All’s Well That Ends Well — Except When It Doesn’t

What makes a good ending to a novel? What makes a not so good ending? And when I say “ending” I mean a book’s last few chapters, or last chapter, or last page, or last paragraph, or even last line.

A novel’s conclusion is often what we remember most, so it’s obviously crucial to a work of fiction. If the ending isn’t satisfying and true to the novel, an excellent book becomes, well, almost excellent.

I’ll discuss this topic by citing specific novels and why their conclusions are or aren’t great — starting with those that end in a satisfying way. And I’ll try to avoid spoilers!

When one thinks of fine fiction finales, the first novel that often comes to mind is The Great Gatsby and its immortal last line: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” You don’t need me to explain why F. Scott Fitzgerald’s sentence works — it’s evocative, it says a lot about the human condition, and it’s written like a dream.

Among many other memorable last lines are “He loved Big Brother” (George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four), “Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?” (Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man), and of course “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known” (Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities).

Moving away from last lines per se, another novel with a very satisfying conclusion is To Kill a Mockingbird. At first glance, it would seem that the 1960 book should end with the dramatic trial that features Atticus Finch trying against all odds to get innocent black man Tom Robinson acquitted by a racist white jury. But a lot happens after that — some of it hopeful and of a cosmic-justice nature. Perhaps Harper Lee was trying to show that change, while often glacially slow, was coming in the United States.

Staying in the American South, the final chapters of John Kennedy Toole’s New Orleans-set A Confederacy of Dunces (which I read for the first time last week) are also satisfying in the way they depict major life changes happening to the various eccentric characters — who by then have pretty much morphed into individuals rather than hilarious stereotypes.

For The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck knew exactly what his closing scene would be before writing the novel that led up to it. Rose of Sharon’s encounter with a starving man mixes heartbreak and humanity in an astonishing way.

Moby-Dick‘s intense ending works superbly because of Herman Melville’s mighty prose and the foreshadowing in the novel that seems to augur nothing but that ending.

The same can be said for Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, in which the ultimate fate of the town of Macondo seems as inevitable as the wind.

Jane Eyre has a conclusion that’s both tragic and romantic, and one can think of almost no other way Charlotte Bronte could have resolved the dilemmas of her two main protagonists while making them equal to each other and trusting of each other.

Henry James ends The American with the burning of a document and the reaction of the person who prematurely tossed it into the fireplace. A priceless moment.

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (which I reread this month) and Jack London’s Martin Eden have similar conclusions that are shocking yet make total sense in the context of how the troubled protagonists are feeling in those novels.

There are also novels that tell disparate stories that don’t “come together” until the finish. When the meshing is done skillfully — as in Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer — there’s a “wow” factor.

L.M. Montgomery’s final Anne of Green Gables chapters mix death, self-sacrifice inspired by gratitude, and the blossoming of a relationship in a fashion that’s not only very moving but sets the stage for the sequels to come. Making a novel sequel-ready is one way to create an effective ending.

Speaking of multiple-book properties, the last installment of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series nears its conclusion with the riveting Battle of Hogwarts and final Harry/Voldemort standoff, but is followed by a clunky epilogue about the main characters’ future lives.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy almost ends with epic warfare and the ultra-dramatic scene at Mount Doom, but stretches the story a bit too long as Frodo and others return to “civilian” life.

Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is exquisite until the late appearance of Tom Sawyer turns things farcical when a more serious approach is warranted.

Mentioning Henry James again, The Europeans is an absorbing novel that abruptly ends with nearly everything summed up in too neat a bow.

Then there are mostly sunny books with sad conclusions that don’t seem right, and mostly sad books with sunny conclusions that also don’t seem right. The House of the Seven Gables has one of those scenarios (I’m trying to avoid a spoiler here) that reportedly happened when Nathaniel Hawthorne was persuaded to change the ending.

Of course, some novels have happy endings that are logical and organic to the story — and what’s not to like about that? But many of the best novels are too true to the troubled nature of human existence to offer happy-ending wish fulfillment. We may not like those depressing finales, but they often feel realistic and not insulting to our intelligence.

What are your favorite novels with conclusions that are satisfying or not so satisfying? What makes those endings work or not work? And do you agree or disagree with my takes on the novel finales I discussed?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else. Also, please feel free to read through comments and reply to anyone you want; I love not only being in conversations, but also reading conversations in which I’m not involved!)

For three years of my Huffington Post literature blog, click here.

I’m also in the middle of writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in New York City and Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

168 thoughts on “All’s Well That Ends Well — Except When It Doesn’t

  1. I’ve never given much thought to last lines, chapters, etc. My heart has always been my love for a book as a whole, fiction or non-fiction. I’ll have to start granting “endings” a little more thought as I read (and re-read) in the future. Nice post. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment and kind words, VocareMentor!

      You make an excellent point — a novel is best looked at as an entire entity, with various parts hopefully making for a great whole. But I sometimes enjoy thinking about literature in segmented ways. 🙂

      Like

  2. On its surface, the ending of Richard Wright’s Native Son is final, but IMO, it’s a bit more complex than how it appears. I formed that opinion after recently completing Wright’s The Outsider, which was published about 13 years after Native Son.

    The protagonist in The Outsider is named Cross Damon, but in reading this book, all I could envision was Bigger Thomas. Same underprivileged background, upbringings/family structure, and negative outlook on life due to racism and poverty. Despite these barriers, both men are intelligent. Bigger was obviously from the streets, but he also expressed desires to attend school to become a pilot. Cross was articulate, well-spoken, very philosophical, and made you think. Cross Damon was 27-28. Bigger Thomas was 18-19. Just imagine Bigger Thomas as a slighter older man to get a better idea of Cross Damon.

    My reason for connecting the development of the Cross character with Thomas is due to ending of Native Son. That novel ended with Bigger in the jail cell making peace with himself and his actions, and his attorney Max walking away from him. Wright didn’t expand on the execution. Yes, we know that the death sentence was issued, and that the governor denied the defence attorney’s appeal. Bigger’s death is implied, but his fate still seems a little…unresolved.

    I think Richard Wright purposely left that ending a little “open” so that a Bigger Thomas-esque character could appear in a subsequent book. He’s detailed executions in his other books (Uncle Tom’s Children comes to mind), but sort of held back on that aspect at the end of Native Son. I know people who’ve read The Outsider and didn’t like it, but returned to it after reading or re-reading Native Son, and The Outsider made more sense to them then. If that was Richard Wright’s goal for readers, then he pulled it off brilliantly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting and eloquent thoughts, Anonymous, with great descriptions of parts of two books. I haven’t read “The Outsider,” but your theory of it as kind of a quasi-sequel to “Native Son” is very convincing.

      It has been a long time since I read “Native Son,” but I remember its ending to be satisfying within the context of the novel. A mostly depressing ending (with a tiny bit of hope), but what else could be expected in the U.S. back then? And today isn’t as different as some people would like to think when it comes to racism, inequality, an unfair criminal justice system, etc.

