Authored by Julian Barnes, this one won the Man Booker Prize 2011 which it deserved absolutely. Intricately written with numerous beautiful “heavy” lines, some of which I had to read multiple lines to soak in their implicit meaning, it was a wonderful read. Title “The Sense of an Ending” does not refer to death but to something more difficult to deal with, a situation where one feels helpless and can’t undo something wrong he has done, however desperately he wants it!!
Narrated by Tony Webster, retired sixty-year old ordinary man, it is a bag of emotions from love to contempt to remorse. In first part of book is found reminiscing the time spent with his friends Alex and Colin at school and how they had made friends with Adrian who was more intellectual than all of them. They are pretentious teenagers who envy their friend committing suicide as it gains him more popularity than them! I liked their classroom anecdotes where all of them, particularly Adrian gives erudite answers to teachers’ questions about history or their batchmate Robinson’s death. Some real wisdom out there. As part of the past story, Tony also talks about his girlfriend Veronica, break-up with her and how he turns bitter after she hooks up with Adrian. And finally, Adrian’s suicide, which was a mystery for everyone till then.
In the present, Tony receives 500 pounds and possession to Adrian’s diary from Veronica’s Mother’s will. Tony is baffled about the money and curious about the diary’s contents which is with Veronica. After that the book revolves around Tony’s hunt for Veronica to get the diary. They meet and Tony gets to know certain unexpected things, which I will not spoil for people who haven’t read it yet.
There are a few things which could have been better explained in the book like why was money left for Tony. Tony, as narrator, was a plain boring man, who never took any risks in life and let the life happen to him. But, maybe that brought out the superiority of other characters strongly. Veronica’s was a mysterious bitter character.
The sheer beauty of the writing kept me hooked to this little book throughout. It had a mystery element too which you could easily miss if you don’t pay attention to every detail hidden there. This contemporary philosophical book was undoubtedly one of the best books I have read this year. A strong recommendation for anyone who is looking for something serious and meaningful.
Few amazing lines from the book:
History is not just the lies of the victors; it is also the self-delusions of the defeated.
“How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.”
“History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”
“What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.”
“It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others.”
“We live in time – it holds us and molds us – but I never felt I understood it very well. And I’m not referring to theories about how it bends and doubles back, or may exist elsewhere in parallel versions. No, I mean ordinary, everyday time, which clocks and watches assure us passes regularly: tick-tock, click-clock. Is there anything more plausible than a second hand? And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time’s malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing – until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return.”
“The more you learn, the less you fear. “Learn” not in the sense of academic study, but in the practical understanding of life.”
“We live with such easy assumptions, don’t we? For instance, that memory equals events plus time. But it’s all much odder than this. Who was it said that memory is what we thought we’d forgotten? And it ought to be obvious to us that time doesn’t act as a fixative, rather as a solvent. But it’s not convenient— it’s not useful— to believe this; it doesn’t help us get on with our lives; so we ignore it.”
“You get towards the end of life – no, not life itself, but of something else: the end of any likelihood of change in that life. You are allowed a long moment of pause, time enough to ask the question: what else have I done wrong?”
“Someone once said that his favourite times in history were when things were collapsing, because that meant something new was being born. Does this make any sense if we apply it to our individual lives? To die when something new is being born – even if that something new is our very own self? Because just as all political and historical change sooner or later disappointments, so does adulthood. So does life. Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however long it takes, that life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”