Disappointing Endings

By Michelle S. Wed, March 23, 2011

In this essay in the New York Times, David Greenberg explores the notion of disappointing last chapters in otherwise good books. He focuses mainly on non-fiction social commentary, like Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason, discussing how authors will frequently contradict the arguments they’ve been making throughout their books with unexpectedly hopeful—or incongruously dour—conclusions. While I’m more of a reader of fiction than non-fiction, I’ve certainly noticed similar disappointing last chapters in many otherwise lovely novels.

Take Little Bee by Chris Cleave for example. I was absolutely enraptured by this story of a Nigerian orphan and her entanglement with a white, middle class family from small town Britain—it was one of those novels that I stayed up way too late reading. Now, I don’t want to discourage anyone from picking up what really is a good book, nor do I want to give away the ending, but man—was that a disappointing last chapter! Also, I usually enjoy David Nicholls’s books—they aren’t particularly complex, but they always offer well-crafted, entertaining stories (hello, Starter for Ten!). His most recent novel, One Day, was quite a fun read… until that final chapter. Again, I don’t want to give anything away, but Nicholls whipped out a plot twist that even the best, most skilled, most celebrated writers can only ever successfully employ—sometimes. This was not a successful employment. And that is all I will say about that.

Have you read any books that you really enjoyed, up until the disappointing end? Does a bad ending ruin your enjoyment of a book, or do you still consider some books to be good, despite their flawed conclusions?


Comments

Little Bee absolutely killed me! It was a fantastic book.
Nicole - Northeast Philly Fri, March 25, 2011
Blue Angel by Francine Prose. The last chapter relied upon a wretched deus ex machina that made me scream.
jd - philly Fri, March 25, 2011

YES! Completely agreed, jd!

Michelle - Free Library of Philadelphia Fri, March 25, 2011

The Dive from Clausen's Pier. I nearly threw that book across the room when all of the character development went out the window in the last couple of chapters. I felt cheated.
Jordan - Seattle, WA Fri, March 25, 2011
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puma homme - Fri, March 02, 2012

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