      Like

      • It is not a very popular book with casual Richard Wright fans/readers. Most people generally don’t go beyond Black Boy and Native Son.

        I’m in the minority with 2-3 other friends regarding our opinions on Cross Damon-Bigger Thomas. The majority of the people in our book club think Cross Damon was a violent sociopath who killed for sport whereas the Dalton murder committed by Bigger Thomas was not intentional, and he did not go on to murder again. But then I had to point out that Bigger brutally murdered his girlfriend when they were on the run, so his propensity for violence was just as strong as Damon’s.

        That’s the great thing about literature and especially living here in Seattle…people can interpret things differently and bring up points that you probably never considered. All of that makes for a good discussion.

        Anyway, duty calls. Enjoy the rest of your day.

        Like

        • BTW, the ending for The Outsider was not open-ended. It left no doubt on whether or not another Bigger Thomas-type character would ever appear again.

          I know you’re hoping and wishing that I’ll tell you how it ended, but I won’t do that. Absolutely not. To quote one of my favourite and quirkiest characters of all time, “I would prefer not to…”

          Like

          • Thanks, Anonymous, for the two excellent comments and for the very nice Bartleby the Scrivener reference ending the second one. 🙂

            Yes, discussing literature can be so much fun and so interesting. Since I haven’t read “The Outsider,” I can’t add much more to the discussion of how it compares to “Native Son,” but it’s great that you’ve gone beyond Richard Wright’s two best-known books to read his other work. I’ve read and often loved the lesser-known works of various authors, but have unfortunately not done that with Wright (at least yet).

            Like

            • I don’t know if you read memoirs, but one you might want to put on your radar is Daughter of a Native Son. Julia Wright, Richard Wright’s oldest daughter, worked on this for years, and it was published in the mid-90s.

              She led a fascinating life. Helped to establish Pan-African groups in northern Africa and France, worked as a journalist in France and West Africa, had a chance to meet Martin Luther King when he visited Richard Wright in France before his death, and I believe she still conducts anti-death penalty/human rights/social justice lectures in the U.S. and abroad.

              Great material and insights in her book.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Thanks, Anonymous! I love memoirs — as well as autobiographies (I’m not always clear on how they differ from memoirs 🙂 ) and biographies. I’m much more focused on fiction these days, but when I eventually get to more nonfiction books again “Daughter of a Native Son” would be a fascinating one to read. It sounds like Julia Wright has led a fascinating, admirable life.

                Like

  3. “To Kill a Mockingbird”..the ending together with the whole book made it so endearing. The Mockingbird itself ” Boo Radley” was a symbol of all the goodness in the world a gentle soul injured by the evil of mankind.
    Now you have watched the movie Dave, you perhaps know the actor who played Boo was Robert Duvall.

    ” Low Land” I read not so long ago, I would not call it a happy ending but was satisfying one. I was looking for the book in discount so I could mail it to you to read but no luck so far.
    On the other hand Kurt Vonnegut`s unpublished novel ” If God Were Alive Today” had an abrupt ending, published by his daughter after his death.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, bebe! Yes, the Boo Radley-related ending of “To Kill a Mockingbird” novel and movie was very touching — and it was amazing to see such a young Robert Duvall in his first film role. I think your eloquent interpretation of the Boo character is exactly right.

      Thanks for thinking of me re “Lowland”! 🙂 I haven’t seen that Jhumpa Lahiri novel at my local library yet. Either it’s constantly borrowed or it hasn’t been purchased yet. Often, I don’t see newer novels there until they’re a year or two old. A not happy or a not totally happy ending can still be very satisfying, as you note.

      Unfinished novels indeed have abrupt “conclusions” that often leave a reader wanting more. The Vonnegut work you mentioned, Dickens’ “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Last Tycoon,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Weir of Hermiston,” Alexandre Dumas’ “The Last Cavalier,” etc. A few years ago, I read a middling Jack London novel — “Assassination Bureau Ltd.” — that was finished by another writer who did a pretty good job.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Someone else continuing a finished very popular novel does not mean much to me. I have not read but wasn’t someone wrote on Pride and prejudice. ” Mr. Darcy’s Undoing”. Some more on Gone With the Wind?

        Thank goodness Stieg Larsson was able to finish his epic Novel “The Millennium Trilogy” before his untimely demise, otherwise it would have been so unfair to his readers ( sorry to mention the book for the upteenth time :))

        Liked by 1 person

        • I agree, bebe! Although the person who finished that Jack London novel did a fairly good job, I didn’t like the whole idea of that. And other authors writing a sequel to a famous novel or writing a novel “inspired” by a famous novel seems exploitative and sort of a shortcut to get attention for a book and make a quick buck.

          Yes, it’s wonderful that Stieg Larsson could finish those three books before he died too young. Still on my list — and my library had them the last time I was there. 🙂 But I had already picked five novels to take out, so maybe next time!

          Liked by 1 person

          • I am glad you liked Jack London`s novel…that was unfinished, so different story.
            You are so right about being ” inspired” by a famous ” complete” novels..I see in the library..Darcy this, Darcy that.books..really..
            Don`t worry about Triology you already know the story 😉

            Liked by 1 person

            • Definitely too much “Darcy this, Darcy that,” as you rightly note! Jane Austen is so popular these days that too many publishers and too many authors are trying to take advantage of it. I wish they would concentrate on creating original works — and maybe come up with brand-new classics. As the cliche goes, Austen must be rolling over in her grave!

              Liked by 1 person

                • bebe, it’s almost like a cult or something. 🙂 “Pride and Prejudice” is a great book with great characters, but things have gone a bit overboard!

                  I’m currently reading a very nice novel, recommended by a columnist friend of mine, called “Where the Heart Is” (by Billie Letts). Have you ever read it?

                  Like

                  • Let me know how it is. Just borrowed ” A Most Wanted Man” by John Le Carre today. I have not read any of his. Actually was looking fro T T Soilder Spy unfortunately was not on the shelf.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • I’ve never read John Le Carre, either, bebe. Let me know what you think, too!

                      I’ve read about 25% of “Where the Heart Is.” Very absorbing story of a pregnant Tennessee teen who’s abandoned by her boyfriend on their way to California when she stops in an Oklahoma Wal-Mart. She ends up secretly living in the store, and then meeting several very interesting town residents.

                      Like

                  • While in Washington last week a close friend suggested to read “Tinker , tailor, soldier, spy. “..then there is a movie done well according to him. I was told it is a complex book and needed to go back several times to understand the movie.
                    So thank goodness the book was not on the shelf.. 🙂 I`ll let you know how this one turns out. But it takes me forever to finish a book.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Ha — it sounds like it can sometimes be a relief not to find a book. 🙂

                      I’ve definitely heard of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” Great title, isn’t it? Good luck with the other Le Carre novel!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Very nice of you to make that effort, bebe, but I will find and read that novel eventually! 🙂 That IS a bit pricey — I assume it’s in paperback by now? If you’re looking for a copy of the book for yourself, I hope you find it for much less than $15.99!

