H and I don’t entirely share the same taste in fiction – he enjoys crime but I prefer mine on TV; he’s a great fan of translated fiction and I know I should read more. Despite that, I like to pass the books I’ve most enjoyed on to him and often he’s delighted. The problem is that he much prefers a happy ending but it’s my contention that it’s not possible to have a truly great novel without a degree of unhappiness in it. As a result many of my contributions to his TBR pile are examined carefully, then put back only to be put through the same process several months later. A case in point is Alexander Maksik’s beautiful A Measure to Marker Drift about a lonely young woman fleeing war. It’s a very fine piece of writing, as I tell him every time he pulls it out, but very sad. Back it goes. There’s another – Linda Olsson’s Sonata for Miriam – into which I slipped a note when H was having a particularly tricky time at work. It reads ‘beautiful but tragic’ so destined never to be read by him. How do you feel about happy endings? Do they influence what you read? Do you avoid unhappiness in fiction? Or do you think it’s an essential part of a good book?