Book Review: The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending

by Julian Barnes

The reason I picked this book up yesterday is that it is very slim, and I am currently dipping into several other books at the moment. I read it in a day! It was one of those you can’t put down.

I was moved by this novel. And unnerved. The narrator focuses on just one part of his life as he is forced to look back and contemplate, search for something that he can’t possibly have known. During this search he realises many things about himself that he had suppressed, and sees how memory can be selective and may be distorted to one’s own advantage over time. He feels guilt, remorse. But is this just him? Surely this is universal: every one of us has at some time in their lives done something foolish, skirted the truth, avoided responsibility. Are we who we think we are, or have we moulded our memories to create a person we can live with? Are we any worse than the next person? Have we taken responsibility for our actions?…

Despite the turmoil going in the narrator’s mind, the book has calm and rhythm  – not momentum, but rhythm. The flow of time and memory is part of this rhythm; the narrator keeps returning to the same events, with recurring ideas looked at from varying times or angles. The style is the other rhythmical aspect… beautiful calm prose, again highlighting the inner disquiet, the unrest.

The closing line was perfect.

I had never read anything by Mr Barnes before, but when I saw that he won the Man Booker Prize for this novel last year I put it on my reading list. I will certainly look out for another book by him. There seem to be quite a few… Any recommendations anyone?