                      Like

                    • I wanted to buy it for myself..just looked at Amazon 10.99…I can wait 🙂
                      But bought a couple of books on ” soup” hard cover from the used book store. Paid 13 $..but much better than paying the full price.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Yaa…but in cookbooks i love to flip the pages more than I cook..I am hoping I will find some good ones. I never make soups but i am so tired with the store bought ones. 😦

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Cookbooks ARE fun to look at. (I do 99% of the cooking, partly because my wife has long workdays in New York.) And, yes, store soups are often so-so, and the better ones (like Health Valley Organic) are not cheap. 😦

                      Like

                    • I am not proud to say I never make soups. I kept a few cans of Amy`s organic..not so tasty. I am planning to try soups in future..particularly in this awful winter. GL`s recipe sounds delicious…

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • bebe a simple soup base is what you need. My wife and I use 2 14oz cans chicken broth, fill up the broth with chunked potatoes, once ready partially mash potatoes while they are in the broth. Do not drain.

                      They you add, sautéed veggies. We use leeks and mushrooms, cooked in bacon grease, and add the diced bacon also. Frozen peas or corn are good. We even put cheese on top once.

                      The broth could be veggie broth if you prefer that. A good soup base is always the best way to go, it keeps it simple and useful.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • Fantastic ! Thanks GL , I already saved it sounds delicious. I already have a container of chicken broth in my fridge. So I must try it ASAP…appreciate much !

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • Yikes, bebe, as bad as last year in Ohio? That’s scary. I hope the forecasts are wrong, too. This week’s Buffalo-area disaster is worrisome; it might be an extreme version of what Ohio, New Jersey, and some other states could face. 😦

                      Like

                    • OMG…I can vouch for it…awesome find…that was last Sunday night, we have a longggggg driveway. I did not leave my house for Two days..except triing my best to take my 14 pounder Pomchi out. It was pathetic..snow was upto her chest. Why did we even move .. 😦

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • G`morning Dave..I just looked at the post of Dawn Weber…beautiful and appropriate poem, must be a friend of yours. sadly what a waste of talent…not a single post under her.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Good morning, bebe! Dawn is indeed a very talented and funny writer, and she does deservedly get a lot of positive comments on Facebook. For all the reasons we both know, many people prefer not to comment at HP under ANY post. I commented there under a couple of Dawn’s posts when she first joined HP a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t bear to do it any more. But I praised the poem under her Facebook post about it. I’ve never met Dawn — she’s a Facebook friend of a friend!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I hear you, bebe, but unfortunately “you know who” doesn’t care at all about bloggers like Cara or me leaving. We’re not bigwig celebrities.

                      As for anyone starting with HP at this point, I’m tempted to warn them what it’s like, but I guess they’ll find out for themselves. HP does give writers exposure — unpaid, of course — that can come in handy for a while before they hopefully leave the site!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Very true, bebe. Sometimes people have to experience HP’s neglect, incompetence, and nastiness firsthand. Meanwhile, she’ll probably get some new readers — there might be a few intelligent people still visiting HP along with the fans of junky “news.” 🙂

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • You’re so right, bebe. One of the most disappointing things about HP becoming junkier and more corporate is that the site in its early years seemed very different than many other mainstream media outlets. Not any more. 😦

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • So true…on the same note WP just send me a Happy Anniversary toast with a wine glass…to remind me i joined WP an year ago ( to the other place ). How interesting…ha..

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • bebe, WordPress DOES seem like an excellent company (unlike HP/AOL). WP’s instructions for starting and running my blog were very clear, and its tech department was very friendly and helpful the one time I used it. It’s easy for me to edit my columns, anonymity for commenters is allowed, and more. Also, WP provides lots of “backstage” information for me — how many page views, what countries the page views are coming from, etc. It’s a pleasure to be associated with WP!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • How good to know all these…even the Country.good. No wonder another WP site I go to the gentleman is sticking to WP for years. As so many other sites uses disqus. I tried only onetime I didbnot like it . Thx

                      Like

                    • bebe, I can definitely understand loyalty to WordPress! I ended up choosing it because my older daughter used it when she did a blog, and she was very happy with it.

                      I’m sure I’ve commented on disqus here and there, but I don’t know much about it!

                      Liked by 1 person

                • I can’t understand (well, I can understand, I suppose) the romantic obsession with ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and Darcy in particular. How about some ‘sequels’ to ‘Middlemarch’ or ‘Daniel Deronda.’ Those main characters don’t exactly expire at the end of the novels. Someone could concoct some kind of Gwendolyn/Daniel pseudo romance if the Mirah thing doesn’t work out (perhaps kill off Mirah?). Or have some new adventures with Tertius Lydgate? His marriage with Rosamund was always shaky. Let’s romanticize a few other 19th century Victorian Literature characters for a change, if we must romanticize someone. There are plenty of other characters to choose from beyond that Austen bunch.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • You are so right..being in the public library that’s what I see as Dave said they are with exploitative tendency. P&P is widely read keeping that in mind the books are written.

                    Liked by 1 person

                  • Great seriocomic comment, bobess48!

                    There are indeed other Victorian Age novelists who could be “sequeled” or mashed-up. “Silas Marner and Zombies,” anyone? But, seriously, although I generally don’t like the idea of people writing novels “inspired” by classic novels, it would be fascinating to see a sequel to “Middlemarch” or “Daniel Deronda” (Daniel and Mirah in Palestine?). Or a prequel to “Daniel Deronda,” focusing on Daniel’s mother, that’s sort of like Jean Rhys’ “Wide Sargasso Sea” prequel to “Jane Eyre.”

                    As to why Jane Austen has inspired “Darcymania” and such a lot more than other iconic novelists, perhaps it’s because Austen’s work is perceived as lighter and more entertaining than the work of someone like George Eliot. And Austen focuses on relationships while Eliot has a wider canvas. Of course I’m talking about perception — Austen can be pretty deep and Eliot often focuses on relationships, and is almost always entertaining in addition to being deep.

                    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hello Dave and gang. I haven’t commented in a while (for reasons too insipid to explain), but have enjoyed catching up on all the columns that I missed. Regarding this column, the most powerful ending that I’ve experienced in quite some time is from your highly recommended “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy. It’s been a month since I’ve completed this work, and it still has me thinking. It is difficult to discuss endings without introducing spoilers, but anyone who has read this column know that McCarthy’s book is filled detailed descriptions of just about every conceivable act of violence – nothing is off limits. Except for that penultimate chapter, where all of a sudden an “unspeakable” act occurs, which is left to the mind of the reader to imagine. I thought it was one of the most brilliant and thought provoking ending to any novel I have read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great to hear from you again, drb19810! I hope things have been okay with you this fall.

