Thursday, April 24, 2014

The last word

There are many celebrated first sentences of novels, but much less attention is given to beautifully crafted final sentences. Here the Independent presents ten nominations, of which "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past" from The Great Gatsby is arguably the best (and most famous).

I'm not sure why they imposed the restriction of a 140-character limit, and I also wonder whether the loss of context is damaging in some cases - "She was seventy-five and she was going to make some changes in her life", which neatly concludes Jonathan Frantzen's The Corrections, is relatively unremarkable without what goes before it.

Personally speaking, I'd (probably predictably) endorse the claims to greatness of the endings of novels from D H Lawrence's golden period. The Rainbow in particular works itself up to an ecstatic climax: "She saw in the rainbow the earth's new architecture, the old, brittle corruption of houses and factories swept away, the world built up in a living fabric of Truth, fitting to the over-arching heaven". 

Women In Love, meanwhile, ends with a brilliant bit of dialogue, Birkin insisting on wanting two kinds of love, something that the novel as well as Ursula has suggested is "false, impossible". The concluding sentence of Sons And Lovers works best in the context of the final paragraph: "But no, he would not give in. Turning sharply, he walked towards the city's gold phosphorescence. His fists were shut, his mouth set fast. He would not take that direction, to the darkness, to follow her. He walked towards the faintly humming, glowing town, quickly."

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