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Thread: The Importance of Endings

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    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    The Importance of Endings

    Though this does not happen very often, there have been a few occasions in which the ending of the book can significantly change my entire impression of the book and can in some cases quite literally make or break the book. In my own reading experience, a book that I had in fact found to be quite brilliant and thoroughly engaging can be brought down in esteem by a poor ending, as well as a book of which has been average or mediocre can be brought up by the perfect ending.

    Some examples of which immediately spring into my mind in which the ending of the book has played a very key role in influencing my overall impression the book and has in fact altered my opinion about the book.

    The Jungle by Upton Sinclair: This is a book that from the first sentence had my hooked, and I thought it was brilliant, and completely captivating, and I never wanted to put it down whenever I began reading it. Easily I had it down as a 5 star book, but than in the last few chapters it lost something and the book was lowered a big in my esteem. It seems to me towards the end of the book it did become a bit too political/propaganda and lost the vividness of the story which I was enjoying so much. And though overall I do think it was still a great book and I loved reading it, the ending of it did drop it down to a 4 star rating for me.

    Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez: This book did go outside of what I normally would read, but because I enjoyed 100 Years of Solitude so much I was intrigued to read it. Now I do not deny the skill, talent and beauty of the writing of the book, but that does not change the fact that quite honestly the majority of it was rather boring to read. It moved at a snail's pace, and virtually nothing really happens throughout the book. There were some elements which I did enjoy and the prose was poetic and lyrical, but still it was a struggle to actually read through, and yet the very last paragraph of this book was such a work of beauty that it pulled everything else together, and made the book truly worth reading.

    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: Overall I really enjoyed this book, and I thought it was well written and the story was interesting, but there was this reoccurring unrequited love theme in the background of the story, and while I was really enjoying the mystery and suspense aspect I found that all the lamenting and whining of the main characters adventures and misadventures of love were a bit obnoxious and hampered my enjoyment of the story overall. I was in fact all set to write a review critiquing this aspect of the story when the last paragraph of the book really brought everything together in his astounding way that was almost like a sort of epiphany in the book. It opened this sort of doorway which really resonated. In fact I think I may have bumped this book up from 4 stars to 5 because of the ending.

    The World Enough and Time by Robert Penn Warren: I Found the majority of reading this book to have been an excoriating experiencing. In fact it is quite amazing that I somehow managed to finish it at all, but there were moments in which I did find certain aspects of the story interesting, and there was one character which I did enjoy so I stuck with it. But overall this book moved and a snails pace and was predominately more boring than not, yet I found that truly the ending of the book was the most enjoyable(and not just because it meant the book was over ). I have to say in spite of my various contemplations of considering giving up on the book, though the ending might not have been enough to make me think the book as a whole as brilliant, it was enough to make me feel that in spite of all my difficulties and struggles, it was not a waste of time. The ending of this book did make it feel as if the reading of the rest to get to that point was worthwhile.

    Have you had any experiences in which the end of the book has dramatically affected or changed your overall reading experience or impressions of a book. Has a books ending redeemed a book for your, or completely ruined a book?

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

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    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    Those long essays and lectures at the end of War and Peace ruined the book for me. I felt cheated, as though the whole point of his novel and it's gigantic length was that he couldn't summarize or condense his ideas, he had to show you in detail. Then he's like, "Oh, this is what the book is about." and I'm like, "You're telling me this 1400 pages in? You bastard!" Every page I'd worked through and struggled to understand it's meaning felt meaningless and a profound waste of time. "Why didn't you say that, and then write a 200 page novel? Jackass!"

    Likewise, the ending to Of Human Bondage really lowered my estimation of the book. Note for note, it was pitch perfect, full of truth and life, and then the last 50 pages were full of pretty little lies and fabrications. It was like a loud wet fart at the end of a symphony.
    "So-Crates: The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing." "That's us, dude!"- Bill and Ted
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    riding a cosmic vortex MystyrMystyry's Avatar
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    Most books I've ever read I've been at least a little disappointed in the ending - not merely that if I'm enjoying it I don't want it to end, which is normal - but also that if I feel the ending is contrived in some way it can make me feel duped regarding the rest of the work

    General speculation about better/preferable finales is a habit I think most readers fall into, certainly if the only option given is one of distaste


    I think one of the oddest was The Third Policeman of which the publishers decided to include a post script letter from the author to explain the denouement - if it hadn't been included, well, actually I'm not sure how it would've read without it because it was staring at me immediately upon finishing the main body

    Although it clarified O'Brian's intention, I just felt half-ripped off for not having it made plainer within the text, and half-bothered that I'd been reading a great work of Irish surrealism which was suddenly pointed out to me that that's in fact not what I'd been reading at all

    If you ever get hold of a copy, get someone to cover the postscript letter for you and you may enjoy it more - but who can say?
    Last edited by MystyrMystyry; 02-23-2011 at 12:07 AM. Reason: one word too many

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    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    ..the ending to Of Human Bondage really lowered my estimation of the book. Note for note, it was pitch perfect, full of truth and life, and then the last 50 pages were full of pretty little lies and fabrications. It was like a loud wet fart at the end of a symphony.
    A loud wet fart? I agree with you, but Maugham was gay, and covering for that badly. I picked up on that even without a college course. I took a lot of notes on this novel though, because he sexualizes disease in original ways.

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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    A "loud, wet fart?!"

