I’m purging my bookshelf in preparation to sell my house this spring. Going are some wonderful books whose characters and plots stick with me, but which I will not re-read anytime soon. Also in the pile are books I have read but recall nothing about the plot, characters, whether I liked it or not–nothing stayed with me beyond the last page.
Against this background, a few weeks ago I read Julian Barnes’ The Sense of An Ending and it is still so much with me and has had me talking and thinking about it like a raving fan – one book I know I will not forget.
This was my first novel by Barnes, which I bought because it won the 2011 Man Booker prize and I always feel the winning novel must be worth a read. (Last year’s winner was Wolf Hall, by Hillary Mantel). And I’m glad I did – this short and simple yet elegantly crafted novel has captured and held me long behind the last page. This must-read might be one of my favorite novels of the past decade. I’ve thought about it over and over in the last weeks since I read it, and I will certainly re-read it.
Barnes’ chief protagonist Tony Webster is a middle-aged man who has lived a very average sort of life and is quite content to look more forwards than backwards, accepting his lot. That is, until a death bequest from someone he thought he barely knew rips open his past, sending him back to feelings and misgiving from his halcyon teenage years with his first “real’ girlfriend. It turns out nothing is as he thought (no I won’t spoil it for you.)
Reading award-winning literary fiction is, sometimes, frankly above me. [Case in point – last year I read A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book and came away feeling “meh” – and that I was probably not clever, or well-read enough to understand all the literary allusions in it.] Not so with The Sense of an Ending, which was so well done and of such emotional depth that it evoked a wave of introspection about endings and misgivings from my own college days and about how as Barnes protagonist Tony says “what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.” Ain’t that the truth.
Read it, come back and tell me if you enjoyed it as much as I did.
- The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (crazygoangirl.wordpress.com)
- The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (aimlesswithpurpose.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (blogcritics.org)
- Julian Barnes reviews The Iron Lady (3quarksdaily.com)