Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

This is brilliant! For fear of sounding juvenile I shall also add that this is a novel not only well-written but so tightly knit and structurally solid that there is not one thing that I can fault it with. A gripping tale about time, history and a mystery thrown in for good measure.

The Sense of an Ending is the story of sixty-year-old divorcee Tony who feels that he has lived life as he should have or at least how he was meant to have lived it; carefully, sensibly with no surprises. Never having had any expectations of how his life should turn out (either because of his lazy nature or the fact it just doesn't occur to him to live it otherwise) he feels that he is happy to end up where he is now. His will is drawn up, his daughter married off and although divorced from his wife Margaret, they still have an amicable relationship.

But then out of the blue, he is contacted by the lawyer of one of his exes Veronica informing him that his friend Adrian who was in a relationship with Veronica forty years ago and who at the time committed suicide at age 21 had left him his diary after his death. A fact that had been kept from him for nearly forty years.

Now you may wonder, as does Tony, why it should have taken forty years for that diary to surface. The reason we find out is that Veronica's mother had had it with her all this time and she herself had died just recently. Of course knowing about the diary and actually getting Veronica to hand it over are at the heart of this book. Things get more complicated and Tony's peaceful life is blown to smithereens. For fear of spoiling the ending I shall say no more.

This is a novel (or novella really as it's only 150 pages) about life, how we live out that life or even how we decide to end it, the choices we make, the words we say and the emotions we display with our loved ones and even our enemies. This is a book about memory and old age and how with time our perception of how things that happened in our past really did happen at the time and whether we all pay a price at the end.

This is a witty book with a witty ending and I urge a reading. I know you might think I just say this because it won the Booker prize for 2011 but once you have read it, you'll know it was a prize well-awarded.

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