The Sense of an Ending – Review
Title: The Sense of an Ending
Author: Julian Barnes
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Originally published: 2011
The dice landed on: 5
Did I finish?: Yes.
Do I like the cover?: Not really.
One-sentence summary: Tony gets an unexpected inheritance that makes him seek out people from his past to figure out what really happened.
This fall I decided to read at least one of the books shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2011. I started with The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes because it seemed to be many people’s favorite, and it ended up winning.
Tony Webster is in his sixties, is still friends with his ex-wife, has a daughter and grandchildren and has led what seems to be an ordinary life. He recalls his youth with a certain nostalgia, like many tend to do when they get older. But he also mistrusts his memories, what does he remember and what has he been told or imagined from what he knew of a situation.
Then Tony is informed that he has received an inheritance from the mother of his one time girlfriend, a woman he met while visiting his girlfriends family for one short weekend a long time ago. Part of the inheritance is the diary of one of his long dead friend, but the diary is held on to by the woman’s daughter, Tony’s one time girlfriend. Tony quickly gets rather obsessed with getting his hands on the diary, and trying to figure out what really happned all those years ago.
Tony is an interesting character as he explores his memories and starts an infinitely polite, pedantic and relentless campaign to aquire the diary.
I expected this to be a very well written book as it won one of the most famous literary prizes in the world and I hoped it would also have a readable and entertaining story, with a major prizewinner the first is almost always true but the second isn’s by any means guaranteed. The Sense of an Ending has both, great language and a good story with unexpected twists.
Still, it left me a little bit wanting. I would have liked to understand a little bit more of some of the other characters and the things they do. Of course, this is Tony’s story and he seems to understand why some of the people acted the way they did and seems satisfied with that. I, however, don’t. So, I would have liked some explanations for what I consider idiotic acts, and this dissatisfaction is what takes the book down to a 5 for me.
A 5 is still a very good read though and I recommend it to everyone.