Good Endings by Sydney Salter
I just finished reading a novel that ended in such a way that I immediately reread the first chapter again - so much story was contained in the unwritten space between that ending and the shocking beginning. Quite clever!
I loved this Downton Abbey-esque novel, Good Behavior by Molly Keane (not to be confused with the fun new TV series by the same name, staring the actress who played Lady Mary in Downton Abbey, yet quite a different creative endeavor!). Keane's story explores the early decline of aristocracy in Ireland with wit, pathos, and wise observation.
Keane wrote Good Behavior at the age of 75, publishing the book in 1981, years after a short career writing under a pen name in the 1930s. Apparently admitting to being a writer would be a sort of social death for a woman in Keane's social circle in the 1930s. Books were shunned in favor of horses and hunting. Good Behavior contains some hilarious passages mocking the fear of books. Keane wrote as MJ Farrell when she needed money, and then returned to a life of country houses and horses.
Keane's supportive husband died eight years into their marriage; she was only 37 years old, and stopped writing, focusing on raising her two daughters. No one knows why she returned to writing at the age of 75--maybe she was bored being unable to ride any longer? I like to think that writers need to write, no matter how hard we try to stop. Good Behavior was an instant success and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Keane is credited with describing the waning aristocracy better than anyone, capturing the nostalgia as well as as the darkness.
Keane continued to write into her 80s, publishing two more novels that received the same high praise as Good Behavior. She died in 1996 at the age of 92.
So while, the ending of Good Behavior will have you heading back to the beginning, Molly Keane's life will teach us that we never really know our endings, especially when we are writers.