Warning, all my book reviews and analysis have spoilers. I love spoilers and it’s rather upsetting that most people don’t. But anyway, if you don’t then read the novel first before you read this
Julian Barnes is his name. Writing is his game. In this day of cookie cutter fiction and writing to feed the fast food readers finding writer’s that actually take time to master the art and deliver is rare. I always enjoy a well-written and more importantly well editted book. Perhaps maybe it’s because I grew up on Pride and Prejudice and the Secret Gardenmore than Junie B Jones (nothing wrong with Junie though, I loved the series as a child).
His novel “The Sense of an Ending” is more of an intellectual piece. Something that I love, a book that makes me read it multiple times to derive the meaning rather than handing me everything on a platter.
The protagonist of the story(Tony) starts off by narrating his youthful days and the first love of his youth. I suppose the adage that one never forgets their first can be applied here. Especially as in this instance the love (Veronica) breaks up with him and subsequently dates one of his closest mates, Adrian who by all appearances will be much better off in life than Tony. But much to everyone’s chagrin, Adrian decides to commit suicide and Tony lives to be an old man who marries another woman, has a child, is left for another man, becomes amicable with his ex-wife and eventually becomes a contented old man with grandchildren. His peaceable life is disturbed when Veronica’s mother dies and leaves him money and Adrian’s diary in her will. Veronica refuses to give Tony the diary and Tony takes a trip down memory lane as he tries to retrieve the diary from Veronica and reconcile with his past.
Reading the novel for the first time I was confused as to what the point and the purpose of the novel was. Was it that the mistakes of our youth live with us forever? That he’ll hath no fury like a woman scorned? That living in a way that avoids conflict even when necessary to keep peace inevitably hurts everyone including yourself? Is it true that the older we get, the less we know? Perhaps it’s everything or nothing at all. Tony in a way is a representation of everyone. We all struggle with our existence, having big dreams when we’re young and later on adjusting to the average life that inevitably consumes us. But part of him still clings onto his boyhood hopes and dreams.
Veronica and Adrian seem to be the height of his childhood dreams. Veronica because she was the first love that he felt slighted and was condescending towards him and Adrian because…I suppose because Adrian represented the higher life. Adrian was set for success and the upper echelons of society having gotten into Cambridge. His friendship with Adrian had been the one he valued the most before Adrian decided to pursue a relationship with Veronica. At that point one could say that Tony gave up his dreams and freed himself from the burden of trying to outdo life. Because even though his future wife would leave him for another man he never harbored the same angry resentment that he bestowed up Veronica. Neither does he have any particular vehemence towards the man his ex-wife left him for.
The novel gets you thinking that perhaps time does not heal everything. That all those unanswered questions will inevitably come back to haunt us. Veronica never seemed to me as a really alluring woman. In fact she seemed rather stuck up and bent on offending, even more so as an old lady. Tony perhaps wants the closure that men often seek when they were slighted by a woman they thought was out of their league. Perhaps he wants closure and a final feeling of superiority over Adrian for having lived so long. But in the end he discovers that life has no simple answers and questions. Perhaps the realism of it all is what endears the reader with this novel. There is no happy ending or a definite conclusion. There’s just a unrest…something that everyone relates to at the end of the day. And perhaps this book in itself gives us that closure.