Friday, February 18, 2011
Best Last Lines
Claudie A has a brilliant post up on her awesome blog right now on the importance of first lines, and how the right one grabs you and reels you in. It got me to thinking about last lines (I've always been contrary) and how those are just as important.
Ever since Shakespeare ended Hamlet with The rest is silence and maybe even before (I haven't done any research for this post) last lines have been sticking with people. And it's not always the happy ending that is the most memorable. Sometimes it's the sucker punch that leaves you gasping for breath, like in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four: He loved Big Brother.
For me, my favourite last line ever is from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The whole book is beautifully written. It is set in Germany in World War Two, and narrated by Death. Death is ageless, maybe tired, and maybe lonely. I borrowed from Wilfred Owen when I pictured him: His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin. Death's attention is caught by the girl Leisel, the book thief. He is fascinated by her. He encounters her three times in her life without taking her. The fourth time, of course, it is inevitable. And at the end of the book, in the very last line, Death makes his confession: I am haunted by humans.
Nothing I write here can do justice to how powerful that line feels when you read it in context. It's a beautiful, tragic end to a beautiful, tragic book. That line stayed with me for days after I finished The Book Thief. It was perfect.
Great first lines will hook you, but great last lines will never let you go.
What is the best last line you've ever found?
Buy the Book Thief here at Amazon.