Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Can Good Books Be Happy Books?

I've been on a bit of a reading binge lately. My reading goes in bursts. I either don't read for a month or read a book a day for a week. I'm crazy and EXTREME like that. The books I've read recently are:

1. Second Nature by Alice Hoffman. Genre: Magical Realism

2. Hart's Hope by Orson Scott Card. Genre: Fantasy and, I would argue, a precursor to Urban Fantasy

3. Peony in Love by Lisa See. Genre: Historical Fiction

[Editor's Note 5/6/10: I forgot to include Requiem for a Dream and Love Story in that list. Yeesh! I really need to read something happy for a change!]

These were all well written books. They explored different themes in lucid prose. People like them.


Yes, there's a but.

When I finished each of these books, I was sad. Pensive. Troubled. In short, I was not happy.

And you know what? I prefer stories that make me happy.

This got me thinking: Can a book be good (loose definition of good: beautifully written, multi-layered, intelligent, original)and still have a happy ending?
(Channeling Carrie Bradshaw. I totally write in my favorite feathered capelet. She and I have somuchincommon!)

I think the answer is yes. I'd like to think that the books I write achieve this. I wonder if that's why I love Neil Gaiman's books so much: He manages to combine lovely prose with canny insight, escapist plots with rich, complex themes.

I understand and respect the pure escapist fiction readers--the romantics, the thrill seekers, the armchair detectives. I'm a wannabe orphaned farm girl who is destined to overthrow the big bad god king and reclaim my birthright as benevolent queen, after all.

But can't there be a compromise between the Secret Life of Elephants and Memory Keepers fiction books and the fun books that make me happy?

Can anyone out there think of a "good" (using my definition) and happy book?


  1. Jane Austen! Always a happy ending. No?

  2. Yes! Actually Jane Austen came to mind after I posted this and I forgot to make an editor's note. She definitely fits the bill. No wonder everyone still loves her!