      “Blood Meridian” is a TERRIFIC book to mention when discussing memorable endings to novels. I’m trying to figure out how I forgot to include it in my column. 🙂 It has been at least a couple of years since I read Cormac McCarthy’s ultra-violent book, but — like you — I still think about it and get chills remembering the encounter between The Kid and Judge Holden at the end. (I won’t give away more than that to anyone reading this reply of mine.)

      Thanks for the eloquent comment, and welcome back!

      PS: As you probably saw, I mentioned E.L. Doctorow’s excellent “World’s Fair” in an early-fall column — https://daveastoronliterature.com/2014/09/28/bad-marriages-weve-read-a-few/ — and gave you a credit for recommending it. That credit is in the first comment, visible at the very bottom of the comments area.

      Like

        • Yes – I did see your acknowledgement for “World’s Fair”. I’m glad you enjoyed it and used it as an example in your “bad marriage” column. Most of what I recall from that book was young Edgar’s perspective – he loved both his Mom and his Dad, and he had an awareness of the unhappiness of his parent’s marriage, but didn’t really have a deep understanding of the problems. He felt safe and loved overall. But, even though the bulk of the book was a child’s memories, it was interspersed with chapters narrated by other folks, primarily his mother , aunt and brother, as if he were interviewing these people as an adult, and recording their memories and perspectives of that era. This is where the unhappiness gets better articulated.

          The last book I’ve completed is “Steppenwolf” by Hermann Hesse – a worthwhile but deeply philosophical book. This is a great example of a book that affected me much differently as an older man as opposed to as a young adult. I first read this book in my late teens and enjoyed the phantasmagoric elements of the plot, but didn’t really understand the philosophical crisis experienced by the main character, Harry Haller (H.H – Hermann Hesse). I had a much deeper appreciation of the book this time around.

          Currently, I am in the middle of Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair” – an old classic which I never read. I am enjoying this satire of human vanity very much, and although written in the Victorian Era and set in the era of the Napoleonic Wars, is universal in its themes and is a very delightful read.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Interesting thoughts on “World’s Fair,” drb19810. You summed up that book very well in a short amount of space! As you allude to, one of the strengths of E.L. Doctorow’s memoir-ish novel is the way it shows that kids, at the time they are kids, only have a partial understanding of their parents’ relationship and what makes their Mom and Dad tick.

            “Steppenwolf” is one of those novels I’ve meant to read for years, but have never quite gotten to. It does sound deep and worth trying.

            “Vanity Fair”! I read and enjoyed it in college, and still have the paperback in my apartment. I’d love to reread it; not sure when! You’re absolutely right that “Vanity Fair,” like a number of other great novels from way back, has certain universal themes that make it not as dated as its age might warrant.

            When I think of Thackeray, one thing I think of is Charlotte Bronte visiting him in London.

            Like

              • I read something about the visit a while ago, so I hope I’m remembering correctly. As you say, they were indeed fans of each other. Thackeray was already famous when Charlotte Bronte also became famous for “Jane Eyre.” She visited Thackeray, maybe during a small gathering, and apparently was very quiet (shy and a bit awestruck?) in his presence. As passionate and “talkative” as the brilliant Bronte was in her novels, this was not the case in her social interactions.

                I just found this remembrance of Bronte’s visit by Thackeray’s daughter Anne: http://kleurrijkbrontesisters.blogspot.com/2011/04/second-visit-charlotte-bronte-to-london.html

                “Two gentlemen come in, leading a tiny, delicate, serious, little lady, with fair straight hair, and steady eyes. She may be a little over thirty; she is dressed in a little barège dress with a pattern of faint green moss. She enters in mittens, in silence, in seriousness; our hearts are beating with wild excitement. This then is the authoress, the unknown power whose books have set all London talking, reading, speculating; some people even say our father wrote the books — the wonderful books. The moment is so breathless that dinner comes as a relief to the solemnity of the occasion, and we all smile as my father stoops to offer his arm; for, genius though she may be, Miss Brontë can barely reach his elbow. My own personal impressions are that she is somewhat grave and stern, specially to forward little girls who wish to chatter. Every one waited for the brilliant conversation which never began at all. Miss Brontë retired to the sofa in the study, and murmured a low word now and then to our kind governess the conversation grew dimmer and more dim, the ladies sat round still expectant, my father was too much perturbed by the gloom and the silence to be able to cope with it at all after Miss Brontë had left… It was one of the dullest evenings [Mrs Procter] had ever spent in her life the ladies who had all come expecting so much delightful conversation, and the gloom and the constraint, and how finally, overwhelmed by the situation, my father had quietly left the room, left the house, and gone off to his club.”

                Like

                  • I know! Hard to imagine. I guess some authors write more interestingly than they converse.

                    Now I’m thinking of doing a column about famous authors meeting each other, or at least being in the same room. So many great examples — a young Twain hearing Dickens speak when the latter visited America, Melville and Hawthorne being pals for a while, Henry James visiting George Eliot, James Fenimore Cooper meeting Sir Walter Scott, Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes writing a play together, etc. I think I’ll do it! Possibly for posting at the end of the month.

                    Like

                    • Thanks! I look forward to your comments under that! I have another column already written that I plan to post this Sunday evening, but I think I’ll write the author-encounter column after that and post it at the end of Thanksgiving weekend.

                      Like

    • Cathy, thanks so much for your kind and cleverly worded comment! I deeply appreciate it. I also look forward to your upcoming book “Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success: For Real Estate Agents, WannaBes, UsedToBes, & Those Who Love Them!”

      (To anyone reading Cathy’s comment, I didn’t solicit her generous mention of my “Comic (and Column) Confessional” memoir. For those who haven’t read my 2012 book, its last line is actually “…I managed to author a memoir that will conclude…now.” 🙂 )

      Like

  5. Perhaps this is common knowledge, but I learned yesterday that Dickens changed the ending of Great Expectations. It apparently ends on a happier note than what Dickens had first intended

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did not know that, Susan! Thanks!

      That apparently wasn’t the first time Dickens was open to revision. I’ve heard (I think from one of the commenters under a past blog post here) that Dickens, in a later edition of “Oliver Twist,” somewhat toned down what’s widely perceived as that novel’s anti-Semitic depiction of the Fagin character.

      Like

      • Oliver Twist is one that I haven’t read. I’ve read Great Expectations, and David Copperfield, and Bleak House, and started to find Dickens’ poor little orphan character too repetitive. I’m sure I’m missing out by not reading Oliver Twist, but I just don’t think I can open myself to that kind of misery all over again…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Susan, “Oliver Twist” is a good novel, but nowhere near Dickens’ best. And, as you accurately note, it’s quite depressing.

          You mentioned three GREAT Dickens novels. “A Tale of Two Cities” is up there, too, and “Dombey and Son” is excellent as well. His funniest, I think, is “The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.”

