Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Sense of an Ending: Review

Having never read a Julian Barnes novel before, (despite the efforts of Barbara to get me to read Arthur & George), I came to this novel with very little idea of what to expect. I knew Barnes' reputation, and I knew, of course, that The Sense of an Ending had just won the Booker Prize. So it was an absolute pleasure to be enthralled by this wonderful book.

The story is divided into two parts. In part one, the protagonist, Tony Webster, recounts how he first met his brilliant friend Adrian Finn at school. Tony later fell in love with a woman who he had a difficult relationship with, when she later spurns his affections and instead opts for Adrian, Tony is left bewildered, angry and heartbroken. In part two, Tony is over 60 years of age and is forced to reflect on his friendship with Adrian and his relationship to the woman he loved when events bring him into contact with that world once again.

But more than anything, Tony is forced to face himself. Who was he as a young man? How reliable is his memory of that time? How reliable is his memory of himself? Will he ever truly understand how he is perceived by others and how his actions impacted them? The novel is beautifully written, and due to its length (only 150 pages), not a single word is wasted. It's all about memory, age, identity and history. So much is packed in, but it all fits together so well.

I read it over the course of a day, and as soon as I had finished I started it again, reading the entire first part. This was already a completely different experience. The Sense of an Ending is a wise novel that demands your attention and rewards multiple readings.

Reviewed by Mark

The Sense of an Ending is available here.

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