‘It takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time’s malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing – until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return.’
I had to read The Sense of an Ending, of course. After winning the Man Booker Prize 2011, and having heard so many positive reviews, it was inevitable that I would get around to reading it.
I only needed to read the first paragraph before I knew I was going to like it. Even if I had hated the story, Julian Barnes’ writing is such that you are captivated, no matter what. At only 150 pages, and such a slim book, it’s almost a novella, and certainly felt that way after I finished it in a day.
The story centers around Tony Webster; a retired divorced man, with little left going on in his life. A letter he receives from a lawyer dredges up long forgotten memories of his school days, and Tony tries to understand and come to terms with events long past.
I felt that the main point was not so much what happens in the story itself, but memories, and how our memories are so tainted and unreliable over time, so as to confuse our own past. You are left with what the title suggests, a ‘sense’ of an ending, but not really an ending itself. The end is of course ambiguous; left up to the reader to interpret.
Tony is an entirely unreliable narrator, and you get the feeling perhaps he’s repressed his memories so much, that we are only hearing half of the story. Without giving too much away, small comments he makes throughout the novel imply various goings-on, but are never confirmed nor elaborated on.
‘How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but – mainly – to ourselves.’
I absolutely love Julian Barnes’ writing, he is a master with words, and I take great pleasure in reading his novels. When reading this book, you should start with no expectations, no prejudice, no ideals, nothing. Just take it as it is, and come to your own conclusions. Thought provoking and mysterious, I most definitely recommend giving it a read.
Original Book Girl