Thursday, May 01, 2008

Famous last words: closing lines from beloved novels

We often see lists of best opening lines of novels, but why is so little attention given to last lines? American Book Review has compiled a list of 100 Best Last Lines from Novels (PDF file).

I gave the pages a quick skim and then recalled some of my favorite last lines, none of which made the list:

Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.
--Willa Cather, My Ántonia

When at last he turned away, hastening for fear he should be late, there in the sky before him a bank of cloud lay brightly, bearing the shape of battlements.
--A.J. Cronin, The Citadel

Her eyes were closed, and a grin was slowly forming at the corners of her mouth.
--John Grisham, A Painted House

And wherever the mist settled, its radiance sparked and then faded, and the land turned to living green.
--Laura Kinsale, Uncertain Magic

What are some of your favorite last lines?


Jordan (MamaBlogga) said...

Though I do love the last line of My Ántonia, I found most of the last section rather unfulfilling. I wasn't convinced that Ántonia's life didn't really suck.

Regardless, that line actually did make the list at #54 (and it would have been a glaring omission!).

My fave last line will probably always be from The Great Gatsby (#3? What a gyp.).

Unfortunately, I find it very hard to write closings of this caliber. Part of that is that most of these lines seem to carry almost God-like pronouncements, profundities that apply to and affect us in our every day lives.

Meanwhile, I write stories about *characters.*


Brenda Coulter said...

that line actually did make the list at #54 (and it would have been a glaring omission!)

Huh. How did I miss that? Thanks for pointing it out.

As for Gatsby, it's never been a favorite of mine, but I agree that its last line should have handily won this contest.

library mistress said...

I think Rowlings "All was well" is quite good!