting question to ask: why are we so put out when we are presented with an ending that is so inconclusive? Another book on my recently read list is the now world-famous ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, John Green’s tragic novel of two teenagers finding love despite their struggle with cancer. In it, the protagonist Hazel visits Amsterdam to meet her favourite author in a bid to learn what happens at the end of his novel, her favourite, and one which ends without offering an explanation to the fates of the characters. She is so desperate to find out that she even asks the author to just make it up, rather than to tell her there is no conclusion. He responds that the characters are fictional: they cease to exist once the author stops writing about them.
Is that not the point of writing a book that emulates ‘real life’? In reality, the story does not end when the antagonist dies or is eliminated. In life, the story continues after the couple finally gets together, or the murderer is captured. For some reason we have become obsessed with a perfectly rounded off ending, in which all characters are accounted for. Take for example two highly-successful franchises of recent years. In Harry Potter, we are provided with a neat ’19 years later’ epilogue which provides conclusive evidence that the darkness of the final book has been eliminated. Similarly in ‘The Hunger Games’, the strong and fiery Katniss finally achieves domestic bliss in a wholly disappointing conclusion that for me ruined the rest of the series.
A master of the inconclusive ending is Murakami, and I’m thinking in particular of 1Q84. At the end of the three part novel, Aomame and Tengo stand looking out at a single moon. We do not know what will happen to them, nor what Air Chrysalis is really all about. Do we need to? No. The ending is cathartic in its own way because the whole purpose of the novel was to draw the two main characters together again. I didn’t want to read about them growing old together, or worse, and is more accurate to real life, realising that they didn’t belong together and drifting apart.
What do you think? Do you mind if an ending isn’t conclusive? Do we need to know what happens to every character at the end of the a novel?