Tuesday, January 23, 2007

My Ten Favorite Fictional Endings

As I'm a bit slow in the reading department right now, I thought I'd post some of my favorite endings of novels. Sad to say, historical fiction is underrepresented, though there's surely a novel that I've missed that has an ending that can match the ones below. And Dickens and Anne Tyler are overrepresented, but it's hardly my fault that they write great endings, is it? But everyone has different tastes, so I'd love to hear your choices. Here are mine:

Anne Tyler, Saint Maybe:

And she tipped her head and smiled. After all, she might have said, this was an ordinary occurrence. People changed other people's lives every day of the year. There was no call to make such a fuss about it.


Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

When the company disperse--by which time Mr. and Mrs. Veneering have had quite as much as they want of the honor, and the guests have had quite as much as they want of the other honor--Mortimer sees Twemlow home, shakes hands with him cordially at parting, and fares to the Temple, gaily.


Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit

They went quietly down into the roaring streets, inseparable and blessed; and as they passed along in sunshine and shade, the noisy and the eager, and the arrogant and the froward and the vain, fretted and chafed, and made their usual uproar.


John Updike, Rabbit Is Rich

Through all this she has pushed to be here, in his lap, his hands, a real presence hardly weighing anything but alive. Fortune's hostage, heart's desire, a granddaughter. His. Another nail in his coffin. His.


Elizabeth Gaskell, Ruth

The first time, for years, that he had entered Mr Benson's house, he came leading and comforting [Ruth's] son--and, for a moment, he could not speak to his old friend, for the sympathy which choked up his voice, and filled his eyes with tears.


Barbara Pym, A Glass of Blessings

We were to have dinner with Sybil and Arnold that evening. It seemed a happy and suitable ending for a good day.


William Styron, Sophie's Choice

This was not judgment day--only morning. Morning: excellent and fair.


Charles Dickens, Bleak House

"And don't you know that you are prettier than you ever were?"

I did not know that; I am not certain that I know it now. But I know that my dearest little pets are very pretty, and that my darling is very beautiful, and that my husband is very handsome, and that my guardian has the brighest and most benevolent face that ever was seen; and that they can very well do without much beauty in me--even supposing--.


Anne Tyler, Breathing Lessons

Then she slipped free and moved to her side of the bed, because tomorrow they had a long car trip to make and she knew she would need a good night's sleep before they started.


George Eliot, Middlemarch

But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive, for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts, and that things are not so ill with you or me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs.


(OK, I admit it, this one brings tears to my eyes. Every time.)

9 comments:

Nan Hawthorne said...

Mine: From Pat Frank's ALAS BABYLON!

"And Randy Bragg turned to face the thousand year night."

In a different sense, I like the whole ending of The Story, www.christenlande.com, as my co-author/muse and I made a pact that none of the main characters ever die!

nan

Alex Bordessa said...

Great list, Susan :-)

One of my favourite endings is:

"There will be more songs - more songs tomorrow, though it is not we who shall sing them"

From Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff.

Daphne said...

I never thought about a list like this but what a great idea. Do you have favorite beginnings as well?

elena maria vidal said...

I always really liked the ending of Sophie's Choice, mentioned above. It was the best part of the book.

And, of course, the ending of the Lord of the Rings, when Sam says to his wife:
"Well, I'm back."

Carla said...

Elena beat me to it with Lord of the Rings.
I also like the endings of Watership Down, Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, and of The Cruel Sea, although oddly the bit that I always think of as the end is actually a couple of pages back.
And the Middlemarch ending you quote gets me that way every time, too.

Susan Higginbotham said...

Thanks, all! Daphne--I have a harder time thinking of beginnings for some reason, but I'd say the beginning of Persuasion is one of my favorites.

Jeri Westerson said...

Susan, I used to read the last lines of books first. I stopped when it actually ruined the book for me once, and it was a good book. It was the Pawn of Time. Can't remember the author, but it really did reveal the ending. I felt like such an idiot!

Susan Higginbotham said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jeri. I confess that I almost always peep at the end of a book, even when I'm enjoying it (perhaps especially when I'm enjoying it). Even if it's a mystery. Sick, I know.

feather said...

I just found this post by utter accident -- I am writing a paper on Ruth and meant to search google books but ended up searching blogs instead -- but I want to comment with my full agreement on the power of the last paragraph of that book. I just reread the last few chapters, intending to mark out passages to use in my paper, and ended up weeping in bed instead.

I skipped over reading all of the other items in your list because I haven't read any of them yet. The inclusion of Eliot thrills me, though; I'm having a devil of a time with this Ruth paper because all I want to do is read Eliot right now. When I first read her for class -- we did Adam Bede -- I was lukewarm, but now I adore her -- I crave those transcendentally beautiful and insightful passages on human nature. Quite wonderful.