The BBC website had an intriguing article yesterday on last lines of novels. First lines can be very well known, but it made the point that far fewer people can quote their favourite last lines. Why is this? Do readers simply not reach the end of a novel often enough to quote the last line? Or is it that the ending is a fuller, more rounded experience that leaves you with an overall impression rather than a single quote?
I don't know, but there were some classic endings listed in the article, including George Orwell's 1984, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
My own favourite is from Daphne du Maurier's novel The House on the Strand:
"The telephone went on ringing, and I crossed the room to answer it, but a silly thing happened as I picked up the receiver. I couldn't hold it properly; my fingers and the palm of my hand went numb, and it slipped out of my grasp and crashed to the floor."
Of course, you have to read the rest of the book to appreciate just how clever, and chilling, an ending that is...