Title: The Sense of an Ending
Author: Julian Barnes
“In those days, we imagined ourselves as being kept in some kind holding pen, waiting to be released into our lives. And when that moment came, our lives – and time itself – would speed up. How were we to know that our lives had in any case begun, that some advantage had already been gained, some damage already inflicted? Also, that our release would only be into a larger holding pen, whose boundaries would be at first undiscernible.”
The first thing I want to say about this book is that it’s one I will probably not fully understand until I’m older. About the mutability of memory and the human tendency to structure our lives in narrative form, this is truly a book that speaks to too many of us.
The narrator is one who allows life to happen to him, who collects memories in a way that serves his version of himself, and who only thinks of others in a solipsistic manner. This is us, isn’t it? We want to do so many things in life, we wish for greatness, we think our Life will turn out to be Literature, but like Tony’s, we are subjected to normality, to mundaneness. We wait and wait for life to begin, but it already has, and we cannot believe this is all we have. In this sense, this is why I chose the above quote, because it truly spoke to me, and my personal fear of never achieving any beyond myself.
At the end of the book, we discover that Tony has inflicted much damage on his friends, just because of an impulsive decision. There was nothing monumental or dramatic about his role in someone else’s pain. In fact, it was something we could have easily neglected as readers, and the narrator certainly had. A Sense of an Ending is a wonderful portrayal of how easily we impact others’ lives, even when we believe ourselves to be incapable of such damage. We are actually as powerful as we want to be, and as we think we are. So we should be careful with the hearts of others.
None of the characters were truly likeable. Most were pretentious, and who preferred mystery to honesty. Yet, I loved the way we were made to identify with Tony, even when we disliked him. The fact that Barnes did this in 150 pages is rather a feat.
There are so many quotable quotes in this book, and the exactness of Barnes’ prose just gripped my heart as I devoured the novel in mere hours. He seems to be able to present my thoughts back to me, only in better terms.
I recommend this book, although I felt that there was no ultimate redemption for any of the characters. They remain hollow and unloved.