Leading Article: Some other happy ending

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Thousands of people must have yearned for some sort of happy ending to the John McCarthy and Jill Morrell story. Their book, Some other Rainbow, published after McCarthy's release from five years in captivity, was a bestseller. Although neither of them was cut out for the role of media Royal Couple, neither did they wholly discourage the idea that this most modern of relationships might survive the tribulations to which it was so publicly subjected. As in Nevil Shute's A Town Like Alice, we were persuaded that their love might just survive imprisonment, war and distance.

Why was our response to this pair of likeable, pragmatic, but basically ordinary young journalists so over-heated? Partly, no doubt, because the media ensured that it would be so. But there is also, surely, another reason. Compared with the normal strains that break relationships, theirs appeared to survive the intolerable, although the events could not have seemed so extraordinary to an older generation of lovers separated by war. If they could deal with their extraordinary pressures, perhaps we could deal better with mundane ones such as infidelity and the difficulty of raising children.

Yesterday, the hero and heroine announced that they are separating. The script turns out, after all, to be not A Town Like Alice, but Casablanca. When Humphrey Bogart parts from Ingrid Bergman in that film, he concludes stoically that the problems of such little people "don't amount to a hill of beans on this crazy little planet". Bogart's melodramatic sense of irony was no more convincing in the picture than it was ever likely to be for the lives of McCarthy and Morrell.

Certainly since Casablanca, the planet has not got any less crazy. Perhaps McCarthy and Morrell were ill-advised in playing to our desire to see someone else's life in a rainbow light. But for all the hype, now passed, theirs was a story which involved courage and determination. We should remember that and let the pair of them get on with living their lives as they wish.

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