My Name Is Anna
10th January 2019
Publisher: Century & Arrow at Cornerstone
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Lizzy Barber on writing satisfactory endings…
As soon as I started writing My Name Is Anna, I knew two things: how it was going to begin, and how it was going to end. The rest…the rest was a journey whose path was forged along the way.
I think readers generally fall into two camps: those who like everything neatly tied up with a bow, and those who like the rug pulled out from under them at the last moment. The former is certainly more satisfying: the piper is paid, the good are rewarded, the bad given their due. But I also think there is something tantalisingly thrilling about the latter: the lack of gratification, the knowing wink from the author, the knowledge, as a reader, that now you’re on your own.
I vividly remember reading the ending of Gone Girl (I’d say, “spoiler alert,” but guys, c’mon, don’t tell me you don’t already know). After the huge narrative twist in the middle, my nerves were on tenterhooks as I careened towards the ending. ‘This is it,’ I reassured myself, when I finally realised The Truth, ‘this is where Amy finally gets it. After everything he’s been through, Nick will finally get payback.’ And then, wham! The final blow lands, and Nick is trapped, both literally in a loveless marriage he has no way out of, and metaphorically. An insect in amber, between the ink and paper Gillian Flynn has cast him in.
Gillian, Gillian, Gillian … I thought we were friends? How could you do this to me? I shook the book in frustration, unable to recast the die and give Nick the satisfactory resolution I felt he deserved. But then another thought wiggled its way in: how creepy is that? How lingering. For a thriller, how, ultimately, ‘thrilling’ was the narrative choice to leave things just a little bit messy and withhold from the reader an ending that would be just and fair?
My Name Is Anna is a ‘why’ done it, not a ‘who’ done it: it is fairly clear from early on what the big discovery of the plot will be. What powers the narrative (at least I hope!) is the desire to see the threads come together and uncover the reasons behind it all. As such, as the pace builds to the final climax, the reader may start to feel safe in the knowledge that everything will be contained in a classic happy ending.
So if you’re one of those first kinds of readers, the “tie them up with a bow” kind, I’m sorry because you may be a little disappointed. Life is messy, and the lives of my characters are messy and complicated. To smooth everything over and give them the ending they no doubt deserve would be lovely, but it wouldn’t feel real to me.
And so, I’ve opted for something a little less stable. A little more unfinished. An ending that I hope will keep my reader’s minds working, their imagination flowing, after the final page.
Because, for me, that is my job as a thriller writer. To leave you unnerved, expecting the unexpected; to make you think about the lives of my characters beyond the life of the book.
And isn’t that, in its own way, a satisfactory ending?
Read my review to see how much I love this book!