The Best Last Lines in Literature


The Washington Post recently published a ‘best last lines in fiction’ article, and it was exactly as predictable as you’d expect. Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye (which I adore, but still…), Grapes of Wrath, Gone with the Wind, Huckleberry Finn, The Sun Also Rises etc etc. A veritable who’s who of the literary canon, but not many surprises.

I decided to pull together an alternative version with my own top 10 favourite last lines.

You can read mine below – a mixture of serious and silly – and then I’d love you to leave your own favourite in the comments.

1.“I said, ‘You’re an old fool. You’ve probably got English blood.’” – Talking It Over, Julian Barnes

2. “And isn’t that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark.” – The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth

3. “To know Being, this is the final grace accorded from the mountain.” – The Living Mountain, Nan Shepherd

4. “My children are the descendants of those unbroken.” – The Hate Race, Maxine Beneva Clarke

5. “You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.” – The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

6. “He likes the thought of ships moving over the water, towards another world just out of sight.” – Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel

7. “Water may be older than light, diamonds crack in hot goat’s blood, mountaintops give off cold fire, forests appear in mid-ocean, it may happen that a crab is caught with the shadow of a hand on its back, that the wind be imprisoned in a bit of knotted string. And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery.” The Shipping News, Annie Proulx

8. “Ha ha ho ho and hee hee.” – Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, Tom Robbins

9. “Remember what I say: not everything will pass.” – Do Not Tell Us We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien

10. “As usual, my wife is right.” – The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama


(Also, if books are your thing, come and say hello on my Instagram account @ruthreadsbooks)


5 responses

  1. Kristin Hannah – The Nightingale

    “I smile at them, my two boys who should have broken me, but somehow saved me, each in his own way. Because of them, I know now what matters, and it is not what I have lost. It is my memories. Wounds heal.Love lasts. We remain. “

    • What a lovely choice, Gary. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I haven’t read the Nightingale but based on that I’ll definitely be tracking it down.

  2. “The clocks went forward and the evenings opened up and the days stood a little straighter on their feet.”
    I’m not good at picking a favourite from forever, so this is a favourite from what I’ve read in 2019. It’s from Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor and it knocked my socks off when I read it (on a very short January day) but I could have picked and of at least a dozen other lines. In fact, just one more, following a conversation between a Dad and his boys…”The world didn’t always sound right when it was first explained”.

      • Do you know, I read your whole post and my brain never once registered that it was about LAST lines?! I missed it in the title and throughout, so when I replied I just gave you a bit I liked from the middle of a book. Although apparently I’m not very good at reading every word so who knows what else I’ve missed!

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