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What are your favourite final sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its last sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the last line?

I like books with a tidy ending, but not necessarily a happy ending, so long as the author ties the bundle. Sometimes the ending could leave some room for reader’s interpretation and imagination. I never peek at the end of a novel so I won’t know if I’d like the last lines until I actually get there. Some of the memorable last lines are:

“I closed my eyes, head drooping, like a person drunk for so long she no longer knows she’s drunk, and then, drunk, awoke to the world which lay before me.” (Don Quixote)

“He stayed that way for a long time and when he aroused himself and again looked out of the car window the town of Winesburg had disappeared and his life there had become but a background on which to paint the dreams of his manhood.” (Winesburg, Ohio)

“Are there any questions?” (The Handmaid’s Tale)

“And me! This me who is me being me and none other!” (My Life As a Man)

“He waited for a little in the alley, then returned to the house, to correct his proofs and to devise some method of concealing the truth from Anne.” (Maurice)

And finally, from my current reading, I know the ending because I’ve read the novel a few times:
“I shall go on in the same way, losing my temper with Ivan the coachman, falling into angry discussions, expressing my opinions tactlessly; there will be still the same wall between the holy of holies of my soul and other people, even my wife; I shall still go on scolding her for my own fright and being remorseful for it; I shall still be as unable to understand with my reason why I pray, and I shall still go on praying; but my life now, my whole life apart from anything that can happen to me, every minute of it is no more meaningless, as it was before, but it has the positive meaning of goodness, which I have the power to put into it.” (Anna Karenina)


22 Responses

  1. Okay, this is the third reference to the end of The Handmaid’s Tale that I’ve read today…and I’m getting the distinct impression that it’s been languishing on my TBR pile for far too long. Perhaps Ms. Atwood will be a nice follow up to Breaking Dawn , which I’ll be forced to read this weekend for work.

  2. Your expression of tying up the bundle is apt.

  3. Love your selection.

  4. I prefer the middle more than the beginning or an ending. However, I like open ends. You selected great endings here!

    Here is my BTT post

  5. I like THE END. No one writes that anymore.

  6. I loved the end of The Handmaid’s Tale. You could think whatever you wanted about it.

  7. Sadly I rarely remember the last lines of books. It’s always the first lines that really hook me. Off the top of my head I can only think of one ending sentence I love! How sad! Must revisit some old faves.

  8. I beg your indulgence. I’m not harping on this to annoy you. But the ending of Moby Dick is one of my favorite passages from literature:

    On the second day, a sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last. It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan.

  9. I haven’t read the Handmaid’s Tale but I get the feeling that is a good ending. I saw the movie but I am sure it is different.

  10. I like your choices. i NEVER look at the end of a novel before I get there. I know someone who instantly reads the last page as soon as they start a book and it makes me CRAZY! In my opinion, a good ending doesn’t have to be a happy ending but I don’t like to be left feeling ‘untied’ as you say.

  11. I like your choices–very nice. I put down Gatsby, but it was kind of a cop out, since we know that one by heart at our house!

  12. I’m so glad you included Maurice – I couldn’t find my copy this morning. Poor Clive.

    Have you read At Swim Two Boys, Matt? I’m curious, because if not I think you would love it!

  13. What a great question. If the others in this tiny apartment weren’t asleep I’d rummage through all the books to find those sentences.

    I don’t know if I need a book to end in a bundle, but it does have to seem true to the story. The main storyline does need to tie up one way or another.

  14. I like a tidy ending, too, but sometimes — if done properly — an unfinished story can be just as satisfying. Cell by Stephen King comes to mind. He could have continued with another 300 – 400 pages but chose to leave the story at what was both an end and a beginning. Very nice!

  15. readerville: I strongly recommend The Handmaid’s Tale, which is written in a very detached and discreet style. Nobody has a name, the maids’ names are possessive of their master. It’s quick shocking actually.

  16. Sally: I just hope that the effort and time I put in to read a book would be paid off at the end. 🙂

    Karen: I can’t remember other ending lines. But glad you like these off the top of my head. 🙂

  17. gautami:
    That’s a very good way to look at it! Open ends are fine as long as there is a sense of conclusion.

    Yeah, huh!? Not even at the end of movie!

  18. Chris:
    I think that ending has achieved exactly the effect you mentioned. After all it’s an unusual book with shocking ideas that are reminiscent of Brave New World and 1984.

    It’s weird because what gets readers hooked is the first line, but what really makes readers look forward to is the ending line. But we usually don’t remember the ending! 🙂

  19. Greg S:
    Actually it’s probably the most beautiful lines of the book! 🙂

    Confuzzled Books:
    I haven’t seen the movie but the book has this surreal feeling that still haunts me when I think of it.

  20. Lisa:
    I keep telling some friends not to peek at the end when they start a novel. I think it’s such an act of disrespect–to the author, the plot, a total breach of reader’s ethics! 🙂

    Untied ending ruins my reading experience. It makes me feel I have wasted my time with which I can read something else. One such book is Bel Canto.

  21. gentle reader:
    I don’t blame you–Gatsy is such a classics and I need to reread it! 🙂

    I love Maurice, and also Giovanni’s Room, of which the ending line I don’t remember. I’ll check out At Swim, Two Boys. 🙂

  22. mapelba:
    Oh I have an example of something that is not really true to the story. The Egyptologist. It doesn’t live up to the expectation, certainly not up to what the first half has built up.

    Those 300-some pages would be at our own imagination. 🙂 I actually don’t mind a book with this sort of ending.

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