You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed.
— John Irving, The Hotel New Hampshire
I think I finally see it. I thought I saw it before, so this might be a false positive, but I think I finally see what I have to do to get to the end. Yesterday I did something I have not done very often since I started The Jane Austen Project: I went back and read every chapter up to 26. (Chapter 27, as written, is dead to me. It is so clearly a mistake, in both incarnations, the original and the redo, that I could weep for all those lost hours I spent writing it, except there is no time for weeping.) I saw bright spots and missteps. I saw missed opportunities and strange passageways. I saw motifs. But the most important thing is, I saw it as a whole, something I have deliberately tried to largely avoid until now, for fear, I think, that there actually wouldn’t be a whole, that there would be nothing, out of all those words, that would really stick together to tell a story. But I need not have worried.
The end has to incorporate and resolve issues that were present from the start or that cropped up in the course of the story. Rachel and Liam have to do something they never expected in a million years that they would do, and it has to be completely believable. But also surprising, otherwise it is not fun.
They went for the letters, the ones Cassandra consigned to the flames before her own death in 1843. In the end, it is about the letters, and what they choose to do about them. About divided loyalties, past and future. Where do they, ultimately, belong? What is the right thing to do?