Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Sense of an EndingThe Sense of an Ending is a 2011 Man Booker nominated novella (about 150 pages) by Julian Barnes.  A few months ago, I read Barnes' recent short story collection, Pulse (review here).  This novel was far superior to Pulse and a worthy contender for the 2011 Booker.  Having been shortlisted for the Booker three previous times (Flaubert's Parrot (1984), England, England (1998) and Arthur and George (2005)), Barnes may make it this year. The bookies have him at 6/1 odds.

A summary of the plot is almost besides the point.  This is a book about memory and getting old.  The narrator, Tony Webster, is an ordinary guy, who shares his recollection of how his group of three friends becomes a group of four when a new, highly intellectual kid, Adrian, joins their school.  Tony also shares details of his youthful relationship with Veronica.  Tony meets Veronica's family and develops a warm relationship with her mother.  After the inevitable breakup, Veronica and Adrian date.  Years later and long after Veronica and Adrian are through, Veronica and the memory of Adrian reenter Tony's life.

Throughout the novella, Barnes beautifully creates the ephemeral feel of memory on the page.  The book is well written and exhibits Barnes' talent for dialogue and creating a compelling story around an ordinary and otherwise uninteresting character.  Unlike some of the stories in Pulse, Barnes does not write this with great flourish because it would be inconsistent with the ordinary nature of his main character.  

Whether this wins the Booker, this is worth reading.  If you liked Tinkers (Paul Harding's gorgeous surprise 2010 Pulitzer winner), this should appeal to you.

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