5 best endings in literature

My favourite part of any book is the ending. The final paragraph can make or break a book for me. I could read the most boring book in the world but if it had a strong ending, I'd completely change my perception. (It doesn't quite work the other way round- I love Harry Potter but, bloomin' heck, that ending was a cop out!) I've raided my bookshelf to choose my top 5 favourite book endings. I daresay there are better endings out there but, y'know, I have yet to read every book in the world! 

List of best book endings ever
In case it wasn't already apparent, this post will contain spoilers! Read on with caution!

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE

"O my brothers, remember sometimes thy little Alex that was. Amen. And all that cal"

Interestingly, the last line was completely changed for the film since the final chapter was omitted for American readers, and it entirely changed the meaning for me. For the uninitiated, A Clockwork Orange is written in a slang invented by author Burgess. "Cal" is essentially the same word as "crap" and is used often by Alex when he is hell-raising. After he undergoes treatment for his violent behaviour, he is apparently cured and becomes a model citizen. To me, that final sentence hints that he hasn't actually changed at all- under the surface, his old character still lurks and peeks through with his use of Nadsat slang. It raises a number of questions about whether we can really change who we are. Can we be cured of character flaws? Are we on a pre-determined path that's impossible to influence? Can our identities ever change?

Full review here //  Buy A Clockwork Orange here

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT

"He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front. 

He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over, one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come"

I get goosebumps every time I read these closing paragraphs. All Quiet on the Western Front is one of the most powerful books I have read. It tells the story of Paul, a German soldier, as he fights in World War 1. What's interesting is that he is, historically, our "enemy" and yet the feelings he goes through are the feelings every soldier went through, no matter what side they were fighting for. The entirety of the book is told in first person narrative, with the exception of these final two paragraphs. Notice how Paul is not named- he's just "he". Just another soldier killed in battle and only a few weeks away from the end of the war.

Full review here //  Buy All Quiet on the Western Front here

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS

"Of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again.

Not in this day and age"

It's chilling. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is the story of the young son of a concentration camp guard who befriends an imprisoned Jewish boy through the fence. It certainly seems like it was a long time ago (although was it really?) and like that could never happen again, but we're so privileged in the western world. As we all know, it is still happening. All over the world, people are being persecuted for their beliefs. It's still going on and it will continue to do so. Is there anything we can do to stop it?

*I seem to have lost my copy so I'll have to buy a new one. Not a great loss as it was the movie cover!

Full review coming soon // Buy The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas here

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN

"Once more she looked at Florry Wendy reading on the fire escape. 
"Goodbye, Francie," she whispered.
She closed the window"

This one will need some background. At the beginning of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, we meet Francie, an 11 year old girl living in poverty at the turn of the 20th century, sitting on the fire exit of her Brooklyn tenement watching teenage girls get ready for their dates. As the book progresses, we follow her through her difficult life and, at the age of 16, her circumstances change. As she is about to move out of her neighbourhood, into a comfortable lifestyle, she prepares for her date and sees a young girl on the fire escape watching her. I have a love of books that are cyclical and the way this ending mirrors the beginning is really moving for me. She's saying goodbye to the girl on the fire escape but, really, she's bidding farewell to her old life and her childhood. It's a very bittersweet moment.

Full review here //  Buy A Tree Grows In Brooklyn here

THE GREAT GATSBY

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past"

You know how I said I like cyclical books? This is the ultimate one! No matter how hard we try to leave our past behind, it's always there. We can't run away from it or change it. It has some parallels with the ending of A Clockwork Orange for me- we can't influence our paths in life as we'll always be pushed back into the past and repeat ourselves. 

Full review here //  Buy The Great Gatsby here

I'd love to know what your favourite ending is. Let me know in the comments- I always need new books to add to my "to read" pile! 

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10 comments:

  1. I've just ordered A Clockwork Orange on the strength this post Becky! Also The Bell.Jar as it's about time I read it! X

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  2. I totally agree with The Great Gatsby and A Clockwork Orange! I haven't read the other books, but I'll definitely put them on my reading list.
    - Emily from http://www.emilyunderworld.co.uk ♡

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  3. The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite endings!

    hellomissjordan.com xx

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  4. Now I really want to read Clockwork Orange but need to find the UK and not the US version - I'm Canadian.

    I love The Boy and the Striped Pyjamas, and the ending is brilliant. Each year I teach it I tear up while we read and suggest students take over for the final chapters - otherwise the boys get a laugh at "Miss" crying, but the girls usually cry along with me.

    I loved this post by the way, and would love to see more like them. It helped me learn about books in a more interesting fashion than reading Amazon reviews could. :)

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  5. Striped Pyjamas' last lines were incredible.
    I feel like a lot of books have disappointing endings. *Glares at Harry Potter*
    I liked the endings of Girl With All the Gifts, and Gone Girl.

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  6. "He never saw Molly again." - William Gibson, Neuromancer

    One of the most powerful endings I've ever come across. I highly recommend Gibson!

    Jess | glitterbat . net

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  7. Admittedly, I've only ever read the Great Gatsby (I know, so under-read) but I agree with your thoughts on the ending! I quite honestly didn't care for the book, but goodness the ending was fantastic! I've been wanting to read A Clockwork Orange (I have it, it's just never been read!) and the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas...maybe once I'm done with school I'll have the time!
    ~ Samantha

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  8. So often books have amazing beginnings then after the climax just kind of dwindle to the end, which is such a shame because an incredible last line like these (especially the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - *chills*) are what stays with you. I've always loved The Great Gatsby's last line too - somehow you feel Gatsby peeking out from behind Nick to give us his final thought.

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  9. The last line of The Great Gatsby is my ultimate favourite in literature. In fact, if I were ever to get a tattoo, it would be that phrase...but it probably won't happen because I'm an indecisive wimp.

    Also, this post really makes me want to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, so that's going right on my TBR!

    Hannah Simpson Writes

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  10. "A Clockwork Angel" and "The Great Gatsby" - YES! Two of my all-time favourite books with such strong endings. Totally agree that the ending can really make or break a book. Have read some books that were good right up until the ending which was so weak I felt as if I'd wasted my time with the rest of the book! Great post! :) www.aimeeraindropwrites.co.uk xx

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