Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Book Review: The Sense of an Ending

Title: The Sense of an Ending
Author: Julian Barnes
Year Published: 2011
Genre: Contemporary drama

The Sense of an Ending is refreshing and pompous all at once. If you’re the type who enjoys reading about white upper middle class British boys doing their thang, then this is the book for you.

It’s a short novel, in which a middle-aged Tony Webster reminisces about his school chums, his first girlfriend, and his life beyond. The writing is elegant and precise. Through Tony, the author explores the nature of memory and considers how people live their lives. I felt a certain tenderness – a sort of raw delicacy – in the way this was done, and I really enjoyed reading it. There’s something universal about the dilemmas conveyed, and if you’ve lived an ‘ordinary’ life, it is not difficult to see yourself in Tony – a man who has merely let his life happen to him.

And then, the plot. This is one of those rare books where I would have preferred for there to be less of a plot and more meandering ruminations on life. The whole ‘mystery’ of Veronica felt to me somewhat soap opera-esque. While the resolution is ambiguous and points to Tony’s unreliability (as a narrator and as a rememberer), this whole facet of the book seemed kind of clumsy when compared to the grace of the rest. But then again, maybe like Tony, I just don’t get it.

Perhaps this is why I found it easy to put the book down and not pick it up again, despite liking it. While some may read The Sense of an Ending for the mystery and its ‘literary’ appeal, I found more reward in the beauty of its language, and its ability to prompt us to reflect upon ourselves.

Alex’s Rating: 4/5

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