originally written 05/01/2011
The whole Twilight saga may have hinged on the final book, which is unusual in a series of this kind, but in this case the longest book was actually the best. It was the most exciting and meted out the consequences of all the set up of the previous books. It also had a bit of a schizophrenic thing going on, which was both fascinating and a bit dangerous. This is because part of the book behaves like a true Gothic horror story, which to me makes it worthy to follow in the footsteps of predecessors like Bram Stoker and Anne Rice. The other half is like a modernized fairy tale and, perhaps worse, a teen romance saturated with moralizing. It boggles the mind how the two can coexist.
As in a soap opera, a variety of domestic events occur that seem outrageous yet somehow a foregone conclusion—the compulsive viewing/reading is in seeing exactly how these events take place. There’s the wedding Bella was against and Edward was oddly insistent upon; against form, the wedding, the explanations, and so on, go smoothly. So Bella gets her marriage, finds she likes it, has minimal resistance from her parents, and from an aesthetic standpoint, the wedding goes off beautifully.
On the honeymoon, Bella can even have her cake and eat it, too. She finally gets her physical consummation and not only does she like it, Edward likes it too, after some thinly disguised penetration anxiety. In fact, the veil drawn over the climactic scene was almost more titillating than anything explicit could have been. It’s got all the stuff of a sordid romance novel, until the Gothic horror kicks in—in a big way.
After all their carefree cavorting—yet another metaphor surely—Bella somehow (the biology doesn’t make any sense) becomes pregnant. This leads to some truly gruesome moments, both those experienced explicitly and those left to the imagination. For sheer gutsy horror I had to salute Meyer. However, Bella’s martyred determination to keep her vampire-hybrid baby would quickly pall as a one-note monologue, so the narration switches to poor, beset Jacob.
It’s good that at last the long-suffering werewolf receives a mission in life, and his obsession with Bella finally makes some sense. However, after the Gothic horror reaches fever pitch and I think things are going to come to a bloody end, everything comes up roses for Bella. Her baby is not a monster but sweet and gifted, and everyone loves her. The dilemma of Bella wanting to be changed and Edward stalling is very neatly solved by her death as a human necessitating resuscitation as a vampire. And then she gains unique abilities, etc.
The Cullens’ “coven” (oy vey) in the end defeats the Volturi without casualty, which truly seems to cement this story as female Gothic in intention at least. I sympathize with not wishing to kill off characters as I personally am more inclined to write that way. However, the absolutely “happy ever after” ending is a bit alarming to me. Basically, if you subvert parental authority and lie (to the point of treating parents like children), fall in love with a fantastic, iconoclastic dangerous person and bow to his traditionalist whims of a wedding (even at the age of 18), you will get a rewarding sex life, the baby you weren’t sure you wanted will make you and everyone else coo, you will acquire superpowers, and live forever in a state of great bliss. The irresponsibility over contraception and ignoring of parents irks me the most.
Still, much of this book was quite exciting, and I did kind of enjoy the spectacle of an Edwardian (no pun intended) wedding. I can’t help wondering if another quartet featuring baby Reneesme is on its way.