          Like

          • A Tale of Two Cities would probably be my second fave after Great Expectations (though sometimes that could be the other way around), however I think that’s only because Great Expectations was the first of his Poor Little Orphan books that I read. David Copperfield was a real let down after that, and Bleak House was just the same stuff all over again (although I did find the court case enjoyable). I feel like I *should* give Oliver Twist a go, but it still seems same old same old. And I’ve heard VERY good things about his Posthumous Papers, but I need to get over Bleak House before I can even contemplate it. Maybe in the next 3 or 4 decades 😉

            Liked by 1 person

            • LOL! Yes — one needs lots of “recovery time” after reading a novel like “Bleak House.” 🙂

              Dickens did indeed focus a lot on orphans, didn’t he. Great observation, Susan.

              The excellent “A Tale of Two Cities,” though not my favorite Dickens novel, might be his best-written one. So eloquent. And it’s interesting when Dickens takes some of a novel outside of London (as he also does with “Martin Chuzzlewit,” which is partly set in the America). So many of his books are based in London.

              Like

              • Susan, I couldn’t find “Fahrenheit 451” in my local library today. 😦 (I hope it’s there next time). But I did find another Ray Bradbury novel — “Dandelion Wine” — highly recommended by commenter Clairdelune. Have you read it?

                Like

  6. Come to think of it, though I’m not sure I’d want to classify it as an ending I liked exactly, but One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which I read in college, packed a real wallop into its last few pages. I remember reading it, turning out the lights, and sitting bolt upright in bed about a minute later, all sorts of emotion running through me. After that, I couldn’t sleep for hours. Can’t recall any other book as having had a similar effect on me. So, kudos to your authorial powers, Mr. Kesey!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agree, jhNY. Powerful ending. Pretty darn good movie version of that novel, too.

      Like many other people, I had/have some family members and relatives with psychological issues — which, for me, adds to the impact of “One Flew…”

      Like

    • An English teacher in high school saw I was reading The Kool Aid Acid Test and insisted on giving me a signed copy of Cuckoo’s Nest, I think he was engaging in a vain but admirable effort to save me from myself. I to had multiple emotional responses to the ending and indeed the entire novel. In conjunction with the former work mentioned I marveled, and still do, how could one man live so large and write so brilliantly. It may be a bit of a shame to the reading public that after Sometimes a Great Notion he more or less focused on his family and other interests as there is no telling what wonders he could have created. I believe though he knew what he was doing and what he wanted so I express my regret out of total respect. The link below is from 1995 of his thoughts on the passing of his close friend Jerry Garcia, gives me chills every time I read it.http://members.aye.net/~hippie/kesey.htm

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Two favorite novel endings:

    IB Singer’s The Family Moskat– when Warsaw is first being bombed by the Germans, a particularly devout family member runs into the street shouting that the Messiah is coming. Then he explains: ‘Death is the Messiah!’

    Lampedusa’s The Leopard– after the death of the main protagonist, the Count, the family limps on through another few decades, its prospects reduced, its female unmarrieds squandering what little money they have on the purchase of relics, sold to them by charlatan priests and others attached to the Church. There is a house-cleaning, after a visit from a priest sent to authenticate the relics found them to be false, and among the things thrown out, the ancient skin of the Count’s huge dog.

    “During the flight down from the window his form recomposed itself for an instant; in the air one could have seen dancing a quadruped with long whiskers, and its right foreleg seemed to be raised in imprecation. Then all found peace in a heap of livid dust.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow — those two endings are downbeat but magnificent! “The Leopard” is already on my list; now “The Family Moskat” is, too. I’ve read I.B. Singer’s short stories, not any of his novels. His stories are superb.

      Thanks, jhNY!

      Like

  8. As you, Dave, might recall, re Jane Eyre, I would have preferred, vastly, to have seen plucky Jane expire in an exhausted heap in that blasted spot on the moor, than to see any of what follows: her coming into a fortuitous fortune, her relationship with her insipid missionary cardboard cousin or her return to her former employer’s home and waiting arms and thanks to her tender care, the inevitable recovery of his sight.

    But that’s just me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do remember that, jhNY. 🙂 And in a way that would have been a logical ending. (Your comment makes the case for it quite eloquently and drolly.)

      But I think the actual conclusion wasn’t all upbeat — for reasons that included Rochester still not being what he was, even with the eye surgery.

      Even Charlotte’s sister Emily, in the mostly tragic “Wuthering Heights,” threw the reader a hopeful bone at the end. 🙂

      Like

      • Not all that he was– but he can see again, and thanks to his reduced state, cannot rush off on a horse whenever he feels like it, but must stick close by the side of plucky Jane, from which spot he can be easily defended by her from any and all kinds of non-Jane temptation.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well, that’s true — and wryly put. 🙂 Many pieces of literary criticism have been written about how the charismatic but arrogant Rochester needed to be taken down a peg or two before things could work out between him and Jane.

          Still, I love the novel — which remains an emotional powerhouse for me every time I read it (about five times, I think). Even if the closing chapters might not be as realistic as they could be, I still find them effective.

          Like

          • Me, I’m a big fan of the opening of Jane Eyre– I think it’s one of the best in English lit– but don’t you, every once in a while, feel a little sorry for the French child Jane was hired to tutor? No one ought to know more about the prat- and pitfalls of boarding school life, yet she’s packed off by Jane regardless, once she’s head of the Rochester household. Funny, that.

            I will always be grateful to your enthusiasm for the novel– don’t know when I might have gotten around to it otherwise.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, the depiction of Jane’s very difficult childhood and the development of her admirable, independent character are riveting — as is her later meeting with her new employer Rochester.

              Adele could indeed have been treated better. Jane was kind to her when she became a governess at Thornfield, despite knowing that Adele was probably the result of an earlier Rochester affair with a French woman — and Jane (or perhaps it was Charlotte Bronte) seemed to have some bias against/feelings of superiority over the French. Near the end of the novel, Adele does get packed off — with the excuse that Jane needed to concentrate her full energies on the disabled Rochester. But Jane and Rochester had enough money to hire more “help.” So, yes, you make an excellent point, jhNY! But, as we discussed, I feel the novel, while not perfect, is marvelous.

              As for your last paragraph…you’re very welcome!

              Like

    • Not just you. Likely plenty of us out here who felt the same reaction. lol Thanks for the funny reminder of how ridiculous writers can sometimes be. A longing for good things in life for all, is likely the culprit to that kind of story line. Have a good November.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Loved the way you wrote your comment, HopeWFaith! Now I’m REALLY envisioning Jane Eyre expiring “in an exhausted heap in that blasted spot on the moor,” as jhNY so colorfully put it. Charlotte Bronte’s novel would have still been memorable, and perhaps even more powerful.

        I guess, especially before modern literature, there was a real reluctance on the part of authors, readers, and reviewers to create/see almost totally unhappy endings. Some 19th-century novelists bucked that tide — in books such as “The Last Man” (Mary Shelley), “Wuthering Heights” (Emily Bronte), “Moby-Dick” (Melville), and “The Awakening” (Kate Chopin) — by crafting mostly tragic endings. But it’s interesting that all four of those novels sold badly and were reviewed harshly by the majority of critics, not becoming “successes” until long after their writers were dead.

