Friday, March 2, 2012

The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes was one of my book group's choices for February.  I had read about the book prior to it being chosen and it was on my to-be-read list, so I was happy when I learned that it was presented and chosen.  I wasn't present for that meeting, so I didn't get to vote on it, so I was even happier when I was told that it was the February choice.  And what a great book group pick it was! (note: this novel won the 2011 Man Booker Prize)

 From the first page I was grabbed.  The author starts the story with the narrator listing six things that he remembers " no particular order". Of the list he says:

"This last isn't something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed."
 And so begins the book.  It is a story of memories and how we shape those memories, sometimes to our advantage, or at least, to our actual emotional survival. 

The story begins with the Tony, the narrator of the story, discussing his school days in England, when a new student, Adrian, joined Tony and his two friends in their small clique.  Adrian was a bit of a mystery, never talking about his family, and seemingly more serious about school than the other boys.  The four boys went off to college and slowly drifted apart. Tony got involved with Veronica and introduced her one weekend to his three friends from high school.  The following year, Tony and Veronica broke up, and shortly after, Tony received a note from Adrian asking permission to go out with Veronica.  Tony replied with a brief, terse postcard, stating "...everything is jolly fine by me, old bean.", but after a few weeks, sat down and wrote a letter to Adrian, warning him about Veronica.   Following graduation of college, Tony took off to the United States to travel for a bit.  Upon his return home, he learned that Adrian had committed suicide.

The book is written forty years later, as Tony relates all of this past history.  Tony retired and had an ex-wife he remained friends with and one daughter.  He had led a fairly uneventful life, until one day a letter arrived regarding the estate of Mrs. Sarah Ford, who was Veronica's mother.  Tony learned that she had left him five hundred pounds and two "documents".  He learned that one of the documents was Adrian's journal and that Veronica was in possession of it and was not ready or willing to let him have it.  Thus begins Tony's quest to search the past and try to figure out the truth versus his memory of the truths.

The story is about how we remember the past and what we have done with our life.

The author wrote:

"What you fail to do is look ahead, and then imagine yourself looking back from that future point.  Learning the new emotions that time brings.  Discovering, for example, that as the witnesses to your life diminish, there is less corroboration, and therefore less certainty, as to what you are or have been."
 My book group had a great discussion about this book!  It is a short, quick read, but one that will long stay with you.  I will reread this book in the future!

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