The Sense of An Ending, by Julian Barnes
That was my initial reaction upon reading the last few pages of this book. The narrator/main character of the story, Tony, was constantly being told that he “just doesn’t get it”. I felt the exact same way about the near end of this read.
…but let me back up a bit & try not to give away the story.
The Sense of an Ending is under 200 pages long, so one could read it in a day…in one sitting.
I read it in bits & pieces, over the course of a month
If you’re interested in picking up this best-seller, here’s the gist:
A retired, divorced man, Tony Webster, recounts his much younger school days & several people that were in his life at the time. In the beginning of the book, he lists a few things that he remembers; then, goes on to elaborate on those things throughout the rest of the book. He gets drawn into his past & finds that things aren’t exactly as he remembers.
This is thought-provoking read, with quite a few philosophical ideas to be interpreted involving history, memory, and time. The title itself, obviously means something. Some of the writing reads like a beautiful poem.
Tony says something about wanting to be remembered well & whether or not we do certain things to be perceived favorably by others.
This particular passage really stood out to me:
“Like most people I have superstitions attached to the taking of a journey. We may know that flying is statistically safer than walking to the corner shop. Even so, before going away I do things like pay bills, clear off correspondence, call someone close.
“Suzie, I’m off tomorrow”
“Yes, I know Dad, you told me”.
“Well, just to say goodbye”.
“Sorry Dad, the kids were making a noise. What was that?”
“Oh nothing, give them my love”.
You’re doing it for yourself, of course. You’re wanting to leave that final memory and make it a pleasant one. You want to be well thought of uncase your plane turns out to be the one that is less safe than walking to the corner shop. And if this is how we behave before a five night break in Majorca, then why should there not be a broader process at play toward the end of life, as that final journey, the motorised trundle through the crematorium’s curtains approaches? “Don’t think ill of me. Remember me well. Tell people you were fond of me. That you loved me. That I wasn’t a bad guy. Even if, perhaps, none of this was the case.”
Such a real scenario! You kiss your loved ones/hug them/tell them you love them before going off, just in case it’s the last time you ever see each other. It’s morbid & sad, but I know I’ve thought of this/felt like this on more than one occasion. Sometimes, I don’t even have to be going on a trip.
Overall (as a book of fiction), this wasn’t an exceptionally satisfying read for me. Though some of the writing was poetically short & sweet, other parts held long, super mystifying sentences that I had to read over & over again until I gained some minute level of understanding; or until I finally gave up trying to “get it”.
Great fiction, for me, takes me away from reality while reading. I like to be drawn into the setting more, and feel strong emotions for the characters. It was too easy to put this book down, and the characters felt isolated & a little bit cold. Veronica did start to irritate me. I won’t go into why, as I don’t want to give anything away. Maybe I just didn’t understand her history/family dynamic well enough.
Maybe it wasn’t Veronica, but the book itself, that was starting to irritate me. When I first picked it up, my mind wasn’t prepared (nor was it in the mood) for all the wordy, philosophical ideas & the somewhat gloomy story. Now knowing what I’m in for with this book, I will most likely read it again…in one sitting…on a very sunny day.
My club mates are also blogging about this book!!! Please check out what Mississippi Mulatto, and Yepanotherone had to say!
Have you read this prize-winning novel? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments.
One of the things I like about reading, is learning unfamiliar words. I had to grab the dictionary when I came across the following two in this book:
Corroboration: to support with evidence or authority : make more certain
Au pair: a usually young foreign person who cares for children and does domestic work for a family in return for room and board and the opportunity to learn the family’s language