The Sense Of An Ending
- Publication Date:
- 01 March 2012
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This is a slim but very affecting novel. The narrator is an older man, Tony, recalling and re-visiting school age friends, and reflecting on his life. He concludes, perhaps, that his life of quiet contentment was perhaps a mistake. He is left a legacy from the will of a mother of his first girlfriend, Veronica, a diary belonging to Adrian, a schoolboy friend, smarter and more promising than the narrator, who took up with that first girlfriend, and then killed himself. Veronica refuses to give up the diary, and only at the end of the novel is a reason for the suicide apparent, but not stated. As an example of the beautiful prose, and of the musings of the narrator:“I did, eventually, find myself thinking straight. That’s to say, understanding Adrian’s reasons, respecting them, and admiring him. He had a better mind and a more rigorous temperament than me; he thought logically, and then acted on the conclusion of logical thought. Whereas most of us, I suspect, do the opposite: we make an instinctive decision, then build up an infrastructure of reasoning to justify it”
THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is already a bestseller on both sides of the pond, so probably doesn't need much further commentary. I will say simply that it is a heartbreakingly eloquent story of what it means to grow older, filled with poignancy, wisdom and regret - as well as a fair measure of humor. This last element shows up here and there, appropriately leavening what is a very serious work. Here's an example, in which the British narrator, a sixty-ish Tony Webster, describes his take on the sixties and why he didn't manage to lose his virginity quite as early as he might have wished -"But wasn't this the sixties? Yes, but only for some people, only in certain parts of the country."This made me chuckle in uneasy recognition, since I had the same experience - and excuses - on the other side of the pond.As for quiet wisdom, here's a thoughtful passage - "Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however long it takes, that life isn't all it's cracked up to be."A story of youth, middle age, disappointment, compromise and aging and death - Barnes gets it all in there in a very brief novel, with a remarkably surprising and unexpected ending that will have you paging back through the book looking for clues you may have missed. But - for me - it all worked remarkably well. Bravo, Mr Barnes. Your soaring success with this one is well-deserved.
If you don't like ambiguity, this one isn't for you. It certainly deserved to win the Booker Prize.<br/><br/>I also wonder if anyone under the age of 40 can really appreciate it . . .
Taking another break...
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