Dear Authors: How Dare You Kill Off Your Main Characters

SPOILER ALERT!  I will be discussing details of the books One Day by David Nicholls and The Sight by David Clement-Davies that will generally spoil the endings.  You’ve been warned.

The first time I read a book in which the narrator died, I was morally offended.  I had fallen in love with the character and then a few chapters from the end they had the audacity to die on me.  To me, it felt like the author had cheated, had lazily given up on telling the story properly, and had maybe even broken a cardinal writing rule.  I figured the rest of the book was worthless and refused to finish it for weeks.  But the story haunted me and I sullenly picked it back up.  The rest of the book was told in the voice of the main character’s twin (they were both wolves) and it was just as wonderfully told as the rest of the book had been.  The Sight has stuck in my mind ever since because it was the first and only book where I encountered that kind of narrative daring.  It did something I didn’t think it was possible to do and it did it well.

However, it’s tricky and the execution is critical.  I just finished reading One Day and was equally horrified by the author’s choice of event turns.  “Then Emma Mayhew dies, and everything that she thought or felt vanishes and is gone forever.”  Seriously?!

Though the book is told in the third person, it basically has two narrators, Em and Dex.  A few chapters from the end, Em is killed in a biking-car accident and the rest of the story is told from the very drunk, very depressed, very pathetic point of view of her husband, Dex.  While as I forgave The Sight because it redeemed itself, I don’t think I’ll ever forgive One Day.  I’m sad I wasted so much time finishing the book, to be honest.

What do you think?  Have you ever read a book where the narrator dies?  Do you approve, disapprove?  Are you as morally offended by the idea as I was?

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