In Book Review

The Sense of an Ending

Reviews are mostly done immediately after the product's use/consumption; however, in the case of books (fiction), I usually do after three months of the read, only if it keeps popping up somewhere in a corner of my mind. Written by Julian Barnes, winner of the Man Booker Prize 2011, The Sense of an Ending is one such, a bit boring, but worth to your attention.

To keep its complexity as simple as possible, Julian has made Tony Webster, a common man in his sixties who has never done anything wrong to anyone (this is what he thinks), a protagonist; Adrian his friend, a hero in the background story and Tony's ex-girlfriend Veronica who later turns to be the wife of Adrian, an equally strong character in the book. They have common friends – Alex and Colin.    

Let's stop beating around the bush, the book is not about its characters, but its prose, written masochistically. With a punchline in the starting paragraph, “[Thinking about some incident] This is not something that you actually saw, but what you end up remembering, and that isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.” The style, logic and message seem to be the whole and soul of the book, not the messengers. So, my advice; don’t go for the characters and their connectivity with the story. After all, who will be obsessed about a letter addressed to Webster even after 40 years? I found it bizarre. The plot was so weak that I too had a feeling, “Am I just wasting my time?”   

On page no. 32, Tony: “If you want to make people pay attention to what you’re saying, you don’t want to raise your voice but lower it: this is what really commands attention.” Alas! The approach has almost killed the messenger in order to pay attention to the logic. Tony, the protagonist himself is so dull and vague that as a reader I could nowhere found myself eager to delve into his philosophies of life and beyond. 

However, the However, the question that keeps you engrossed is, “what is the sense of ending?” Forget euthanasia, the entire human society/media has always perceived a person fragile and weak who commits suicide, what if it’s not, what if s/he does because of the “sense of an ending” where s/he has nothing left to explore?  

In a conversation with noted Indian author Ashwin Sanghi, he questioned the authenticity of history, “The very first book on Chanakya was actually written 900 yrs after his death.” Julian clarifies, “We need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us.” And, defines, “History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”

And, then redefines,

History is not about the lies of victors, but the memories of survivors.

Adrian, the most logical and profound character commits suicide while Tony survives to tell the tale which he didn’t know. Later, he came to know that Adrian had written a letter to him unfolding, “The sense of ending.” Tony who was feeling nostalgic owing to the powerful recollection of strong emotions – and regret that such feelings were no longer present in his life – then pleads himself guilty, ever read that letter?    

What was written in the letter? Does it make you read the entire book?  

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  1. In it Julian Barnes reveals crystalline truths that have taken a lifetime to harden. He has honed their edges, and polished them to a high gleam.

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