Meet Alastair. Over dinner he let me take his photo and let me in on his unusual reading habit.
Alastair is an avid reader – he reads all kinds of books but prefers historical mysteries. When he buys a new book he reads the first chapter or so and then reads the ending.
The writer in me immediately jumped to the author’s defence. I thought of the years of work that often goes into writing a novel, the sweating over plot points and all the work that goes into making a satisfying ending. I was horrified. I don’t go in for twist in the tale endings, but the ending should be a surprise, even if the novelist has carefully arranged for you to see it coming and spend much of the novel willing the protagonist to do something stop the slide towards an inevitably unhappy ending.
Alastair admitted that sometimes the ending is enough for him to stop reading on. But mostly he reads to the end and he’s happy knowing how it’s going to turn out.
I thought of all the work that goes into the endings of my own stories, and realised that I have absolutely no control over whether that ending is given away right at the start or in the middle, even if I didn’t write it that way. As a writer it sent a shiver down my spine.
As a reader, I can kind of see what he means. Though I wouldn’t read the whole last chapter, sometimes I can’t resist a glance at the last sentence.
How about you? Have you ever read the ending of a book before you should? And if so, what makes you do it?