Sunday, February 17, 2013

THE ENDING

E. M. Forster, in “Aspects of the Novel,” said that nearly every novel’s ending is a letdown. “This is because the plot requires to be wound up. Why is this necessary? Why is there not a convention which allows a novelist to stop as soon as he feels muddled or bored? Alas, he has to round things off, and usually the characters go dead while he is at work.”

And I think this is true. But what novels defied the odds and left you satisfied. Perhaps regretful that the story had ended but euphoric that a good ending had been pulled off? Not the words themself, but the perfect conclusion to a story well told.

I am going to choose THE LITTLE STRANGER, Sarah Waters. So many people miss what she writes at the very end--and don't you dare read it first. This book succeeds as social commentary, a great ghost story, and a terrific character study. But it is slow going. 

I had to read the last page several times to take her meaning, and I still may be wrong.

 PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is also very satisfying as well as MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS and my usual choice A PLACE OF EXECUTION.

What else?

17 comments:

Dave Zeltserman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seana graham said...

It's not for everybody, but the ending of Adrian McKinty's Falling Glass is one of my favorite endings ever.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Been meaning to check him out for a long time.

seana graham said...

You might want to read Dead I Well May Be first, though, as it will give you a better sense of one of the characters. It's a terrific book in its own right.

Dana King said...

The trick with ending is, you can't leave the reader feeling cheated. Things may not have to have a clear resolution, but you can't expect someone to become invested in your characters--which is necessary to keep them reading--and then not let them know what happens to them, at least tom some degree.

Anonymous said...

I'm willing to bet someone will cite I, the Jury.

I'd say Interface by Joe Gores had an ending that really worked, as well as shocking many readers.


Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think an ending without a clear resolution can work very well. But that's for me. I am not sure most people like grappling with uncertainty in fiction--too much of it in life. I think you at least have to indicate a direction if not the exact latitude and longitude.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have had I, the Jury sitting on my shelf for forty years-unread. Shame, shame.

Deb said...

I'm usually satisfied with endings--if I make it to the end, I'm prepared to accept the ending the writer chooses. Oddly enough, I felt quite let down by the ending of The Little Stranger. In fact, almost all of the Sarah Walters's novels I've read have been cracklingly good reads for the first 3/4 of the novel and then fading out in the last 1/4. The only one of her books that doesn't fall into this pattern is The Night Watch--which is told backwards in three long sections. So she actually tells us the end first.

seana graham said...

I think for me, it doesn't have to be emotionally satisfying. But it does have to stay true to all that has gone before. And even though life is sort of random, it doesn't work if an ending is random. I can still remember a book I read when I was in sixth grade or so, which was about these young college age students, and then in the very last few pages, one of them drowns. Apparently to illustrate the point that one of the character's grandmother's had made--"Never call a day happy until it was over." It is the only story I've ever read where I simply did not accept the ending and mentally rewrote it.

Luckily I don't remember the book or anything else about it, so I doubt that I have wrecked it for anyone. If I have, it would be more in the nature of preparing them, I think.

RkR said...

I would say I haven't been disappointed in the endings of most of Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn novels. Sometimes the Chee novels are a bit below par, however. perhaps I just like the one character better.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I miss Hillerman. I loved learning about that culture through the lens of a crime story.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - I love the ending of Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. So clever! But for really haunting endings? My vote's Catherine O'Flynn's What Was Lost.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think it's particularly hard to end thrillers because of so much build up, but I have read plenty of books with satisfying endings. Ghost Story, The swords of Night and Day, Misery,

Graham Powell said...

INTERFACE has a really great ending, but Raymond Chandler is my favorite author for a reason. Either THE BIG SLEEP or THE LONG GOODBYE could be my favorites, but I think it's actually the ending to his short story "Red Wind", which I didn't grasp at first.

That one makes the connection to Joseph Conrad's work clear, as it's a reflection of the end to HEART OF DARKNESS.

pattinase (abbott) said...

GHOST STORY had a great ending.
Roger Ackroyd was the first Christie I read and amazing.I had no idea what rules she had broken with it.
I will look for that story, Graham.

neer said...

I felt very let down by the ending of The Little Stranger. The Shadow of the Wind was again a major let down. Anthony Gilbert's books The Clock in the Hatbox, and Death Knocks Three Times have terrific endings.