Title: The Sense of an Ending
Author: Julian Barnes
Published In: 2011
My Rating: 4.5 on 5
The blurb of this book caught my eye when I was reading about the books that made into the Man Booker 2011 shortlist. I was lucky enough to get hold of a copy and I devoured it in one sitting. Devoured is the word for it because I loved every word, every punctuation and the white spaces too.
The Sense of an Ending is Tony Webster’s nostalgic recollection of his childhood and manhood days spent with his friends, one special friend, Adrian Finn, and his girlfriend, Veronica. The book’s introduction says it accurately ‘The book is the story of one man coming to terms with the mutable past.’
Tony grows up like any other boy with a close-knit group of two friends, dreaming about girls and questioning the system and its rules. Adrian Finn enters into their group and gathers a lot of interest and respect because of his different tastes and opinions. Later on in life, Tony dates Veronica and visits her parents which we keep revisiting all through the book. Tony and Veronica break up and later on Adrian dates Veronika. Tony marries another woman and has children, gets divorced, and is living a life of a retired, old man, when a letter arrives informing him of Veronika’s mother’s demise and that she has left Adrian’s diary and some money for Tony. Tony realizes the diary is with Veronika and she refuses to part with it and thus starts Tony’s attempts at getting the diary back. In the process, he revisits his memories of spending time with Veronika, Adrian and his other friends. The book ends with an interesting twist which is the icing on the cake. It binds everything together: memories, assumptions and death.
The book pulls you in from the very first word. It has a philosophical tone which it maintains through out. Tony’s soliloquies, philosophical meanderings make a very interesting read. The story is gripping, of course, but these in-between chats are what I loved the most. All through the book, we read the author’s thoughts and opinions on memories and death. You pause and think and brood and wonder how true they are. Read some of my favorite excerpts:
…but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.
We live with such easy assumptions, don’t we? For instance, that memory equals events plus time.
Who was it said that memory is what we thought we’d forgotten?
It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others.
Tony’s character comes across as so real and affable, you can’t help take pity on him at certain times. His relationship with Veronika is intriguing and evokes just a wee bit hatred towards Veronika for treating Tony like rubbish. Tony’s wife is another interesting character. Veronika is one enigma – I just couldn’t understand her character, which I guess was the author’s intent.
The book lingers on in my memory long after I finished reading it. Beautiful writing, memorable characters, engaging tone make this book a wonderful read and a memorable one. I have not read any other Booker shortlisted book, but I will not be surprised if this book wins the Booker this time. Julius Barnes has been shortlisted for Booker 3 times, so he might get fourth time lucky!