Have you ever reached the end of a novel or a film or a play and wanted it to continue, not because you didn’t want the fiction to end and reality recommence, but because you felt that should a character cease evolving, you should dissolve into nothingness along with them? At its lightest, this feeling of being parted from your alter ego can extract a little sigh of momentary sadness from the one who is occupied with such a book, as it is usually from the printed word this feeling of longing slithers into the soul; silent reading is, as the title (pun heartily intended) suggests, a past-time to be undertaken in solitude.
Only a little brain racking is required by most of us to reminisce upon a character from which we couldn’t bear to be parted. Waving a close-to-tearful goodbye to Hermione (both on paper and on-screen) marked the end of the period of my childhood which will be forever spoken of as the ‘Harry Potter Years’. She was the girl everybody related to: you were either like her and rejoiced in her bookishness or unlike her but couldn’t help secretly admiring her all the same. She was smart, sarcastic, confident and oh so easy to emulate in costume form on World Book Day (which other girls in my year did but I opted for the more considered approach of Professor Minerva McGonagall – mask of Maggie Smith’s face, long black dress, green shawl, Scottish accent).
For me, this feeling of sorrow is difficult to extinguish in a hurry. It can be distracted from by events in reality, or even other works of the same medium, but it cannot be suppressed or banished. It lingers at the back of one’s mind – only to meander to the forefront in moments of quiet or calm. It is due, more than to our yearning to continue with them on their journey through a fantasy land and instead to the uneasy notion that they will embark on adventures and experiences that we will never be able to share with them.
As if, by some cruelly unfair twist of fate we are forced to make hasty farewells to the humans and animals and creatures great and small with whom we have shared so much of ourselves; our hopes, our dreams, our spirits. For me it was with The Twins of St Clare’s and The Famous Five, the Fossil sisters of “Ballet Shoes” fame and any number of Michael Morpurgo creations. These characters – or people, to many of us – will never age, will never change their personalities, their fears or their goals. They are cast in a bronze haze of memory and long may they remain that way.