THE SENSE OF AN ENDING - Julian Barnes
Blast. Bother. Damn. So many years sniffing at the thought of a Booker Prize Winner that would actually be a book that I'd even bother reading, let alone enjoy and in one fell swoop, THE SENSE OF AN ENDING has blown all that out of the water. Fortunately the scandal around "readability" would seem to mean that this is may simply be a blip on my record :)
This is really fantastic story telling, slowly building a mystery, engaging the reader in the story of Tony, a sixtyish man looking back at his life and how events played out for his friends Adrian and Veronica, as well as for him. THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is really a novella if you're looking at it purely in terms of number of pages, but a novel in how it how it goes about fleshing out a story.
There's something deceptively simple about this story - the idea that memory is something that is so clear, so obvious for the individual "remembering". Events seen through other eyes, from the perspective of other memories, however, vary, as does, in this case in particular, the truth.
The trigger for Tony to look back is the death of his old girlfriend Veronica's mother. She leaves Tony, inexplicably, money and Adrian's diary, Adrian having killed himself many years before. The diary is jealously guarded by Veronica, which brings she and Tony (reluctantly on her part) back into contact, and at that point Tony's recollections of idyllic young adulthood start to look shakey.
Clever plotting, tight but informative and beautiful language, Barnes combines sadness and humour, memory and truth beautifully in a novella, novel, prize winner, or simply wonderful book.
Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life.
Now Tony is in middle age. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove.
The Sense of an Ending is the story of one man coming to terms with the mutable past. Laced with trademark precision, dexterity and insight, it is the work of one of the world’s most distinguished writers.