Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes won the Man Booker Prize for this novel, all of 150 pages, after three other novels of his made it to the shortlist. I wish they had not advertised the fact that the book won the prize because that instantly makes me as a reader cautious, suspicious and prone to seek something to pull the book down. If I'd read the book by itself, I would have enjoyed it a lot more, I am sure, because I like short books, I like books that keep me going till the end wanting to find out what happens, I like books that are honest. 'The Sense of an Ending' is all three. And some more.

The novel spans the life of the narrator Tony Webster, from school to his post-retirement days and hinges on his relationship with two people he wants approval from - Adrian Finn, intellectually superior and emotionally deeper, and Veronica, his first girlfriend whom he never understood nor felt worthy of. Adrian in fact is a late entry into Webster's circle of friends at school - Alex and Colin making up the other two - but quickly takes over as the boy everyone wants to impress. More so Webster. In the case of Veronica, he finds that she and then her family whom he spends a weekend with, seem to look down upon him and he is constantly trying to keep up. When he introduces his friends to the haughty Veronica (who permits 'full sex' only after they break up), she seems to take to Adrian. When Veronica and Webster break up, Webster gets a letter from Adrian seeking his permission to go out with Veronica. In his anger, Webster writes to both. Months later he hears of Adrian's death. Webster goes on with his life, marries, divorces, retires and is living out his life peacefully when he receives a letter from a solicitor. He has received some estate from Mrs. Ford, Veronica's mother, which include 500 pounds, a letter and Adrian's diary. Webster comes to know that the diary is now with Veronica and he tries to secure it from her, and what he finds in the process is rather shocking.

Many pluses as mentioned earlier. It kept me going all through. I also liked the way the twists were introduced. But it left too many questions unanswered for me (I do like things laid out on a platter). The 500 pounds (blood money?), the contents of the diary especially since it was important to Webster to figure out what happened, Veronica's behavior that makes no sense especially when she knows that Webster really has no blame in what transpires. But then apart from reading it and enjoying it while I read it, would I carry it as one of the books that made an impact on my life for its content? Not really. Too dark and hopeless.

I liked the style, his honesty and even the way Barnes went about twisting and turning (despite keeping many facts to himself which was unfair) but its too sad and tragic for me and leaves no room for hope. It does in the end appear to be a bunch of loosely hinged characters especially all those from Veronica's family and certainly the deep and melancholic Adrian Finn. Webster, his wife and his other friends appear more sane, or rather, people I can identify with, sane or otherwise. Or perhaps, safe was the word I was looking for. But certainly a book to read and I would recommend it whole heartedly. And thanks Raja for lending it to me.


Wings of Harmony said...

I bought this book because it was shortlisted for the booker prize. However, may be I am not intellectually sound enough at this point of time, to understand what was happening in the book. I read few pages, but I think I will need a better time to read it once again :D :D

Hindi Jokes said...

Certainly did not deserve the MB Prize. A lot of unexplained premises. The ones which have been explained are mostly logic less. No reason for why do the people behave the way they do. I was disappointed. Writing style is very good and keeps you bound to itself until the last page where you will be left heartbroken for having wasted your time.