        Like

        • On further thought, my second paragraph above applies more to English-language writers. Some mostly downbeat 19th-century writers from outside the U.S. and England were quite popular — Balzac, Zola, Dostoyevsky, etc. Though even novels such as “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov” have a bit of hope at the end.

          Like

          • And sometimes, downbeat sensibility made, for its own purposes, what it could out of contemporary fiction (though in this example, there was plenty of downbeat-ism resident in the source material: Confederate soldiers in the Army of Northern Virginia, referred to themselves as ‘Lee’s Miserables.’

            Liked by 1 person

            • “Lee’s Miserables” — terrific wordplay! I can see how Confederate soldiers would relate to Hugo’s 1862 novel. Heck, the Civil War was a miserable experience for almost everyone, the “winners” included. All that carnage, the primitive medical techniques… Geraldine Brook’s Civil War-set novel “March” conveys that well; no coincidence that she was a war correspondent before turning to fiction.

              Like

      • I suppose it does beat the old National Lampoon’s recommended stock ending for students with a deadline: “Suddenly everybody was run over by a truck.”

        Though had Jane, instead of restoring Rochester, gone on to improve India, she might have come to a sticky end under the wheels of a juggernaut.

        Liked by 1 person

        • LOL — yes, that could bring a story to a screeching halt. 🙂

          Ha ha to your second paragraph, too! But, seriously, I have to respect Jane Eyre for refusing St. John Rivers’ offer to go “saving souls” with him. Of course, Jane declined mostly because she didn’t love St. John, but trying to convert “third world” people to Christianity was very wrong then as it is very wrong now.

          Like

  9. ‘Pollyanna-ism’ is often cited as a particularly naive and relentless optimism, though today few have read Pollyanna (myself included), the early 20th century novel from which the term derives. Those who do know the story, nearly always know it from the Disney movie starring Haley Mills and Jane Wyman.

    Being of an age susceptible to the charms of Mills when the movie was new, I watched it again about a year ago when it aired. I was quite surprised at the movie’s ending, which shows the Pollyanna character, after losing the use of her legs in an accident, being sent off to surgery, and hopefuly, recovery of their use, by a parading townspeople grateful for the changes in heart she has made among them.

    What it doesn’t show: her recovery! So far as the viewer knows, she may or may not walk again at movie’s end.

    Interestingly, the novel on which the movie is based does show her recovery, and her aunt’s marriage to Pollyanna’s doctor.

    Strange as it is to report, the Disney folk seem to have rejected the happy ending available for their movie, in favor of something more open-ended, and more unsatisfying, though more ‘real.’.

    Hooda thunk it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great comment, jhNY! I never read “Pollyanna,” but I think the movie version you mentioned was the first film my parents ever took me to. I of course have no memory of the movie, but it IS amazing that the often-sanitizing, be-happy Disney company opted for a less upbeat ending than the book. Next thing we know, elephants will fly in a Disney film! (Oops — been there, done that…in “Dumbo.”)

      Like

      • Living in NYC, celebrity spotting can happen anytime. But among my favorites– my wife and I seeing Hailey Mills in a local restaurant, filled with mostly youngish folk, none of whom seemed to know that someone who was once and international superstar dined among them. But we certainly did; our excitement was badly hidden. And Mills, noticing, rewarded us with a lovely and even grateful smile.

        Liked by 1 person

        • VERY nice anecdote, jhNY, and well told as always. So many famous people don’t like to be TOO noticed when eating, but I can see how a former-but-not-current celebrity might be grateful to be recognized.

          Quite a difference between Hayley Mills and the dissolute Lindsay Lohan, except for both being in separate versions of “The Parent Trap.” 🙂

          Like

          • Re Mills and Lohan: History repeats itself, the second time as farce, somebody sometime said, more or less….

            As yours is the third spelling variant on her first name, and I’m responsible for the first two, I’m betting it’s you who finally got it right….

            Liked by 1 person

        • How nice to know this. It puts a smile on my face to think of her still around and hopefully thriving, living in NY City. She really was a good actor who brought some sweet stories and plots to draw children and families into the theatre.Thanks for sharing.

          Liked by 1 person

          • As a boy, I was captivated, by her lovely speaking voice mostly, and saw everything she made, I think.

            I was susceptible to such sonorous stuff when young. No royalist by inclination, nonetheless I love Queen Elizabeth for her speaking voice, which I was first exposed to via an old lp titled “This Is London’, at around age 6. And there was a Chinese girl in my second grade class whose voice I found so beautiful that I would close my eyes whenever she spoke, the better to concentrate my attention.

            Liked by 1 person

            • jhNY, I’m embarrassed to say that I was captivated by Karen Carpenter’s voice in my teens, though even then I suspected The Carpenters’ music was rather sappy. Now, to my adult ears, that sappiness is more than suspected… 🙂

              Like

              • You are not alone, friend. Many music pros feel as you feel, despite said sap. Me also. And there is a comparison to be drawn between her voice and those of Chrissie Hynde and Shania Twain– and all are benefited in the process.

                Some where safe in her brother’s vault there is an entire lp produced by Phil Ramone that was meant to break her out of her square persona in the marketplace. But powers intervened, including if I remember right, Karen’s, and the lp never made it to the pressing plant. Bet we’d both love to hear it.

                Liked by 1 person

                • That Ramone-produced album would indeed be fascinating! I hope it gets released one day. Shania Twain and Chrissie Hynde DO have great voices, with Hynde of course having the tough/near-punk persona Karen Carpenter did not possess. The Pretenders’ “Back on the Chain Gang” is one of my favorite ’80s songs.

                  Like

  10. I always liked the cynicism of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. The narrator, Jake Barnes, sums up the meaningless drifting of his small social circle at the very end:
    “Oh, Jake,” Brett said, “We could have had such a damned good time together.” Jake replies:
    “Isn’t it pretty to think so.”

    Reality can never quite catch up to our dreams and desires.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That IS a memorable ending, Joe. I’m actually not a huge fan of “The Sun Also Rises,” though it does have its moments — such as the one you cited. I liked Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” much better.

      And a memorable ending (aka eloquent last line) to your comment!

      Like

  11. Dave, I must mention that I always thought “The Pioneers” by Cooper had a great ending. The idea of Bumpo walking off to the west is a great vision to end on.

    My wife and I disagree on two novella endings. “Tunnel in the Sky” and “Starman Jones” both by Robert Heinlein are to me very satisfactory and she thinks they should have ended differently with the hero getting more than he did.

    Probably the most standout ending for being unsatisfactory to me is James A Michener’s “Alaska” The long drawn out “big history” style tale is so engrossing but it felt like none of the work in writing such a novel resulted in anything. Thus I never went on to read his other more popular works.

