The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a brilliant short novel about age, time, mortality, memory and remorse. Barnes’ hero, Tony Webster, is a man in his sixties who gets that sense of en ending, who feels that disturbing moment of futility of life, of powerlessness, of impossibility to change neither the past (of the others), nor the future ( of himself). Toby Webster is in that moment of his life when life obliges him to reevaluate his past, to make him try, though unreliable, to correct his memories, to rewrite his history - and not as “a lie of the victors”!
Despite his dull present (with a tidy house, nice occupation, a friendly ex-wife and a normal adult daughter), Toby had an interesting past. A past with intelligent friends (among whom, Adrian was the most intelligent and logical), with big ambitions, and with a frustrated love story with Veronica, who later became Adrian’s lover. A past that Tony (or rather his memory) corrected in such a way that he can live with. And then, a letter from a law firm came: according to the will of Sarah Ford (Veronica’s mother) Tony inherited 500 ponds and the diary of his long dead friend, Adrian.
A diary might be a piece of evidence, a proof (or not) of Tony’s memory. But this is not the case, since Veronica comes back on stage (after 40 years) with all her allusions and mystery, which always was scaring and attracting the young (and old now) Tony. And from here further, the story is a succession of new expectations, reevaluations, remorse and …discoveries. The discovery, for instance, that life takes its course no matter what- sometimes like the Severn Bore; the discovery that life only and truly is a problem of building up an infrastructure of reasoning to justify it. And moreover, the discovery that any past action is irreversible, irreparable and final in its consequences, as death is.
I liked very much the way in which Barnes put Tony to recollect his life. It is there a mixture of subjectivism and precision, of vanity and honesty, of youth and maturity that challenges, annoys and pacifies the reader. I think it was a good choice for Man Booker Prize 2011.
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