Why you should read ‘The Sense of an Ending’ (J.Barnes)

Synopsis: Tony Webster and his clique met Adrian,a queer but brilliant boy,in high school.Swearing their lives would be different,the unruly youngsters would go through the wild sixties together,experiencing love,deception and reality.Several decades elapsed,and Tony is now a retired grandfather.But his quiet life is disrupted when a lawyer’s letter rolls back the years.

Why you should read The Sense of an Ending:

1.Colloquialism
The story is narrated in Tony’s voice and happens to be extremely colloquial in tone.So much so that we forget we’re reading a book.Tony shares with us his every sentiment in regard to the events mentioned in the story,some funny,others thought-provoking,and as such,there is an intimate bond which is formed between him and us.We do not so much read an account of his life as see his life through his eyes,for this is how close his voice is to us.

2.Compelling
The narration being so colloquial,the story is read very smoothly.As mentioned above,the book feels more like a conversation with Tony,so the reader rarely comes across something that needs to be read more than once;the language Tony employs most of the time is no different from that of your average Joe.Also,the fact that the plot’s mystery is not disclosed immediately,but is instead hinted at in the first part of the book means the reader will want to keep on turning the pages in a bid to know more about the story.One can very easily finish this novella in one sitting.

3.Deep insight
The book is sprinkled with bits of Tony’s analysis of time and memory.The way Julian Barnes presents these two concepts in a different light is highly reminiscent of Milan Kundera’s style in The Unbearable Lightness of Being.We are made to see time and memory in a way never thought of before.We realize what they are essentially and how influential they are in our lives.For such an unconventional but mature and sensible outlook alone,The Sense of an Ending is a must-read.It is also highly quotable because of this very reason.

4.Post-modernism 
The Sense of an Ending is no exception to the rule when it comes to Booker Prize winners being very post-modernist in style.Winner of the 2011 edition,Barnes’ book does not read like a normal,classic story.The plot itself is very original,as Barnes crushes stereotypes and places plot twists in areas where we would expect to see cliches.The finale besides is a superb example of post-modernist literature.

5.Right balance
The book seems to hit the right balance between lighthearted humour and sheer sobriety.Tony’s dry narrative voice will more than once make you raise a smile,but his maturity at looking at things,especially time and memory,prompts you to think a lot over certain issues.The plot is also essentially tragic.Such blend of seriousness and sarcastic humour makes Tony a wonderful narrator,and The Sense of an Ending a memorable book.

6.Subtlety
As mentioned above,The Sense of an Ending is an apt example of post-modernist literature.As such,certain parts of the story tend to be elusive,hence engaging the author to imagine what could have happened in the plot holes.Moreover the subtlety with which Barnes crafted the story is laudable.All key moments are input in the story,yet they are so subtle that one might not pay enough attention to them.If you’re an admirer of post-modern fiction,then you might end up liking The Sense of an Ending very much.

Why you might not like The Sense of an Ending:

1.Pretentious?
Post-modernism in a book is a double-edged sword.Some people are mesmerized by the style and revel in reading the story while others can be frustrated with the author’s unconventionality.For instance,The Sense of an Ending is deemed by many as pretentious,for they reckon that the ending doesn’t make up for the plot holes deliberately placed by the author.Such readers are left unimpressed by Barnes’ peculiar approach to the story and disappointed with the book,as much of the its beauty lies in its style.For this reason,the novella brings to mind another book which failed to elicit unanimity among readers: Never Let Me Go.Though intrinsically different,these two novels have quite a few things in common.If you didn’t like one,you might very likely be disappointed with the other.

2.Tony
There are many novels which are narrated in the first person,but The Sense of an Ending is one of those books where the narrator is extremely colloquial.As a result,it doesn’t read like a typical book,and Tony might become irritating to bookworms who prefer a more composed and slower narrator.Instead of feeling as if you were reading Tony’s account of his life,you will be more under the impression that he is conversing with you.Consequently,you should expect to see in his narration foul words,intimate matters (like how often masturbation will be mentioned),and chunks of adventures you wish he would elaborate more on.If you’re used to reading classic stories that follow a neat pattern,you may not like this book at all.

Final thought: When I finished The Sense of an Ending,I was not as moved as when I closed Possession,The God of Small Things,The Inheritance of Loss and Never Let Me Go,which are three Booker winners and one finalist respectively.Yet I was thoroughly impressed by Julian Barnes’ style as a post-modernist author.He managed to narrate in an extreme colloquialism a subtle tragic story whose denouement is moreover complex and totally unexpected.His superb outlook on time and memory was a delight to the mind and single-handedly elevated the book to some of the best I’ve read.I however understand why some people were disappointed with it; the style is make-or-break,from the narrator to the ending,so people who couldn’t cope with it will see the book as a massive flop.I besides think Barnes took a massive risk in writing such a book,but it paid off at the end.A very tricky novella.

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2 thoughts on “Why you should read ‘The Sense of an Ending’ (J.Barnes)”

  1. I just picked this one up last week, I was curious about it more than anything else and spotted a great deal so thought I’d give it a go!

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