    On “Huck Finn” I’ve always preferred how the movie we watched after reading it in school ends, skipping over Tom completely to the novels ending.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Terrific mention of “The Pioneers,” GL! That James Fenimore Cooper novel DID have a great ending. As a matter of fact, most of Cooper’s five “Leatherstocking” books (that you thankfully recommended I read) had very satisfying conclusions — though not necessarily happy ones. Natty Bumppo’s comforting of his Native-American friend Chingachgook in one of the novels, the memorable death scene in “The Prairie,” etc.

      I’ve never read Michener, but it sounds like he dropped the ball on the “Alaska” ending. Most of the time, novels need some sort of defined conclusion rather than to just sort of stop.

      What a wise way for that “Huckleberry Finn” movie to end!!!

      Like

  12. Great topic and essay for discussion Dave , a couple of last lines that blew me away to start with. Flannery O’Connor’s classic short story with ” Yeah, she would have been a good woman if she had somebody to hold a gun to her head every minute of her life” and on a more positive note I agree with your remarks on Marquez’s Maconda to which I’d add the last line of his wonderful Love in the Time of Cholera ,without dropping spoilers not only does the final sentence brighten up the entire novel the last word FOREVER is perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the kind words and excellent comment, Donny! A topic with more things to discuss than my young authors post of last week. 🙂

      The Flannery O’Connor short story you reference is a horrific masterpiece. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera” is also a fantastic work, from start to finish. While the same author’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is incredible and unique, it is a bit hard to follow sometimes — not the case with “Love in the Time of Cholera.” The boat trip that basically concludes the novel — literature doesn’t get much better than that.

      Like

  13. Howdy, Dave!

    — What are your favorite novels with conclusions that are satisfying or not so satisfying? —

    You already mentioned George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” so I will go with the denouement of another of his masterly novels, “Animal Farm”: “Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

    And thus I did not become a revolutionary.

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, J.J., for mentioning that memorable conclusion to “Animal Farm” — complete with your own memorable conclusion!

      George Orwell was certainly a realist, not an optimist — and one of the best writers of the 20th century. I read a biography of him a few years ago, and his wandering, at-times-very-difficult life was almost as fascinating as his fiction. My goal is to read more of his nonfiction someday.

      Like

      • J.J., I was looking back in my to-read list today, and see you also recommended “A Confederacy of Dunces” a couple of months ago — so I wanted to give you credit for that. 🙂 Thanks!

        Like

        • — I was looking back in my to-read list today, and see you also recommended “A Confederacy of Dunces” a couple of months ago — so I wanted to give you credit for that. —

          Nice! If this credit includes a DAOLiterati T-shirt, then I should note I wear all-cotton, Manhattan noir, Size XL. Yes, only one X! (Meanwhile, you will get credit for Junot Diaz’s “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” when I actually get around to reading it.)

          Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi Dave,

    Now that I’m a follower, I received a notification of your new blog, however I haven’t been flooded with all the comments, so all is good 🙂 Thanks for your help.

    A Clockwork Orange has a fascinating ending. After reading it for the first time last year, I thought that maybe the ‘feel good’ ending had been tacked on to the end of the book to make ‘somebody’ happy. So I did some research, and found that it was the other way around. Burgess always intended for there to be a happy ending, but when the book was taken to America, publishers convinced Burgess to remove the last chapter (The Kubrick movie is also based on the less happy version). It’s weird, because in my opinion, the last chapter is completely unnecessary and almost ruins the book.

    Like

    • Hi, Susan! Great that you got the notification of the column but not all the emails! But hopefully you’ll get notifications of replies to your own (excellent) comments. 🙂

      Thanks for the interesting words about “A Clockwork Orange” and its ending. I read that novel so long ago that I’ve totally forgotten the conclusion, so you have me intrigued. Though it wasn’t the case here, a number of movies have happier endings than the novels that inspired them — based on the sort-of-insulting and often-wrong belief that a film audience doesn’t want sad conclusions even when they’re warranted.

      Like

  15. Hi Dave, I agree with your mention of “Prodigal Summer” by Barbara Kingsolver as a book that came wonderfully together at the end of the book. Another book that came together at the end was “Sister,” by Rosamond Lupton, one of the few recent books that made me want to call everyone I know, especially my own sister, to tell them to read this book. It was suspenseful, yet interesting in the personalities of the two sisters portrayed in the book. Another book that blew me away was “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” by Lionel Shriver (which my sister couldn’t even read) and “So Much for That,” by the same author that both my sister and I loved. Another book that I loved the ending was “Where’d You Go Bernadette,” though I know you struggled with the first novel written by this author. The great thing to me about literature is that we can all have differing opinions about what makes a good book and worthy of being read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Kat Lib! “Prodigal Summer” was indeed an ingenious novel — very warm and absorbing, too.

      “Sister” sounds compelling! Now on my to-read list. Also, I’d still like to read “Where’d You Go Bernadette” if it shows up at my local library. Even though that other Maria Semple book (“This One Is Mine”) wasn’t great, it had its moments and authors don’t always have their “sea legs” yet in a first novel — which is what “This One Is Mine” was.

      I agree — we all have different opinions about literary works. And it’s fun to discuss that!

      By the way, I’m almost halfway through a novel by the author (Anne Lamott) you recommended. “Blue Shoe” is absorbing, and I’m impressed with how real the characters seem and how much they remind me of some people I know. Lamott is also great at depicting dysfunctional family dynamics.

      Like

      • I think I mentioned to you before that I’m making my way through all of Lamott’s non-fiction books and am loving her writing style and the stories she has to tell, some of which have to do with her growing up in a somewhat dysfunctional family. After I finish these books, I’ll have to go back to her fiction works. I’ve only read one novel, “Rosie.”

        Another book I meant to mention was one by Jodi Picoult, “My Sister’s Keeper.” I’d seen a lot of her books around Barnes & Noble, and I finally picked up this one on the bargain table to see what the fuss was about. I was actually enjoying the book until the ending, which I hated so much I threw it in the trash, not something I normally do 🙂 I told my sister this and she looked at me like I had two heads. It turned out that she hadn’t read the book but had the seen the movie, and when I read the synopsis of the movie, I saw that they totally changed the ending to one that was closer to how I’d hoped it would end. I guess there were a lot of other people not happy with the way the book ended.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hmm…sounds like Anne Lamott’s real life has influenced her fiction. 🙂 Which of course is the case with most authors!

          I read “My Sister’s Keeper” a few months ago. Perhaps you were the one who recommended I try Jodi Picault? I agree — I was also appalled at the ending (after, like you, finding the rest of the novel very good). I can deal with, and understand, endings like that when they’re organic to a novel. But that one seemed way too harsh and out of the blue. I totally understand your reaction, Kat Lib! It sounds like the movie may have been better than the novel — a rare thing.

