The end of the novel – the writer’s horror – and the reader’s too!

I’ve been thinking about endings – the endings of books that is. I had to think about them because I am at that point in my own work where I am writing one.  I suppose as readers and writers we remember the ending of a favourite book better than we remember a lot of what went before…

So is the end of a book meant to complete it, to round off the story and bring it to a satisfactory conclusion? Should it leave us cheerfully fulfilled and informed about where the story and its characters will go next in our absence, when we have closed the pages for the last time? Possibly. Possibly not. Of course, it depends on what went before but sometimes even the author doesn’t know what he was getting at with those all important last few lines. Here’s the end of Great Expectations:

I took her hand in mine and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.’

Oh, good a happy ending. They’re going to get married at last. – after all the faffing around and trials and tribulations…  (Well, the book does go on a bit – but I’m not a great Dickens fan, to be honest). Actually, the story works just as well  with a less optimistic ending. In fact, Dickens wrote both: – the one above is his last revision made after friends told him to make it more upbeat – or perhaps because his agent said, ‘listen Charlie, happy endings sell best. Your comic stuff is where the money is…’ Well, maybe…

Of course, some best sellers just have plain rotten endings – like the author ran out of steam and couldn’t wait to get to press and get the royalties coming in:

” ‘What about my back?’ she said. “

That one sold millions. But it’s a rotten line to end on. I turned over the page thinking there must be more. There wasn’t. That was it…  Still, what do I know? Ian Fleming did alright with it, that was the ending of ‘Live And Let Die’.

So big question. What’s your favourite ending to a novel? I’d love to hear what they are,  I’d especially love to know what ones we hated most. Like ‘em, love ‘em or hate ‘em – let’s start listing a few and tells us why you chose them.

‘What larks, eh pip?’



Comments (8)

  • I hate it when a book that I have been engrossed in ends. I don’t have a favourite, but I am a sucker for the traditional happily ever after ending.
    …Maybe I grew up on too many fairytales and Mills and Boons.

  • Hmm. “The End”. Which I, in the case of Dickens, would like to see on page 1

    • Ah,indeed… as you will see I have my doubts about Dickens as well – though I do like parts of Great Expecations and quite a lot of Hard Times and bits of Oliver Twist – maybe that’s the problem – Dickens works in places but not as a whole, for me at least. Perhaps that’s why his stories adapt so well to dramatisation.

  • I like it when the hero returns. Yep like the Joseph Campbell endings you know?
    Thanks for your great post.

  • Glad to receive your comment. Thank you so much. ~I’ve yet to read The Hunger Games but I will…

  • Yes. It’s the, ‘…And it was all a dream syndrome!’