My Favourite Last Lines from Some of My Favourite Novels

Every reader knows how important the first sentence of a novel is. Some fastidious readers even insist that they can decide whether or not to continue a book by only reading that. There is no shortage of lists of the best opening sentences, like our Favourite First Lines from Literature. Heck, we’ve even done a list of Favourite Sentences, period.

Closing sentences don’t get as much love. Why not? For me, often whether a book is a four or five star read hinges on the ending. And haven’t you ever heard that joke that the definition of a novel is a sustained piece of fiction with something wrong with the ending? But what if the ending is perfection in the form of a sentence (or two or three)? Here are some of my favourite last lines (from some of my favourite books), in no particular order:

the bell jar by sylvia plathThe Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

“The eyes and faces all turned themselves towards me, and guiding myself by them, as by a magical thread, I stepped into the room.”

Written on the Body by Jeannette Winterson

“I don’t know if this is a happy ending but here we are let loose in open fields.”

Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway

“Rising from his body, Gabriel Okimasis and the Fur Queen floated off in the swirling mist, as the little white fox on the collar of the cape turned to Jeremiah. And winked.”

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

“There was the hum of bees, and the musky odor of pinks filled the air.”

I've got a time bomb by sybil lamb coverI’ve Got a Time Bomb by Sybil Lamb

“Puffs of cigarette smoke and reflections from the street lights floated through one another, playing slow at the bottom of the ocean, beneath a mountain of trash.  She had finally crawled down to the bottom of the ocean.  Here she glided through blackness like outer space, she scuttled across rocks and lay on her back, surrounded by nuthin’ but darkness.”

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

“But I don’t think us feel old at all. And us so happy. Matter of fact, I think this the youngest us ever felt.”

Middlemarch by George Eliot

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

song of solomon by toni morrison coverSong of Solomon by Toni Morrison

“For now she knew what Shalimar knew: if you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.”

In Another Place, Not Here by Dionne Brand

“Her body has fallen away, is just a line, an electric current, the sign of lightning left after lightning, a faultless arc to the deep turquoise deep. She doesn’t need air. She’s in some other place already, less tortuous, less fleshy.”

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

“Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.”

Corona by Bushra Rehman

“But the ice of January was nothing when Julio’s father put a loaf of steamy, soft bread in my arms. It was like a baby, a new baby, for all of us to have. The snow crunched under my feet, and I looked up to see my mother smiling down at me, her face pressed against the glass.”

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson coverMonkey Beach by Eden Robinson

“Close, very close, a b’gwus howls—not quite human, not quite wolf, but something in between. The howl echoes off the mountains. In the distance, I hear the sound of a speedboat.”

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

“Truthfully, this story ends with me still sitting on the floor of my room wondering who I’ll become if I leave this town and remembering when I was a little kid and how I loved to fall asleep in my bed breathing in the smell of freshly cut grass and listening to the voices of my sister and my mother talking and laughing in the kitchen and the sounds of my dad poking around in the yard, making things beautiful right outside my bedroom window.”

 

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