Finis

Endings are quite difficult to get right. I suppose I have read quite a few contemporary novels/thrillers over the years. The plotline is often thrilling and original and you are gripped…..at the start. By the time you reach the end – 568 pages later –there is often disappointment: anticlimax, improbable coincidences or possibly even strands in the storytelling that still ‘flutter in the wind’, unresolved. I have observed this pattern in many modern novels and in some TV dramas; reviews on-line often complain that the ending is a ‘let down’. The best, classic tales are surely like those of Daphne Du Maurier - taut, almost claustrophobic in their construction, the narrative a brilliant, crystalline arc rising and then plunging to an utterly satisfying, shocking denouement. No feeble endings there.

Perhaps modern authors should consider adopting Harold Pinter’s approach in his play Betrayal. I have just seen this (superbly acted) at Salisbury Playhouse.The story is about adultery: two married couples - the husbands both in the same line of business and good friends; the lovers meet in a rented flat ‘in the afternoons’ over a period of several years; the betrayed husband knows of the affair but does not reveal this to his treacherous friend. He carries on his marriage and even his friendship in a state of barely repressed rage; his wife and her lover continue to meet in an ecstacy of self-absorbed passion. But in Betrayal Pinter takes the story backwards so the first scene of the play is set two years after the ‘end of the affair’. Thus the bathos, the cooling of ardour, which are sometimes the final rewards of inconvenient extra-marital love are exposed and dispensed with at the start and we follow the dynamics of the affair (and its wider effects) back to its first, intense beginnings. Dramatically, this is much more satisfying than a conventional narrative. We see every scene with the wisdom of foresight.

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