Dec 14, 2011

They danced by the light of the moon

by Michelle Douglas

Reading: America’s Star-Crossed Sweethearts by Jackie Braun
Watching: MASH reruns
Listening to: the warbling magpies gathered on our front veranda
Making me smile: Homemade fruitcake

And hand in hand on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

This is the final stanza of the poem The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear. Back in January I blogged about my brand new calendar—the fun, the whimsy and the love story that is The Owl and the Pussycat. And my calendar didn’t let me down. It brightened my months. It made me smile. It was my muse. And, as in all good romances, the owl and the pussycat live happily ever after.

“They danced by the light of the moon.” Don’t you think that’s the most wonderful line with which to end a romance?

Which started me thinking…

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a first line may draw a reader into your story, but a last line will have them rushing out to buy your next book.

We have a tendency to remember first lines (as in the one above that I’ve pilfered and corrupted from Pride and Prejudice), but what about last lines? Who remembers the last line(s) of Pride and Prejudice?

I don’t remember the first line in Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy, but I can recall the final exchange vividly:
“Charles!” uttered Sophy, shocked. ‘You cannot love me!”
Mr Rivenhall pulled the door to behind them, and in a very rough fashion jerked her into his arms, and kissed her. “I don’t: I dislike you excessively!” he said savagely.
Entranced by these lover-like words, Miss Stanton-Lacy returned his embrace with fervour, and meekly allowed herself to be led off to the stables.”

Oh, it has just the perfect tone for all that preceded it! I am so jealous.

As I stare at my The Owl and the Pussycat calendar and December’s gorgeous picture with that final line—They danced by the light of the moon—I realise I would love all my stories to end on such an uplifting and satisfying note.

They danced by the light of the moon.

Do you know any noteworthy last lines?


  1. Love your post.
    One of the best almost-last lines I remember was in one of Frances Housden's Intimate Moments (I think it was Heartbreak Hero) where the hero and heroine are alone together, he's about to kiss (....?) her, people are about to find them, she says they don't have time, and he says.... "I do my best work under pressure." I love it.

  2. Definitely the Grand Sophy last lines, Michelle! They're the only ones I can ever remember of any book -- because they're so damned good!!!

  3. Oh what great last lines! They're super. Gosh, can't think of any brilliant examples at this moment (need caffeine fix) - but love those like your example, and Jo's above, that leave you smiling - a lovely little joke feel to it. Nothing nicer than to close a book with a smile!!!

  4. Only famous last line I remember is "and they lived happily ever after". That's sort of the way I like the books I read to end but I feel books are stronger when you know there will still be a few differences of opinion overcome by lots of love.

  5. Jo, I love the line you describe -- what a hero. ;-)

    A touch of humour will suck me in every time.

  6. I wholeheartedly agree, Em! Those lines from The Grand Sophy are good on soooo many levels. The fact that they can make you smile even if you haven't read the book, is a tribute to how good that book is.

  7. Hi Michelle --
    Great post. Haven't read The Grand Sophy but I want to now! I think last lines are trickier to be catchy...I think you always needs a few lines to get it right.

    How about Gone with the Wind: "Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day."

  8. Nat, I'm seeing the line "They danced by the light of the moon" every day and it's still making me smile.

    Nat said: Nothing nicer than to close a book with a smile!!! -- oh, I'll say Amen to that.

  9. Kaelee, the sense of expectation from the words, "Once upon a time..." And the sense of rightness from, "and they lived happily ever after" shouldn't be underestimated. It's why we read romance.

    But like you, I prefer a journey that's challenging and full of stumbling blocks. If the journey is too easy, I get bored. :-)

  10. Anna, The Grand Sophy is great, good fun! I definitely recommend that you pick it up.

    Oh, I love the last lines of Gone With The Wind! Given all we've learned of Scarlett, do we ever really doubt that she'll get Rhett back? Excellent example!

  11. Great post Michelle!
    I love some of the endings mentioned. One of my favourites is from Danielle Steel's Crossings (A keeper book for me) - "He had been right. Strong people cannot be defeated."