          Like

          • No, it wasn’t I who recommended her, especially since I haven’t touched any of her books since that major disappointment. I agree with you about movies rarely being as good as the book. I’ve found it is generally better for me to see a movie, then read the book rather than vice versa. A couple of movies that I thought were true to the novels were “The House of Mirth” and “Howard’s End.” I find that the best adaptations are those done by the BBC or A&E, which can film in episodes, making them much longer and therefore stay truer to the book (there are many fine adaptions of works by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens. Elizabeth Gaskill, etc.). It’s got be difficult to pare down a long novel into a 2 to 3 hour screenplay. I haven’t yet got up the nerve to watch “The Fault in Our Stars,” though I’ve heard it was very well done.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I looked back in my to-read list, and it was a “Dorothy Moody” who recommended Jodi Picault in early 2014, while I was still writing for HP. It really was an excellent, thought-provoking medical-crisis-type novel before THAT ending.

              Kat Lib, I agree that places like the BBC tend to do the best adaptations of literature and, as you say, making multiple-episode adaptations helps matters.

              If you ever see “The Fault in Our Stars” movie, I hope you’re not disappointed (too much)!

              Like

  16. I must admit that I haven’t read the book, but I watched the movie “Life of Pi”. I found the ending of the movie (and I assume the book) to be somewhat of a letdown. I don’t know WHAT I expected to happen, but what DID happen left me disappointed and unsettled.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m the opposite; I read the “Life of Pi” novel but haven’t seen the film. 🙂

      And it’s been about a decade since I read the book, so although I remember what ultimately happened with Pi and the tiger I can’t remember whether that happened at the end of the novel or whether other stuff happened after Pi and the tiger’s fates were decided by author Yann Martel.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Roz! Nicely done! 🙂

      I had to Google that last line you quoted before I realized that I had read the novel it’s in. (I read it way too long ago!) One of the best satirical works of fiction ever.

      Like

      • Congratulations on your correct guess, Susan!

        I just found my old paperback copy of the novel, and “It was love at first sight.” (Even though I’ve seen the book before. 🙂 )

        We were talking about “A Confederacy of Dunces” last week, and, interestingly, the same Simon & Schuster editor who stupidly/disastrously rejected John Kennedy Toole’s novel “discovered” the novel we’re discussing!

        Like

        • Thanks, Dave, however “One of the best satirical works of fiction ever” was a pretty big clue. I did a quiz or something some time back about opening lines, and when the one for Catch-22 came up, I thought that can’t be right, that book had nothing to do with love. So I had to go back and check, and it’s now something I’ll always remember.

          I enjoyed Confederacy of Dunces, however I can understand why a lot of people might not. And if I had to choose between the two, it would be Heller’s novel every time. That, of course, doesn’t mean that I think it should have been so difficult for Dunces to be published.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, Susan, TOO big a clue. 🙂

            I agree about your ranking of “Catch-22” over “A Confederacy of Dunces” — though I’d include both in a batch of 100 novels I’d like to have if stranded on a desert island. I’d also like to have a book titled “How to Get Off a Desert Island,” but I digress…

            Like

            • LOL. Very funny digression. And I mostly agree. Although, if I was stuck on an island with 100 of my favourite books including Heller and Toole, I’d like a book titled “How to make sure nobody finds me!”

              Liked by 1 person

  17. You described the book endings wonderfully without giving anything away. AND your descriptions were so intriguing that you made me want to read the books I haven’t read with your allusions to the conclusions.

    The novel that comes immediately to mind is “Lost Horizon” by James Hilton. The book ends the way it must end, but it leaves one longing for things that never were and things that cannot be.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your generous praise, lulabelleharris! Much appreciated.

      GREAT mention of “Lost Horizon” — a haunting novel that indeed ends how it should. And it’s certainly intriguing when books have VERY old characters. 🙂

      As past novelists go, James Hilton is extremely underrated these days. He wrote beautifully.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Endings that evoke emotion seem to be the most memorable. How would “Gone With The Wind” be remembered if Rhett and Scarlett had traipsed off into the sunset together?

        Liked by 2 people

        • I always thought they did! I only read that book for the first time a few years back and couldn’t believe that such a famous love story had such an unhappy ending. Though somehow, that made me love it even more. Am very overdue for a reread

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, Susan, kind of an unexpected (and gutsy) plot decision by Margaret Mitchell that certainly didn’t hurt her novel’s popularity or emotional wallop.

            Mitchell’s decision is somewhat comparable to the ones Edith Wharton made in several of Wharton’s best-known novels.

            Like

  18. Dave, you already mentioned that eerie, strange yet moving ‘Grapes of Wrath’ ending which was one of the first that came to mind. ‘Huck Finn,’ while I agree with you about Tom’s appearance and the absurd final 30-40 (felt like longer) pages, MT does end with that memorable last line about ‘lighting out for the territory’, which at least gets the novel back on its thematic course at the very end and which I have found very applicable to many situations in my life and in general throughout the years. ‘Moby-Dick’ has the memorable first line, ‘Call me Ishmael’ and the final line (‘And I alone am escaped to tell thee’–I believe that’s the final line) as gift wrapping for that amazing turbulent maelstrom of a journey between them. Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Moby’ parody (in a sense) ‘Cat’s Cradle,’ opens with the obvious line, ‘Call me Jonah’ and ends with something about thumbing his nose at You Know Who (again, don’t recall the exact phrasing). Both of the novels end with a narrator surviving a spectacular cataclysm which seems to contain more levels of meaning beyond simple natural disaster. Faulkner’s ‘Absalom! Absalom!’ also ends with a memorable final line. After his Harvard roommate Shreve asks Quentin Compson why he hates the South, Quentin replies ‘I don’t hate it” with the insistent exclamatory phrase, ‘I don’t hate it!’ echoing throughout his consciousness. This sums up that novel perfectly as well as providing some illumination on what happens to him in the events of ‘The Sound and the Fury’ that presumably occur shortly after the ‘Absalom’ interaction. You mentioned the burning of a document at the end of ‘The American’ which reminded me of another burning at the conclusion of James’ ‘The Aspern Papers’, with a somewhat different subsequent conclusion. The end of his ‘Beast in the Jungle’ is also extremely powerful and the gravestone setting is very visual (to me) for an otherwise very internal story. Endings are very difficult to accomplish satisfactorily and I have felt (as you do) that a misstep at the end can sabotage an otherwise quite powerful work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, bobess48, for your interesting/knowledgeable thoughts on all those literary conclusions!

      You’re right that Mark Twain partly redeemed himself at the very end of “Huckleberry Finn.” That “light out for the territory” last paragraph also includes Huck’s memorable hope that Aunt Sally wouldn’t “sivilize” him — which of course is very “in character” for Huck. 🙂

      Wonderful when authors — such as Herman Melville in “Moby-Dick,” as you mention — both start and end a novel in stellar ways.

      Endings can indeed have a significant impact on what we think of a novel. Examples of that include the two Anne Tyler books I’ve read — “The Accidental Tourist” and “Ladder of Years.” Both were excellent and absorbing, but both had what I thought were weak endings that turned “A” novels into “B+” novels.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s