All books need great hooks to draw their readers in, but a good ending is also critical. There’s nothing worse than investing the hours required to read 400 pages or so and then getting to the last page and thinking, “That’s it?”
My time is valuable!
Two of the books that I’ve read with outstanding endings are Life of Pi and The Time Traveler’s Wife. I read Pi almost a year ago and the ending still has me thinking. The TTW has an ending that is simply perfect. I almost put the book down about 100 pages into it, but kept plugging away and I’m so glad I did. The conclusion was definitely worth it.
A couple others I can think of are both by Thomas Hardy- Tess of the D’Ubervilles and Jude the Obscure,. Hardy’s style is to start out painfully slow, but once you’re past the halfway mark the action never stops. Both of those had shocking endings I still remember. I was even flabbergasted by Jude when forced to read it in high school so that’s pretty darned impressive. If an old white dude could write something to shock a jaded, hormonal teenager you know it’s good.
So, which book endings have made an impression on you?
I'm in shock, Stephanie. I know tastes differ, and I'm not normally a negative sort of person, but Tess of the D'Urbervilles is so soporific, the woman gets raped, and I didn't even notice. When the baby appeared I had to go back and puzzle out what had happened.
You have a good point, Gary. But Hardy published Tess in 1891 and back then the book was considered shocking for the sexual content. I read most of Hardy's work in one fell swoop so I think I was on the lookout for Victorian nuances.
But if one is comparing Tess or really any of Hardy's novels to today's work they're definitely anesthetized. But I still think the ending left an impact!
I'm glad you wrote about this because it's an interesting subject. I know the majority view is Victorian sensibility was strong, but I'm not so sure.
I know it doesn't begin to rank in the same literary league, but Varney the Vampire, a Feast of Blood was published mid 1800s, long before Tess, and it was hugely popular. Frankenstein well before that. Mary's Frankenstein is much more philosophical than most realize but even so, and Sons and Lovers would be written only 21 years later! So it seems to me the sensibility thing was rather a construct of the day's literary guardians.
Of course, this means I'm admitting to having read Varney the Vampire…clearly you have better taste than me, Stephanie.
"The Firm" by John Grisham has a great ending, as did Sylvia Nobel's mystery "Deadly Sanctuary."
One for the worst endings to a well written novel had to be the anticlimactic ending to "The Historian." It just fell completely flat after 600 pages of buildup. Yuck!