Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Beginnings/Endings

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This is a post for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. You can find out more and follow along there!

This week’s topic is favorite beginnings and endings. I did find ten, and I’m sure there are others that I missed. I also didn’t include the ones that are super, super famous (“It was a pleasure to burn,” or “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day,” or “It is a truth universally acknowledged…”). Except that I immediately broke that rule. But I couldn’t help it!

1. “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Okay, yes, I put the end of A Tale of Two Cities on my list. Because, ever since I first read it at 13, I have not been able to read the last page of that book without choking up, at best, and full on sobbing, at worst. Powerful stuff.

2. “I love you, I love you, I love you.” I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

In and of itself, it’s not especially memorable, but the whole last scene is wonderfully atmospheric, FRUSTRATING, and beautiful.

3. “They kissed once. Then he turned upon his heel and disappeared into the Darkness.” Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

You may have gathered from my first three here that I have a bit of a thing for slightly ambiguous, not entirely happy endings. You would be right. But, oh man, the end of Jonathan Strange! Clarke’s writing throughout the book is superb and the last scene is lovely and almost elegiac.

4. “Polly sighed and laid her book face down on her bed. She rather thought she had read it after all, some time ago.” Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Here’s a first line for a change! I really like this one because it sets up the whole central plot of what Polly remembers. Which, of course, the line following about someone telling her to always use a bookmark does much more strongly.

5. “And she believed him.” The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Back to endings–again, it’s maybe not much by itself, but in the context of the whole book, which is all about love and redemption and belief, it’s SO powerful.

6. “She could feel the Big Hill looking down as the Crowd danced at Tib’s wedding in the chocolate-colored house.” Betsy’s Wedding by Maud Hart Lovelace

Is there a more perfect end to a series than Betsy’s Wedding? Again, this is a lot about the accumulated effect of the books. By the time we get to this point, the Big Hill and the chocolate-colored house are almost as much a part of the reader’s internal mythology as the characters’. And by the reader, I mean me.

7. “It was a burnished, cloudless day with a tug-of-war wind, a fine day for flying. And so Raglan Skein left his body neatly laid out on his bed, its breath as slow as sea swell, and took to the sky.” The Lost Conspiracy, by Frances Hardinge

I looovvveee Frances Hardinge–actually, she should have been on my list of authors who deserve more recognition. The worlds she creates are beautiful and unique, and so is her writing, pulling you in from the very first sentence and keeping you wrapped up in its magic until the last.

8. “It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.” The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

This was one of my favorite openings in 2011. Again, it’s the sort of first line that makes it almost impossible to do anything but keep reading, and it’s the perfect beginning to a book that keeps that strength of voice from beginning to end.

9. “But a part of me lies buried in lace and roses on a riverbank in France-a part of me is broken off forever. A part of me will be unflyable, stuck in the climb.” Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Okay, this one is cheating slightly, because technically it’s not the very end of the book (it’s followed by a letter). But, as much as I love that letter and the way it wraps things up, this is the end I remember, and cry over.

10. “Roger, aged seven, and no longer the youngest of the family, ran in wide zigzags, to and fro, across the steep field that sloped up from the lake to Holly Howe, the farm where they were staying for that part of the summer holidays.” Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

I love Swallows and Amazons so much. Even though in and of itself this isn’t a hugely spectacular beginning, it’s so familiar that I definitely have to list it here. Like wrapping yourself in your favorite blankie.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Beginnings/Endings

  1. Tori

    When I saw your tweet leading to this post, I though, “I hope she has ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.'” I am just as happy to have “I love you I love you I love you.”

    • Maureen Eichner

      Weird thing: I didn’t even THINK of “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink,” even though it’s one of my favorite openings ever. But yes, “I love you I love you I love you” is wonderful too.

      Now I want to re-read ICC.

      • Mimi

        I admit, while I do recognize the first line, the reading of the book was just meh for me.

      • Tori

        The end of the first part of CNV, the “I have told the truth I have told the truth” always put me in mind of “I love you I love you I love you.”

        I really just love that book, altogether. It’s so cozy and wonderful. (The movie is kind of meh, although I did try to ask a hairdresser to give me Rose’s short hair cut once. She wouldn’t do it, she thought it was too short for me.)

        • Maureen Eichner

          Oh, me too! So glad I’m not the only one–I think that’s part of what made that passage so powerful for me.

          I did enjoy the movie, but it’s not important to me in the way that the book is. I did love all of the clothes, though. And Ramola Garai, who I admit to fangirling a bit. But I thought they made the parts with her father too Dramatic, and lost some of the wry humor of the book.

  2. Brilliant list. I liked the way you mixed the endings and beginnings. The Code Name Verity quote you pick is beautiful, as is the start of Fire and Hemlock – I really loved that story.

    • Maureen Eichner

      Thank you! And the CNV quote made me choke up a little, I won’t lie. 🙂 Always nice to meet a fellow Fire & Hemlock fan–I really like Tam Lin retellings, and that’s one of my favorites.

  3. The Queen of Attolia!
    And I agree with that end of CNV being the one that sticks, but the end of the letter is oh so good too.
    Also, I love that you included Fire and Hemlock.

  4. Great list! I spent ages trying to decide whether to put the beginning or the ending of I Capture The Castle because I love both!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂

    • Maureen Eichner

      The funny thing is, I didn’t even remember the first line of ICC, when it’s actually one of my favorites. Silly brain. 🙂

      You’re very welcome! Thanks for the comment.

  5. The ending of I Capture the Castle made me really angry– I am very much a girl who needs a happy ending. I’m so excited to find another person who’s read The Lost Conspiracy! I’ve been thinking about that book a lot lately. It’s amazing.

    • Maureen Eichner

      I was both frustrated and amazed by the ending of ICC. And I love The Lost Conspiracy so much! All of Frances Hardinge, but that book especially. So great.

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