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April 30, 2012 | by  | in Arts Books |
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Review – The Sense Of An Ending

The Sense of an Ending is Julian Barnes’s eleventh novel and was seen as a triumph on its publication last year. Amongst numerous other accolades, it won the 2011 Man Booker prize, and for good reason. Barnes’s prose is clear and melodic, exploring the fallibility of memory in subtle and exciting ways. He bends and manipulates time, proving to his readers that the past is never really dead.

The novel is told through the eyes of Tony, who falls in love with a girl named Veronica. They date for a while, break up, and she begins an affair with his old friend Adrian, who later kills himself.

Years later, Tony is a retired divorcee when he receives a letter from Veronica’s solicitor. Her mother has left him money in her will, along with pages from Adrian’s journal. Veronica is reluctantly pulled back into Tony’s life as he attempts to decipher exactly what happened all those years ago.

In terms of characterisation, the novel leaves something to be desired. Veronica’s enigmatic aloofness becomes frustrating when we meet her again—she seems to have failed to develop at all, and the reader is left questioning this: is it a deliberate ploy to show us the debilitating effects Adrian has had on her life, or just producing an unlikeable character? Her stunted growth, and Tony’s infuriating obtuseness, contribute to the claustrophobia of the second half of the novel, which fails to measure up to the promise of the first.

Ultimately, The Sense of an Ending does what it says on the packet. It is a bleak, uncompromising account of that fear that we all have; that one day we will look back on our lives and be disappointed and confused by what we find there. Tony is left clinging to failed acquaintances and old mistakes (his closest relationship is with his ex-wife), living in the past as a way of avoiding the future. It’s not a laugh-a- minute page-turner, but it is a gorgeous book and well worth reading.

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