There are so many great books I have somehow missed over the years and Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape 2011) is one of them (now rectified!) Awarded the Man Booker Prize that year, this slim novel is an entirely engaging account of one man’s recollections of a particular period in his life, and how memories are mutable and slippery.
Tony and his friends meet Adrian at school – they form a witty, intellectual bunch keen on books, philosophical discussion, girls and existential angst. Now Tony is older – married, divorced, retired. He cannot recall ever causing anyone too much pain in his life. But an unexpected letter from a lawyer calls into question everything he thought he knew about his past and has him struggling to reconcile his memories of his past behaviour with the very different accounts of others about the same incidents. This writing is insightful, sharp, clever and witty. It strips back the outer layers to reveal the human condition beneath. A beautiful and thought-provoking read. If any of my readers enjoyed the concept of Parting Words, this is a much more accomplished and skilled version of the same concept! How much of what you know about your life is true memory and how much have you invented to appease your conscience? What happens when the truth of your past actions confronts the present idea you have of yourself? What power do handwritten letters hold when delivered from beyond the grave? And how does it feel to have your own handwritten words reappear from years earlier to confront your present self?