Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes

"History is raw onion sandwich, sir" - The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes.

The one thing I severely dislike about 'The Sense of an Ending' is the misleading summary. After convincing you that there is an illegal mystery of some sorts involved (a letter from a lawyer), the book proceeds to follow the self exploration of a man in his sixties. 

Tony Webster (explicitly attracted to Adrian) is friends with Colin (pretentious), Alex (pretentious and philosophical) and Adrian (pretentious, philosophical and serious). The summary makes their clique appear Dead Poet's Society - esque when in reality they are just four friends who consider themselves superior to the rest, like every friend circle does. 

Tony dates Veronica (cold and smug) in college wherein begins the real plot, everything previous to that only serving to build context and draw parallels in the later chapters.

Spanning over a large time period, the part one of this book contains Tony's memories from school and college. These memories include his jokes and discussions with his friends and moments from his relationship with Veronica. These memories are easy to relate to and understand and at times, Tony's narration is even amusing. That is the genius of 'The sense of an Ending'; because it is written in first person, all of the pretentious dialogues and witty narration can be attributed to Tony instead of Julian Barnes, which serves to add to Tony's character.

The part two is more philosophical, where Tony learns more about life and rediscovers himself as he wanders the line between memories and the actual truth. As life throws Tony a curve ball, he finds himself reviving his relationships with Veronica and in the process he discovers the fragility of human memory. The interesting part is how the changes in their characters brought by time affects the balance of their relationship. The not so interesting part is that this is where the book becomes boring. The book feels like it is momentarily direction less. 

This book is a short 150 pages (perfect for a quick read), although I personally felt it was a tad bit drawn, especially towards the end, and the ending was abrupt and disappointing. There is a sense of pointlessness and certain questions (like Veronica's behavior) remain unanswered. 

While the book primarily deals with human memory and its ineffectiveness, the discussions among the characters often ask about of life, death, humans and other questions of the philosophical genre. So if philosophy (in a mild dosage) is your preferred genre, this book is a definite recommendation.

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