A Reread: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

downloadBook #25.

By large, endings are sad, aren’t they? Or bittersweet perhaps? It could give us tremendous relief, too, as is the case in The Sense of an Ending.

This little treasure of a book is the story of the unremarkable life of Anthony Webster as he recollects and confronts the past after receiving a solicitor’s letter, the reappearance of an ex-girlfriend and reading a few pages of his old friend’s diary. This is best read in one sitting preferably with a few shots of whisky. 🙂

It has two finely controlled parts: 1) sheer nostalgia and 2) the coming together of memories from years ago as it unfolds different interpretations to clarify the truth. It’s mainly about the unreliability of memory and dealing with the past, remembering events and our understanding of time, with a touch of history, death and loss.

Little by little, the book reveals the secrets hidden in buried memories as Tony tries to remember and face up to the actions of his younger self and live through the mystery of the last forty years. Tony is a very engaging narrator. He definitely kept me reading regardless of him being reliable or not. Though this is already my second reading, I am still perplexed by the ending and just like Tony, “I just don’t get it,” really. I still had to go back to a few pages and reread over and over looking for clues I must have missed to give me a better understanding of the ending and answers to the many hows and whys it left me.

This is a very simple story on the surface but with delicate undertones written in a very interesting way. It is short, deep, thought-provoking, luminous, readable and very re-readable book. No wonder it was awarded the Man Booker Prize. I believe it’s never too late to learn. It’s never too late to learn and understand ourselves and other people. You might not be someone you thought you were yesterday. What we believe about other people then may possibly be different, too. How these things can change overtime as we try to understand people/things based on our memory of them and the history that goes with it is truly something to reflect upon and could very well give us a sense of an ending.

Quotable Quotes:

“Songs do occasionally tell the truth.”

“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.”

“The less time there remains in your life, the less you want to waste it.”

“Life isn’t just addition and subtraction. There’s also the accumulation, the multiplication, of loss, of failure.”

“…what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.”

Rating: 5/5 stars