This came up on another thread about unsatisfying whodunnit endings which I didn't want to hi-jack entirely.
Endings tend to be one of the most attacked elements of any novel in Amazon reviews, with people very often describing ones they didn't like as 'unsatisfying'. Maybe because it's the last thing you read, by definition, and/or because it's an easier thing to say 'the ending was crap' than to analyse why the characterisation was inconsistent or the structure didn't work.
So can I ask people to nominate a novel in any genre that has an ending they do consider 'satisfying' and to say why?
I'll start, and with a novel whose ending I've often seen described as a 'cop out' - Charlotte Bronte's Villette.
I think this is a brilliantly-handled ending. Given that, presumably, all readers who have read as far as this do actually want Lucy (prickly, reserved and difficult as she is as a narrator and character) to find happiness with the man who genuinely loves her - but is hauled off overseas for several years before they can marry by an exaggerated sense of duty to the family of his long-dead fiancée - I think CB pulls off something very difficult, hinting at Paul's death at sea in gorgeous, veiled, poetic language, but not actually saying so - flicking decades forward to when her first person narrator is an old woman looking back on her life running a school, but also staying stubbornly in the moment before Lucy knows whether Paul is dead or alive, where 'sunny imaginations' can still hope.
We know CB never planned to have them marry and that she only veiled Pau's death to please her elderly father, who was upset by it, but for me the ending works because it's so thoroughly in tune with Lucy's character - she's always kept huge, important chunks of plot to herself (what actually happened to her family, that she recognises Graham Bretton etc), so the ending is only another version of a perversely reserved narrator - only here it's to spare the reader's supposed feelings.
So I think that for an ending which 'disappoints' the reader by not allowing a romantic ending, it still satisfies us. If that makes sense at all?
Stephen King's 'Dark Tower' series. It isn't a 'happy' ending, but I think it probably ends in the only way that it really good do (although I still sort of wish it didn't!).
Austen's 'Persuasion' - practically perfect in every way.
Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' - no surprises, even on the first read, but it still upsets me (and I have read it many, many times!). It's the perfect ending for what I consider to be a really very, very good novel.