Thursday, July 12, 2012

Julian Barnes' "The Sense of an Ending": Book Review

I heard this via Richard Morant's graceful audiobook narration. It added the "ordinary" touch that deepened both the erudition and hesitation of Tony, the protagonist who tells his tale, and the accessibility of this short novel. As hundreds of {Amazon} reviewers have already noted the plot's turns and hinted in a few cases at its very subtle twists, let me just add how re-hearing the final chapters helped me to follow what those more astute than myself had noted, perhaps at re-reading themselves some remarks concerning the impacts from a certain conversation with "the secret horizontal gesture." 

"Memory is not a fixative, but a solvent," Tony ruminates earlier in this novel about what's recollected and what's forgotten. The attempts of Tony, from the 1960s on, to navigate the sexual and intellectual currents of what's defined as success, gain poignancy in the first two-thirds of this account. It moves neatly, if rather slowly even for a brief storyline.

Trying to reduce love and sex to mathematical equations, as Adrian Finn, his classmate, does, reveals cleverly "the chain of responsibility" which implicates Tony himself in this chain, broken off before resolution. It's no surprise this won the Booker Prize, for it fits the understated ending to this meditation on affection, desire, betrayal, loss, and revenge. It may be too downbeat and understated for many readers, but those with a liking for character studies will find it rewarding. (Amazon US 7-5-12)


Meera said...

Human relations are complicated. And human emotions are much more complicated. WHY ? coz most of the times we ourselves don’t know how will we react to particular situation. We surprise ourselves.

Memories are still more complicated and tricky. We unconsciously and conveniently alter them and present it for others (sometimes for ourselves) the way we want... rather the way IT EXACTLY WAS!!

Initially author tries to give different definitions of history through different characters of the story about some great political events of the past and then the way he uses those definitions to the history a common man creates out of his own life may not be of much importance to others. But YES, each and every man creates history in his own way!!

“The sense of an ending” is one book which tells a simple story but the complications of relationships, emotions and altering memories to write our own history the way we wanted it to be.

In authors own words “What you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed.”

The discussions which are there in the book makes us think about many aspects of life. And sometimes forced me to think and accept ignorance is bliss. The more we know or think about life, the complicated it becomes.

All in all, this entire book is a master piece and worth every bit of appreciation and awards it has received!!

Hindi Jokes said...

To me, it is a semi autobiographical novel with an excellent way of story telling ability. Nicely portraying the different forms of relations in different phases of life. A bit mystery involved with the past. Search of some un-answered questions. But the end could have been much better. I was expecting some more precise ending. But overall, this is a good stuff to read and worth a piece of collection.

Neha said...

I just finished "The Sense of an Ending" and was left stunned. There are books that leave the reader thinking about it for weeks, this is one of those. The mystery unfolds slowly, and we as readers are given the same facts as protagonist is. Everything is filtered through Tony's fractured memories. This is a book that will stay with me a long time.

The story is in two parts. First, the protagonist's English schoolboy experiences with friends, love, debate, and doubt. Then second, his agonies in retirement of constantly reinterpreting past conversations, an enigmatic inheritance, a diary page, and his own forty-year old letter.

"But time... how time first grinds us and then confounds us. We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe. We imagined we were being responsible but were only being cowardly. What we called realism turned out to be a way of avoiding things rather than facing them."

"History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation," and "We make an instinctive decision, then build up an infrastructure of reasoning to justify it. And call the result common sense."

With some of the most stunningly simple, illustrative sentences, Barnes tells a tale of youth and the outcome of it years later. Brings into questions of how we see, what is memory, is reality real, and life, is it worth living, or too hard? When is it so difficult that some take the exit door rather than the challenge--how much of a challenge is too much. Delightful read, quick and easy to read in a day or two; with much to ruminate about for weeks to come.