Beginnings and Ends

Paperback vs Hardcover

First of all, don’t worry! I’m not quitting blogging. 🙂

You may (or may not) have noticed that I didn’t do my usual Monday Musing post this week. The reason, besides the fact that I’m terrible at scheduling posts, was because it was my birthday and I took the night off to celebrate. I’ve had so much to be thankful for this past year (more on that here!) and I’m leaving my 23rd year with a lot of happiness and excitement.

Of course, this being a book blog, these thoughts about beginnings and ends have made me think about book beginnings and endings. Which is more important to you: a strong start or a stellar ending? It’s a toss-up for me. On one hand, I really need a strong hook to get me invested but I have also had the experience where an unforgettable ending has redeemed an otherwise “blah” book. Plus, great endings tend to linger with me more than beginnings (though, of course, the opposite has also happened).

When it comes to beginnings, anything that begins mysteriously will reel me in. For example, the first line from Haruki Murakami’s most recent novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, intrigued me instantly: “From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.” As far as endings go, Claire Cameron’s The Bear really impressed me, as did Susin Nielsen’s The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen. These books will always have a place in my heart because of their powerful beginnings and endings.

What do you think? Are there any examples of strong beginnings or end that you can think of?

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26 thoughts on “Beginnings and Ends

  1. bornandread says:

    That is such a tough choice – I’m the same, I obviously need a good beginning to get me interested, but the ending is what’s going to stay with me, so I need that to be good too. Hmmm…and the middle should also be really good 😉

    One of my fave opening lines is from Peter Carey’s novel, Bliss: “Harry Joy was to die three times, but it was his first death which was to have the greatest effect on him”…

  2. annabelsmith says:

    Happy birthday. You definitely should get to take a night off. Because I am a serial abandoner, if the beginning isn’t strong, I won’t make it to the end. I recently did a post on my top 10 opening lines – you might like to check it out: http://annabelsmith.com/?p=1700

    Of course, endings are really important too, and they are REALLY hard to write. You want it to be satisfying for the reader without being tied up so neatly that it feels twee – and you want it to be a little unexpected without feeling too far out of left field. I thought Matt Haig’s The Humans had a great ending. I sometimes get feedback that my books end too abruptly so this is something I clearly need to work on!

    • kmn04books says:

      I can’t even imagine being a writer, so I admire anyone who is. Books seem like such difficult things to write! I’ll have to check out your post; good beginnings are so great because they have the power to get me really excited!

  3. writereads says:

    It’s got to be beginnings for me as if a beginning is not good enough, I’ll never read the book through to the ending. I’m terrible that way.
    But a good ending is much harder to write and a rare thing to find. I remember thinking Middlemarch had the perfect ending. John Green often has endings that make you clutch the book to you. Margaret Laurence can do no wrong in beginnings and endings IMNSHO (in my not so humble opinion 🙂 ) -Tania

    • kmn04books says:

      You know, as someone who claims to love Victorian literature, it’s a shame that I haven’t read Middlemarch yet. (Truthfully, its length may have something to do with it.) I’ll have to look into Margaret Laurence’s work!

  4. Leah says:

    Happy birthday!

    I think I care more about the ending. Although I LOVE a strong first sentence, I’m more likely to remember the ending; it’s more likely to shape my overall impression of a book.

  5. Charleen says:

    If I had to pick one, I’d say the stronger ending is more important. It’s the last impression, last chance to wow me. A great ending isn’t going to fix a mediocre book, but a mediocre ending can ruin my opinion of an otherwise good book.

    Obviously, the beginning can’t be so bad that I’ll give up on the book before it starts getting good… but still, I’m more likely to stick through an okay beginning. I rarely give up on a book that early, and when it happens, it’s more likely due to a narrative style that’s unlikely to change than anything that is or isn’t happening in the story.

  6. Naomi says:

    I want both! But, really, if I had to choose one I guess it would be the ending. It is so disappointing when a book has a great start and then it goes downhill from there. The other way isn’t such a disappointment. The Bear is a great example of a good ending- loved that one!

  7. The Paperback Princess says:

    I love beginnings. I’m just always happy that there’s a whole book in front of me and I don’t know any of its secrets yet. But endings are where it’s at for me. A so-so book can totally redeem itself if the ending it great. The endings stay with me much longer (The Elegance of the Hedgehog still haunts me). The ending of Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is probably one of the best.

    Of course there is something to be said for the first lines of some famous novels. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
    “Call me Ishmael.”

  8. eai04leaf says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever put that much thought into good beginnings but only endings. I’ll definitely have to think about the beginning of the next novel I start.

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