Does one start at the End?

Headless in a hurry

Headless in a hurry

I’ve  ‘lost my head’ in London and not written my blog! In fact, I’ve just returned from a Christmas drinks party where there was talk of Colm Toibin’s novel Brooklyn and the original way it ends. I suspect it might be like a play by Paul Claudel, L’Annonce faite à Marie, which had two endings. When I read it ages ago there were endless discussions over which to choose.  I shall buy the Brooklyn ebook and read it when I’ve finished Magnus by George Madox Brown, which is not an ebook. We’ll discuss it on 9 January at our book group.

I make it a rule never to start writing without sketching out the end at the same time. Everything might change, but it rarely does. That is, unless another ending emerges. In

Restoration had two endings and I couldn’t decide which was the better one. I asked my two readers, one male, the other female, and they too were unsure! So both went in. As I’m hypercritical, I tend to dither seeing the advantages and disadvantages of both. Imagine what a joy it was to be at a reading group that told me they hadn’t read a novel with such a satisfying ending for a long time. And a relief!

For 1955 The Summer When… it was entirely different. The book would end dramatically in Hamburg. Of that I was certain. Then one of my readers found it unsatisfactory. I was glad she did.  Writing the last chapter from the present was hard, but important. The feedback was good, but there is always a dissenting voice. An Italian reader said that the final chapter mentioned people one would like to know more about. That’s the point. A book should, I feel, ideally end with both reader satisfaction and reader curiosity.


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