I recently finished reading the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams. The penultimate book ends with the reader riding high with the two (anti-) heroes Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect who have each found success in their respective arcs. We are then transported to the final novel Mostly Harmless. The characters are stripped of those things that made them so happy and successful in the previous book and we see a story of two men making small decisions and how those decisions have come back around to make big obstacles for them to overcome.
Reading the Goodreads reviews I have seen a lot of positive feedback, but also a lot of frustration. Adams was very public in saying that he wrote the book at a very difficult time in his life. In fact, some of his more pithy humor gives way to some of the frustration and pain he must have been feeling and the ending to the novel is both abrupt and unhappy. A lot of reviewers expressed frustration that his writing changed so drastically.
While fictional novels are an artist’s expression of another world, it is also important to remember that these expressions are colored by the artist themselves. A lot of Adams’ humor revolves around taking everyday nonsense and blowing it up to hilarious extremes – for example: in the first book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, we see Earthman Arthur Dent’s house up for demolition by bureaucrats to build a bypass, while at the same time an alien spacecraft flies by to demolish Earth itself for a hyperspace bypass. It is therefore safe to say that novels are often a product of the author’s experience.
What are other novels that have reflected difficult periods in the author’s life? Have you found any series where the author’s own life had a significant impact, changing the tone of some books more than others? Do you think the real-life subtext made the novel more or less appealing to you?