Monday, June 02, 2014

How Important Are Endings to You?

The ending of a book is very important to my husband. If I ask him midway through how a book is he will always claim not to know yet. For me a good ending is a bonus. I make a decision about a book long before I reach the end. And I don't keep reading if that decision isn't favorable.





BEING DEAD has one of the best endings because it is completely inevitable yet comes full circle.
Here is a description of it from PW.

 Being Dead by Jim Crace - This is the story of a loving couple, dead from the novel’s very first page on a beach. As their bodies decompose, we learn of their courtship, thirty-year marriage, and murder. Their end is at the novel’s beginning—and detailed gruesomely, painstakingly, throughout. And yet, as the waves continue to crash, the shells and fragments of mollusks and fish and birds are arranged and rearranged by the surf, the reader can’t help but feel haunted by a sense of eternity. The thing about this ending, what makes it beautiful and unique, is that nothing ends. The most final of finals—death—has come and gone. The end and the ending is really just a point along the great cycle, in the very grand scheme.

What is your favorite ending and how important are endings to you? 

20 comments:

Cullen Gallagher said...

Ed Gorman's "Lynched" is the first one that jumps to mind. Christa Faust's "Money Shot" I remember cheering at the ending. Mickey Spillane's "Vengeance is Mine" has an unforgettable four-word ending.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Patti, I'm not particularly fussy about endings. As you noted, a good ending is a bonus, but if there isn't one then I'm fine with it. I don't have many expectations from the books I read. A good story is always welcome. Occasionally, an ending will surprise me, especially if it's one I didn't expect, as in "Jude the Obscure" by Thomas Hardy. After everything he goes through I thought Jude Fawley deserved better. It's another matter that my version of the ending would have killed the book. I also didn't anticipate the ending in "Vultures in the Sun," a western by Brian Garfield.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Book endings are really important to me. I want to know how things are resolved, which questions aren't answered, etc.. I have to admit too that if a book has gripped me all the way through, but the end lets me down, I'm doubly disappointed.

David Cranmer said...

I don't feel cheated if the ending doesn't deliver big but sadly I've come to expect mediocre endings.

Anonymous said...

Well, first of all there needs to be an ending. I really resent wasting time reading a book like Stephen King's THE COLORADO KID that doesn't have one. Maybe life doesn't always have closure but if I'm reading a mystery novel it can't just end without a solution, even if it isn't the most satisfying one.

Best ending? Will have to think about that.

Jeff M.

George said...

I'm with Phil: if the novel has a bad ending, it ruins the whole experience for me. Dickens and Trollope knew how to end a book with great endings.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Val McDermid's A PLACE OF EXECUTION had a great ending. But on the whole, I read for character more than plot. I do expect some sort of summing up but surprises aren't necessary. THE LIFEBOAT by Charlotte Rogan ended well because it showed you just what went on-albeit subtlety.

Deb said...

I like the ending to be an organic part of the book and not suddenly shift in tone just to give the ending a twist or shock value. The late Robert Barnard was very good at making his final paragraphs twisty while still being true to the tone of the work.

I find short stories tend to have punchier endings than novels, perhaps because the action in them tends to be more concentrated. The end of Flannery O'Connor's Good Country People, which involves a con-man Bible salesman and an female atheist with a wooden leg (tell me you don't want to read it after knowing that) is one of the most perfect in literature.

Randy Johnson said...

Agree with Jeff. THE COLORADO KID might be the most unsatisfying book I ever read. Period. Endings are important, but for the moment, I can't put one first.

Anonymous said...

It's important all the way through, yes, but a bad ending can ruin a book for me. Classic example: Michael Connelly's THE POET, where (MINOR WARNING) one too many "surprise" twists in the end took what had been a very satisfying read and ruined it for me. (END WARNING)

Yes, the McDermid book had a satisfying ending but partly because I loved the book all the way from start to finish.


Jeff M.

Charles Gramlich said...

Endings are extremely important to me. Almost all the 'memorable' books I've ever read are memorable because of the endings. Bad endings can also destroy a book or story that I was really enjoying up to that point.

Fred Zackel said...

Mike Hammer, oops, Mickey Spillane used to say the first sentence sells this book, while your last sentence sells the next one. He made a bet that he could change an ending (& readers' expectations) by the final word in the novel. I think he did. (But I'm not the guy who will spill the beans.) My first book--COCAINE & BLUE EYES--which people really liked--had a last sentence that seemed to sell the book & make it memorable. But it's very very difficult to repeat.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Hi, Fred. Long time, no hear.
That would be true for a series like Spillane wrote especially. Keep them looking for it,

causer659 said...

Endings are extremely important. If the ending is weak it shows the author ran out of steam and didn't care enough to think it out entirely.

I can't tell you how often books disappoint in this manner. I mentally scratch that author off the list.985

Erik Donald France said...

A good ending is a nice bonus. Especially because in life things rarely end tidily. But, a good ending is not instrumental to a satisfying read.

Of stories in general, I liked how The Sopranos ended, and Breaking Bad, too.




TracyK said...

Patti, I am glad you did this post because I had been thinking about a comment you made earlier... about the ending not being that important to you. I like a really good ending and it can make up for the book not being so great overall... but not sure if vice versa. I have to think about that some more.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think people that read crime, horror or science fiction expect a whiz bang ending more than those who read mainstream fiction. Life goes on in mainstream more than in other types of novels. In a mystery, you want the mystery solved-and that is very important if it's set up as a whodunnit especially. Even a whydunnit it must have some resolution. But a lot of books I read end very softly.

seana graham said...

Funny, I was just thinking about this, maybe more in relation to television series, but in general, I don't think I care that much about endings, since often I don't see things through to the end. I've given up on both Downton Abbey and Mad Men. I don't like people to tell me endings prematurely, though.

As for great endings, I think the end of Adrian McKinty's Falling Glass is brilliant, though you're either going to love it or hate it.

Al Tucher said...

An ending with too many twists makes me crazy. Pick one and trust it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, too many twists is bad.
You gave up on MAD MEN! I also gave up on DOWNTON but MAD MEN may be my favorite TV show ever.