The last sentence

Published on 26 December 2023 at 17:54

The last sentence of a novel is one of the most important sentences. When buying a book, I have regularly been guided by the first and last sentence. Personally, I wasn't allowed to read the last sentence, it could reveal the end of the story and take away the tension from reading. However, I have rarely had this problem and the last sentence was often the deciding factor for buying the book.

Kees 't Hart has written an interesting piece in the Groene Amsterdammer about the last sentence entitled "Delay of the end" ( He argues that in many fairy tales the happy ending is always surrounded by gruesome punishment for the losers. At Snow White's wedding, the stepmother has to put on red-hot steel shoes and dance until she drops dead. Pigeons peck out an eye of Cinderella's stepsisters. Bad luck is never far away, but it only happens to the losers. They die, we live, all's well that ends well.”
In romantic novels things are not so gruesome: the man confesses to the woman (or vice versa) that he loves her and the reader knows that the couple will be happy. For ever.
Kees 't Hart notes that he encounters many epilogues these days. After the happy ending, the writer adds another piece that tells how the main characters and a number of secondary characters are doing five or ten years later. For this 't Hart uses the beautiful metaphor "a reunion of characters".

Not only nowadays, but also in the past, epilogues were already used, e.g. by Charlotte Brönte in Jane Eyre.  In the last chapter of her books Jane Austen often enumerates the further vicissitudes of her characters too. According to 't Hart, an epilogue serves to postpone the end. The writer cannot say goodbye to his story. I think this is a nice statement. For myself as a reader, however, I also find it satisfying to learn something more about the characters, especially if they have become dear to me. I hope they're doing well. Now that I have read Kees 't Hart's piece, I also understand better why I am a 'last sentence reader' when it comes to buying books. I avoid a bad ending to a character who might end up to be loved by me.

And which last sentences are my favorites? There are few "real" last sentences, usually it is a last paragraph that I like, e.g. from Singer (Enemies a Love Story). A real final sentence I like for its promise is from James Salter (All that is):
“Yes. Let's go in November. We'll have a great time.”

If you, readers of this blog, have any favorite closing paragraphs or sentences, please let me know by the Add comment or mail to I would like to list them in a blog on favorite last sentences.

From: Enemies, a Love Story (Isaac Bashevis Singer)

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