  12. How about my favourite Jane Austen - Persuasion. :)

    The last chapter is the author telling us how all the secondary characters ended up, so the 'real' last line is from the chapter before, where Captain Wentworth (after admitting to Anne all that he'd done wrong in their relationship) ends his dialogue with:

    "I must learn to brook being happier than I deserve."

    Happy sigh. Maybe I could squeeze in another watch of one of the movie adaptations...

  13. Helen, that's a fabulous closing line! I have a feeling it probably encapsulates the theme of the book. I haven't read a Danielle Steele, but have always meant to -- will now make sure it's Crossings. :-)

  14. LOL, Rachel -- it must be a writerly tic of Ms Austen's as she ends Pride and Prejudice very similarly and Emma too (I just checked). The romance ending line in both is in the penultimate (love that word) chapter.

    I love Persuasion and I love the line you quoted. I think to brook being happier than one deserves is an admirable ambition. :-)

  15. Oh, I love that line from Persuasion - and I haven't even read it!

    I can't think of any memorably lines, although I always remember books that make me close them with a happy sigh :)

  16. Fab post, Michelle! I'm enjoying these awesome "last lines" but I'm like Natalie and I can't think of one to save myself! I've scrambled around the book shelf and although all the endings are lovely and entirely suitable for the story they've ended, none of them really seemed to stand alone without knowing the context of the story.

    But I did find this last line from a Dick Francis book, Dead Heat, and it really appealed to me...
    "I was going to live my second life at full throttle."


  17. Ooh, Leah, you haven't read Persuasion? You are in for such a treat! I promise that you'll love the entire book just as much as that great line that Rachel fed us.

  18. There have been some great last lines mentioned, Sharon -- yours included. Love that Dick Francis line!

    When I was writing this blog, I went to a couple of books whose first lines I love -- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Lolita by Nabokov -- and their final lines are brilliant for those novels. However, as they are far from cheerful novels I didn't quote from them as I didn't want to bring the tone of the blog down - LOL.

  19. He drew a deep breath. "Well, I'm back", he said.

    This is the last line of the LORD OF THE RINGS. Sam is home. It's so peaceful after all the adventures.

  20. Excellent last line, Marybelle! It's so wonderfully understated after all that has gone before.

    Sigh. Love Lord of the Rings. :-)

  21. One ending I *loved* was the final page of The Time Traveller's Wife. They gave the film a "happy ending" but for me the book's ending was absolutely magical. Even though Henry was dead, his wife knew that she would see him again in the future when she was very old. In that final scene, you know that she knows he has finally arrived and she turns around to greet him.
    The story had this "revolving" feeling, with him travelling backwards and forwards, unable to control when or where it would happen, sometimes going back to the same time and place many times at different ages. Somehow the author managed to make me feel as if this wonderful final moment in their relationship would keep happening again and again even though the reader knows it won't.

  22. Hi Michelle,

    You've pipped me at the post with the Georgette Heyer quote. Isn't it fantastic? I"m afraid apart from that I don't recall precise dialogue. Dreadful of me, isn't it? I love a good ending (in fact without a fantastic ending I don't enjoy the story as I should). Thanks, Marybelle for posting the 'Lord of the Rings' quote. By the time we reach the end of that it's the perfect way to finish.

  23. Oh, Robbie, I remember that moment in The Time Traveller's Wife so vividly! And magical describes it perfectly.

    I loved how their love transcends time and age and looks etc -- that it's the core person who is loved. Oh, but I found the story heartbreaking too on some levels. Excellent example!

  24. HI Annie,

    Well, that final scene in The Grand Sophy is so memorable and those final lines so perfect, that one can't help remembering it. :-)

    I have to agree that if the ending of a story isn't quite right, then even if the rest of the book has been fantastic I can't help feeling a bit let down.

    I think we should all toast to grand endings in 2012!

  25. I can't think of any great last lines but am enjoying reading everyone else's picks.
    Great blog topic, Michelle.

  26. Sue, there have been some excellent suggestions, haven't there? I've been enjoying them too. :-)