Vanity Fair by William Thackeray is one of my favourite novels, and its last paragraph is one of my favourite conclusions to a book.
Ah! Vanitas Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied? – Come children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out.
The very last sentence is memorable enough on its own, as it reminds the reader of the theatricality of the whole thing, but what sticks in my mind is how sad the ending actually is. That despite the fact that merely a few pages before we got our supposedly happy ending, complete with the dramatic last-minute dash and declaration of love from our heroine to the man who had hopelessly loved her for years. I love the BBC adaptation with Natasha Little as Becky Sharp (unlike the Reese Witherspoon version, it didn’t sugarcoat the fact that Becky is a horrible person), but I think it loses a lot by skipping over the sadness of the hero no longer caring for his most-cherished prize.