Finishing a book you love is a uniquely sweet sorrow. The final line of a novel is a destination we desperately want to reach and at the same time hope never to arrive at.
The experience of reading the book is over but the memory of the story can stay with you always. The final sentence is the writer’s last chance to fire your imagination and has the power to confirm or disrupt everything that has come before.
Read on for the most effective closing lines to a novel you’ll ever read.
1) “Are there any questions?”
Yes, of course there are! The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s dystopic masterpiece closes with a transcript of a conference during which academics look back on the oppressive Gilead period our Handmaid narrator has just lived through. A potent reminder that every regime can crumble and a critique of official History and its limits.
These lines may come from painter Lily Briscoe but surely each Woolf’s own feelings at finishing this visionary novel.
This list would not be complete without Orwell’s chilling last words. All hope is lost as our protagonist lets go of his free will and embraces a future that is summed up in the image of a boot stamping on a human face – forever.
The closing lines of Mitchell’s novel somehow sum up the whole story. She offers us no solace, no closure and no lessons learned as Scarlett O’Hara heads back to Tara, hopeful that she will get Rhett back, someday.
The unavoidable conclusion to Animal Farm is succinctly summed up in its very last line. The pigs have become the farmers, creating an oppressive totalitarian dictatorship, a complete betrayal of the utopia they imagined before they came to power. Sounds familiar.
I had to include one of my favourite novels. The End of the Affair ends at the definitive ending of the affair when, too bruised and battered by the trauma of losing the love of his life, writer Maurice wants nothing more than to be left alone.
One of the most passionate love stories in literature, The Age of Innocence closes with Newland Archer doing just as he has done ever since he sacrificed true love to remain in a loveless society marriage, he swallows his passion, denies himself pleasure and walks home alone.