The top ten: Last sentences of novels


John Rentoul
Friday 11 April 2014 20:56
'She was seventy-five and she was going to make some changes in her life'
'She was seventy-five and she was going to make some changes in her life'

My esteemed colleague Guy Keleny had no suggestions for First Sentences, which we did on 3 March, but said he liked the last line of 'The Lord of the Rings'. Single, complete sentences with a 140-character limit turned out to be quite restrictive, but, with the usual warning about spoilers, here we go…

1. 'Well, I'm back' The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. Nominated by Guy Keleny.

2. 'It could be that the sort of sentence one wants right here is the kind that runs, and laughs, and slides, and stops right on a dime' Speedboat by Renata Adler. From Matthew Hoffman.

3. 'After all, tomorrow is another day' Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

4. 'Ever drifting down the stream—/ Lingering in the golden gleam— / Life, what is it but a dream?' Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. Nominated by Matthew Hoffman.

5. 'He passed on unsuspected and deadly, like a pest in the street full of men' The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. Selected by Terry Stiastny.

6. 'So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past' The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. From Alan Beattie.

7. 'Just watch me' The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. Chosen by Diane Sinclair.

8. 'There was a point to this story, but it has temporarily escaped the chronicler's mind' So Long and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams. Nominated by Mike Mason.

9. 'She was seventy-five and she was going to make some changes in her life' The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. From Will Brett.

10. 'You could see a long way – but not as far as Velma had gone' Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler. Selected by Tony Valsamidis.

Next week: Malapropisms.

Coming soon: Surprisingly unrelated pairs of words (such as male, female). Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to

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