So Go On - Tell Me I Was Daft To Worry So Much...

Posted on 2nd August, 2015

Recently I re-read Airs and Graces by Erica James. It's a book I re-read every year or so, mainly by listening to the audio version read by Eve Matheson. Every time I read or listen to it, the same thing happens. The worry I experienced the first time I read it years ago comes flooding back.

What had me on tenterhooks? Did I agonise over whether Ellen would see through the new boyfriend? Was I anxious about the letters she ignored from from ex? No, what worried me was her job.

Ellen Jacobs, newly divorced and strapped for cash, sets up in business making and selling dried flower arrangements. That made me worry dreadfully about her, because - with apologies to everyone whose job is making dried flower arrangements - I simply couldn't see how she was going to make ends meet. The fact that she was an engaging character who was having a tough time in other respects made me worry for her all the more.

It took some time for it to sink in that it doesn't matter whether in the real world dried flowers can earn you a living, enabling you to pay your way, support your child and maintain your cottage and the barn that houses your business. In the world of the book, it was up to Erica James to decide whether Ellen's business venture would succeed. If she wanted Ellen to do well, then she had to make it possible within the structure and logic of the plot. In fact, Ellen's struggles in business formed an essential part of the story, because they were part of what made her vulnerable in her personal life; and at a time when some of her personal decisions were questionable, her resolve to make a success of her work showed her as hard-working, determined and brave.

Not that knowing all that prevents me from worrying afresh with each re-reading....

What do you think? Was I daft to tie myself in knots over Ellen's financial and business welfare? Have you ever worried about a character, and why? (I bet your reasons were more sensible than mine!) Have you ever latched onto an aspect of a novel that wasn't the main thrust of the story, but which struck a chord with you? And are the rules different in fiction to those in real life? I'd love to hear what you think.

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Comments (4)

I worry about fictional characters all the time and am glad I'm not alone in doing so. As Jessica said, worrying about a character means the author has done a good job in making them real.

Although I've read the books many times, I always worry about the characters in the 'Little House' books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. They faced so many obstacles and on each reading I get that little flutter inside - will they make it through? The Ingalls family is almost as dear to me as my own family.

Thank you, as always, for a thought-provoking post.
I'm not familiar with Airs and Graces but I loved reading this post as it clearly shows that the writer is talented in her work to have you care for and worry about her protagonist. I think I'll have to add it to my TBR pile.

Louise - thank you so much for commenting about my novel. I'm so flattered. I used to run a shop (a teddy bear shop rather than a florist shop) so I'm really pleased that a level of knowledge came through without boring the reader! I wanted to get that contrast between control over her business and lack of control over her personal life too so really glad that came through. You've made my day xx
I too enjoyed reading Searching For Steven and I agree with your comments about Sarah's hard work in her new shop. I found that the shop-thread in the story made a satisfying sub-plot in its own right. Thanks for visiting my blog, Louise.
Whether a character's business does well or badly has to be written in a believable way by the author. I haven't read Airs and Graces but your post made me think of Searching For Steven, in which the main character's new shop is important. The MC revamps the shop and expands its range of goods, which shows she has business sense; and then we see her and her staff working very hard, which was realistic in a new business. Little details were mentioned here and there that showed that the writer (Jessica Redland) knows about shops. In the same way that Ellen's work in Airs and Graces showed her as hard-working and determined, in this book, Sarah is shown in the same way, as well as being imaginative. It makes a good contrast to the ups and downs of her love life.