Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (4/5)

The back says: 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. May be Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life.

Now Tony is retired. 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.

I say: This book was almost exactly the type of book that I tend to fall in love with; bleak, ruminating and moving as if in slow motion. I loved taking part of the guys’ lives when they were in school – it felt like the makings of a perfect coming-of-age story if Barnes had chosen to merely focus on that. Instead he started somewhere towards the end and kept dipping in and out of Tony Webster’s past, rearranging his experiences and thus also his memories.

Contrary to most people (based on the reviews I’ve read), I liked Tony. I don’t know if that’s because I could relate to him in some sense, or merely because I sympathised with him, but I actually had a rather evil smirk on my face when I read the letter he had sent to Adrian (and Veronica). Having been a hothead in my youth, I understand the malice in his words.

Therefore not saying that I condone any of them.

What I don’t understand is Veronica’s utterly selfish actions. And not just because of what she did in the end, but even when they were young. She came across as a petulant bitch brat who very easily could dish it out but couldn’t take it when the tables were turned. She says to Tony in the end something to the effect of him not getting it and he never did, and I kept thinking that the reason he didn’t get it was because he was never the type to play games. All she ever did was play games, even in the end, and she struck out.

And yet she still continued to blame Tony for what happened to her.

One of the things that really made me like this book was because they mentioned Albert Camus – whom I love and adore – and a philosophical question that I have been wanting to discuss ever since I was a kid, but people never want to talk about because they find it unnerving or something. Tony’s mother says at one point that maybe Adrian was too smart, and I don’t know if that’s a way of oversimplifying things, or if she hit the nail right on the head. Sometimes I find that the more we think about things the less they mean; i.e. it’s easier to just take things for granted and not question them.

I won’t philosophise any further here, but I’ll be talking about this book for some time to come.

Even though I would love to give this a full 5/5, it’d only be for sentimental reasons. I liked the story – all of it – but the more I think about it the more I realise that what I loved was Adrian; his thoughts, his words, and his decisions. I wholly understand why all of these people were so enamoured with him, and then never able to forget him.


  1. I'm glad someone else liked this book, I was beginning to think I was the only one :)

    1. Really? I've seen quite a few good reviews of this.

  2. I feel like the only one who didn't like this book. But I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Based on your reading tastes it was perfect for you. I'm not much into books like this, but the writing was great so I did enjoy that aspect of the book.

    1. I had read a lot of reviews of people who didn't like it, so I was beginning to think it was bad. But yeah, it was exactly the type of book I like - and not so much to your taste (which I think I'm getting a hang of... maybe).