Saturday, August 27, 2011

Alex's Review - The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

I am a complete shocker and always judge a book by its cover. This book was kept aside for me as requested at our shiny new library (oh all-right eight months old now but I still think of it as shiny). The book was shiny too. I like to think that I'm the first to read it. The plastic is all new and clean, the pages most delightful to turn - also clean and quite sophisticated I thought - edged in black - haven't seen that before - nice touch - elegant.

At first I found it difficult to like the narrator who introduced us to himself and his "mates" as we would call them in Orstralia. The voice was, in a sense, self-deprecating, or at least acknowledging the awkwardness of adolescent youth - the need to belong and fit in, the desire to seem "cool", to be smart but not too smart, to be valued, to "score" - albeit in a 50s/60s awkward way with the threat of "pregnancy" ever-hovering.

The book is divided into two parts and I got a bit of a shock when I came to Part Two. For a second I thought I had a book of short stories and that was it; I wasn't going to find out what happened. Aha ! I was hooked. Be careful of what you wish for. It's not a book of short do, in a sense, get to find out what happened. Or do you? This little tome is pregnant with possibilities.

It's a bit difficult to say much more without giving away the plot but Barnes challenges us to examine our lives and our memory/opinions of ourselves and our conduct. I suspect this deceptively "small" tome is also a challenge to the British national character. And yes, I am talking about recent events though I'm not sure even Barnes could have envisaged or accounted for the latest batch of riots. But I reckon this book will go down a treat with bookclubs which need a good conversation starter.

I found it particularly fascinating as I am studying Recordkeeping and am mulling over a quote from one of the characters quoting Patrick Lagrange "History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation."

Interestingly (and perhaps I am bone lazy when it comes to research - think Google) I cannot find a Patrick Lagrange...only a Joseph Louis Legrange who was a French mathematician (or was he really Italian?) At any rate...the plot just got thicker and I now ask myself...who is Patrick? Or did he never exist and Barnes is just testing us? ( )


  1. Thanks for the review Alex, my copy (with it's beautiful black edging) is sitting their tempting me every day as I must admit I'm a fan of Barnes'. This is one I'm very much looking forward to and I appreciate your review that hasn't given anything away. We've had a couple of reviews in the Australian press which I have purposely avoided in case they destroy the upcoming pleasure. As mentioned in my "Far To Go" review I'm leaving this one until the end of my long list reading.

  2. Now I've finished this great book (five stars for me too) - I think I now understand your closing sentence, but I could be mistaken too. Great review Alex.