Wednesday, 28 December 2011
Review: Julian Barnes - The Sense of an Ending (Man Booker prize winner 2012)
I don't know if book reviews have a place on this blog, but I read so many, and always have opinions bubbling after completion. This Christmas I received a bumper pack of cellophane wrapped books, collected together by their appearance on the Man Booker prize 2012 shortlist- I decided to read Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending first, which just so happens to have won the prize...
This book is about memory, and its unreliability. "what you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed.", says our protagonist Tony Webster, whom takes us back to his school days with his four person posse, headed up by the incredibly clever Adrian.
The plot is simple and slow moving, Tony's first relationship ends with his ex Veronica taking up with Adrian. Tony gets married, has a child and leads an unremarkable quiet life. Though not dissatisfied with his lot, a surprise gift in Veronica's mother's will makes Tony, readdress the past, and confront his selective memory.
If I could sum up this book in one word it would be 'intelligent'. The slow moving story contains little action, and instead fills the pages with provoking philosophical prose. It is neither pretentious, or misplaced, yet I found myself getting irritated at the need to re-read paragraphs and ponder suggestions. At the end, I changed my tune and admired the cleverness of Barnes, but I couldn't help wishing that he had left some of the thinking to the reader, rather than spelling it out, albeit in a very eloquent fashion.
It's a short book, which took me about 3hrs to read. I do have a tendency to skip read and probably should have spent longer over it, but I love to flip the pages fast, seeking out the plot. The ending was the most thrilling part of the book, and I didn't manage to second guess dramatic finish either...all in all a good read, but one in which I couldn't connect fully with any of the characters, even Tony whose first person narrative we were forced to trust. I think the offshoots of philosophy are partly to blame for this separation, and in a way the story seemed better observed from the outside. I already knew that memory is unreliable. Now perhaps more so.