Have you stopped by Goodreads? Goodreads is a networking site like Facebook for book lovers, a comfortable place online to hang out with other readers and discuss books. As an author, I have a profile page, with information about books I’ve read, friends I’ve made, and reviews I’ve written. Shelfari is similar. Both sites are worth a look.
Last week another Goodreader told me about the film The Jane Austen Book Club, (based on a novel by Karen Joy Fowler). In turn I told my husband, who, after rolling his eyes the appropriate number of times, Netflixed it for Mother’s Day.
This is not a movie review. We both loved the movie, despite a lack of car chases, exploding buildings, and graphic sex. Not because we’re wusses. Our last movie was Quantum of Solace, which had plenty of the first two but a surprising lack of the third. No, we loved The Jane Austen Book Club because when we turned off television, we felt better about the world. Engaging women faced problems with the help of new friends and found love and happiness. Exactly what can be wrong with that?
Reading through the reviews of Jane Austen as well as my own recent movies, which were well received on German television, I’ve been interested to see just how much fuss is being made about happy endings. Plus, because these happy endings have to do with finding love, the assumption seems to be that women who read and watch stories with romance in them only want to be happily married and have no other goals in life. Which is a lot like saying that men who watch thrillers only yearn to be stalked by maniacal assassins.
Interviews I give to the press seem to concentrate on this point, as well. Why do I write happy endings? Do I think they are unrealistic? Do I think that romance and love are major components of real life? Why am I obsessed with making people feel good?
Although it’s unfathomable why these questions need answers, let me set the record straight.
I do believe in happy endings. I also believe there are obstacles to achieving them, and since I have a working brain, I know not every outcome will be happy. I believe romance and love are major components of real life, and without them, many of us wouldn’t be here. I believe dwelling on unhappiness almost ensures it will triumph. I believe that in striving for happiness for ourselves and others, we become happier people, because the journey is often more important than the destination.
The oddest thing about this kind of commentary? That, in the name of feminism, reviewers feel they must criticize love and relationships, things most women hold dear. Does anyone else see the irony?
If we’re not striving for happiness, what exactly are we striving for? Is that a question worth pondering?