This week I was delighted to read Emma Darwin’s post with
advice on prologues, particularly as it confirmed my own somewhat jaundiced
view that a prologue is more likely to hold-up proceedings that engage
the reader, and even a good one is a risk, at least for a wannabe author. Then, lo, up popped an example of the prologue’s cousin, the epilogue, which I found annoying in a completely different way.
Up to the end, A Party in San Niccolo by Christobel Kent was a very pleasing post-Florence read. It allowed me to extend my mental holiday and imparted plenty of the smug satisfaction that comes from recognising the actual street corners on which the drama is played out. (Yay, I was there!)
The story centres on Gina – an English mum looking for a break from family life. Gina goes to Florence to stay with an old school friend (actually not really a friend, but I digress) whose family turn out to be linked to some very shady goings-on. It’s a kind of holiday-adventure-come-murder-mystery, in
which Gina becomes an unwilling if not quite unwitting detective. At the end I
felt totally satisfied that the journey Gina had undertaken had come to an end,
both literally and metaphorically since as well as uncovering the murderer she resolves her own family and personal ‘issues.’
Then there was the epilogue.
‘What can this be?’ I asked myself. ‘What else could I possibly need to know?’ Answer, nothing. But either the author or an overly diligent editor thought that all loose ends needed to be tied up and decided to spell out exactly what happened to all of the main characters (and a few others besides) over subsequent months and years. This made me quite cross. I had made my own decisions on how Gina’s future would pan out and I didn’t really care about the fate of the reformed prostitute, the aging aristocrat or the ambitious but shallow friend.
I think a novel should resolve the immediate problem confronted by the MC but shouldn’t spell out what the future may hold. In fact I favour an ‘open’ ending that conveys the characters going forward and meeting new challenges. The idea that this the end of story has been written in stone detracts from the feeling that these are real people with entire lives to lead – not to mention knocking on the head any chance of a sequel!
Of course, I didn’t have to read the epilogue, but I think I would have liked a warning. ‘If you’d like to be told what (might have) happened next, read on. Otherwise, use your imagination.’
2 thoughts on “Warning: epilogues can damage your imagination”
Gosh, how I do so agree with you. If facts or details are pertinent to the end of the story they should form part of the story, not a tag on the end. Ditto the prologue. Usually boring, irrelevant and again, if important should be included within the main text. Glad I am not alone in this view.
Not sure if it was something to do with genre. To me it wasn’t really a crime novel, but maybe those detective types like to have everything sewn up.
Good read otherwise.