Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Review - The Sense of an Ending

My first foray back into fiction in a while was Julian Barnes' 2011 Man Booker prize winner, The Sense of an Ending. This was a short little novel, more of a novella really, of 163 small format pages. I did with this what I try to avoid; I read the first half in a couple of days, and then put the book down for a week or ten days before picking it back up and finishing. Even for a book of this length, the lack of continuity can be noticeable.

In the case of this particular book, which has a significant twist at the end, I found myself confused. I wondered if I mis-remembered something in the short time I had put the book aside, as it struck me that there was something not quite right in what I was remembering. If I had it to do over again, I would make it a point to read this one straight through with no breaks. C'est la vie.

Regardless, I enjoyed this book very much. It was slow paced, a minimalist character study of an aging man looking back over some of the key events in his life, both as a high school and college aged boy and how those events came back to affect him in his 60's. This was my first experience with reading Barnes, and it was a very good one. I have a couple other books of his, and might dive into another one next (I just ordered Ron Rash's new novel The Cove from Amazon this evening and might as well read something else while I wait for it to arrive).

Barnes has an eminently readable style and I wish I had tagged more nice passages as I read; there were many. I must be out of practice or something...

"History isn't the lies of the victors, as I once glibly assured Old Joe Hunt; I know that now. It's more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated." [p. 61]

And on looking back on a long life: "There is accumulation. There is responsibility. And beyond these, there is unrest. There is great unrest." [p. 163] A fine closing passage.

1 comment:

  1. The book isn't really about plots and twists at all. The story is merely a means for the author to present a narrator who, by every word and action, isn't much of a man and is too dense to realize his own spineless, half-wit existence. Rather than worry over the peculiar meaning of a promised diary held back by an old girlfriend, readers might gain more insight by concentrating on the author's swipe at the bland complacency of the British middle class as exemplified by the narrator.