It is with mixed feelings that I write the final post in this series. There is a sense of relief that I managed to get to the end in the allotted time, but also a slight sense of sadness that a) I now have to think of other things to write about b) I'm no longer considering why each of the books I've blogged about mean so much to me and c) I might actually have to read Dickens! However, my dissertation is calling to me in increasing volume and as I'm beginning to run out of space for post it notes on my desk, I probably need to tackle the next round of editing.
One of the things I've tried to do in this series is to include not only a range of books, but also to make sure that I've included as many of my favourites as possible. Inevitably, there are some that were left out as I couldn't fit them into a category, or I'd already used another in the same series. However, these were three that I was desperate to include somewhere and I realised that they all had something in common - their endings. The ending to Lady Chatterley was changed by D.H. Lawrence multiple times and in the BBC serialisation of it in 1993, it was changed again to give it a more complete and happier final scene. North and South had its ending changed in the 2004 adaptation to make for a more romantic conclusion and Wives and Daughters, Gaskell's final book, was left incomplete at her death, so had of necessity, an ending added to the serialisation of it.
Lady Chatterley, or at least the TV adaptation of it also marks another kind of ending for me, but also a beginning. When it was advertised I was approaching my 14th birthday and was something of a Sean Bean fan. I asked my parents if I was allowed to watch it, knowing that given the nature of the book, the answer was likely to be no, which initially, from my Dad, it was. Surprisingly, it was my Mum who argued that I should be allowed to watch it as I was sensible and it was literature. With very little argument, my Dad agreed. Consequently, they both found reasons to be busy elsewhere when it was broadcast over the next four weeks and I had the living room to myself to watch it in peace. I loved it. For someone who had a very sheltered upbringing it was a huge step towards adulthood being allowed to watch something like this, particularly unsupervised and was a mark of the trust my parents had in me. It was the first time I ever felt they had acknowledged that I was growing up.
I think the reason I love these books so much - aside from the glorious TV adaptations of them - is that all the main characters change throughout the book. They change because of their love for each other and the grow into better people as a result. They soften their prejudices, their priorities change and consequently, through these trials, their relationships (which would never have lasted prior to these changes) are made stronger and more durable. Leaving aside Pride and Prejudice (which is forever linked to Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in my mind), the only other book that comes close to these in terms of this kind of relationship is another Austen story, Persuasion. There too, the main characters would have had a very different kind of marriage if their relationship had worked the first time of asking.
It is the enduring power of love to bring about real change in a person that shines through all these books and it is with a greater sense of satisfaction that I close the covers, knowing that the characters will continue safely together beyond them, because of what they have endured together and apart. Although I read predominantly modern fiction these days, there is rarely that same sense of satisfaction - there is something about these characters that moves them beyond those in modern writing. Perhaps it is because of the times in which they are set - society was very different then and there are fewer barriers these days? I don't know the answer, but the endings of these books retain a special place in my heart and so it seems fitting that I end this series with them.
These days, when I read the books, these are the faces I picture for the characters, such was the brilliance of the TV adaptations.