    Clearly our Mortal is not one ever at a loss for the perfect artistic turn of phrase.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
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    aspiring Arthurianist Wilde woman's Avatar
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    I was disappointed by the ending of Crime and Punishment. I thought the novel as a whole would've been more effective (and affective) as a full-on tragedy. I've only read it once, and that was in high school, but I remember being very invested in the book, very curious about what would happen to Raskolnikov, and then being cheated out of a good ending. I don't have a problem with the fact that he was redeemed (though I find the Christian rebirth symbolism cliched), but that the manner in which it was done was so rushed. It felt jarringly unrealistic, while the rest of the novel had been quite the opposite, with its acutely drawn characterizations and psychological insights. It felt like a cop-out.

    And since we're on the topic of endings, how about potentially great unfinished works? I'm so curious about what Chaucer would've done to complete his Canterbury Tales or House of Fame.
    Ecce quam bonum et jocundum, habitares libros in unum!
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    I agree with the above post, I really like Dostoevsky and Crime and Punishment is great but the ending was rushed, no doubt. Im not sure if he meant to be that way because I know he was in a hurry to finish the novel because he had a time limit on it. Either way, it didnt fit in with the tragic, drawn out tone of the rest of the book. Even with the ending though its still probably my all time fav.

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    Barbara Pym: A Glass of Blessings. The ending that has been hinted at throughout the book is completely overturned on the last page: the skill with which it was done made me appreciate why some critics consider Pym to be a successor to Jane Austen.

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    I've been disappointed with almost every ending of Stephen King's novels, The Stand especially.

    It definitely seems like the longer a work, the more potential for a let down at the end.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MystyrMystyry View Post
    I think one of the oddest was The Third Policeman of which the publishers decided to include a post script letter from the author to explain the denouement - if it hadn't been included, well, actually I'm not sure how it would've read without it because it was staring at me immediately upon finishing the main body

    Although it clarified O'Brian's intention, I just felt half-ripped off for not having it made plainer within the text, and half-bothered that I'd been reading a great work of Irish surrealism which was suddenly pointed out to me that that's in fact not what I'd been reading at all

    If you ever get hold of a copy, get someone to cover the postscript letter for you and you may enjoy it more - but who can say?
    The Third Policeman is reason enough to disavow the glories of the Celtic legacy and its corruption of a classically superior Roman army. I purchased this little horror because of Lost, and assumed it was some kind of advanced surrealist tale.

    For a Menippean satire, I think the ending works quite well; it's the meaning of that satire which gives pause. I tend to think Flann thinks Ireland is damned because it is not Anglican enough on the one hand, but lost its identity to the rest of Europe long ago.

    A wild guess on my part.

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    In my experience, novels usually end sadly,happily or indifferently. In the case Of Human Bondage, it ended indifferently. A similar ending occurs at the end of The Sun Also Rises, whereas The Great Gatsby has a sad ending as does Buddenbrooks or L'assommoir. Dickens and Austen, of course, are aficionados of the happy ending. Another possible ending is the optimistic one but I don't recall many of those, except for Maupassant's Une Vie.
    I generally take the ending as I find it without letting it spoil the rest of the book. As someone who has written three novels, I have had the endings worked out before I started writing. In the case of Maugham's OHB, I must agree that it read as though he hadn't thought out the ending in advance. Nevertheless, I would say that it is the book that influenced me more than any other.
    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts." Napoléon Bonaparte.

    "Je crois que beaucoup de gens sont dans cet état d’esprit: au fond, ils ne sentent pas concernés par l’Histoire. Mais pourtant, de temps à autre, l’Histoire pose sa main sur eux." Michel Houellebecq.

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    Bibliophile Drkshadow03's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    Those long essays and lectures at the end of War and Peace ruined the book for me. I felt cheated, as though the whole point of his novel and it's gigantic length was that he couldn't summarize or condense his ideas, he had to show you in detail. Then he's like, "Oh, this is what the book is about." and I'm like, "You're telling me this 1400 pages in? You bastard!" Every page I'd worked through and struggled to understand it's meaning felt meaningless and a profound waste of time. "Why didn't you say that, and then write a 200 page novel? Jackass!"

    Likewise, the ending to Of Human Bondage really lowered my estimation of the book. Note for note, it was pitch perfect, full of truth and life, and then the last 50 pages were full of pretty little lies and fabrications. It was like a loud wet fart at the end of a symphony.
    Heh. Two books I was considering reading this year.
    "You understand well enough what slavery is, but freedom you have never experienced, so you do not know if it tastes sweet or bitter. If you ever did come to experience it, you would advise us to fight for it not with spears only, but with axes too." - Herodotus

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    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drkshadow03 View Post
    Heh. Two books I was considering reading this year.
    They are both really great novels, so don't let me dissuade you on that point. They just could have been better, is what I'm saying. Of Human Bondage is still one of my favorite books. However, as Jozanny says, the text is heavily autobiographical and in the end Maugham is largely covering for his homosexuality. As for the Tolstoy, I have lots of good memories from that work too, and some editions take the essays out and place them after the story.
    "So-Crates: The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing." "That's us, dude!"- Bill and Ted
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    G K Chesterton's novel The Man Who Was Thursday ends with the protagonist waking up to find it has all been a dream (or that God did it, depending on your interpretation). It wouldn't have been so bad if the rest of the novel wasn't so completely brilliant.
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    Registered User sithkittie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mutatis-Mutandi View Post
    I've been disappointed with almost every ending of Stephen King's novels, The Stand especially.
    He almost redeemed the Dark Tower books with the ending... almost... but then he had to 'spell it out' for the reader and go 'Did you get it? See? Did you get it?'

    I was pretty disappointed in the ending of Lord of the Flies.

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