Sunday, October 23, 2011

Book Review: "The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes

[Cross-posted on Goodreads.com]

QUADRUPLE SPOILER ALERT!

In terms of overt clues and Adrian's equation, Adrian had an affair (perhaps not so brief, near the end of his life) with Veronica's mother Sarah, who bore the child, also named Adrian, who was later sent (after Sarah's death?) to a caregiver facility.

I think what nags at Tony at the end is that there are other possibilities that could fit the evidence better. Unless Veronica spills it, or Adrian's diary is not burnt after all, Tony can never know for sure. In all scenarios he's guilty, in some achingly more than others.

The child could have been Veronica's by Adrian or by Tony. The memory of the trip to the river seems to imply a night of unprotected, romantic sex. Sarah might have cared for the baby when Veronica couldn't, or wouldn't. Veronica's pregnancy would have been when she and Adrian were newlyweds. He might have died thinking the baby was his. Or sure that it wasn't.

Tony says the child (seen now as a young man) looks like the presumed father, his old friend Adrian. But did Tony look like Adrian? Is Tony looking into a mirror and denying the familiarity he sees? Is Tony's remarking on the resemblance a clue to throw us off the track?

The child could have been Sarah's by Tony. This strange possibility best explains: 1) Sarah's bequest, 2) Veronica's rage, and 3) Sarah's enigmatic parting gesture to Tony, implying a secret they shared (that she'd seduced him during the visit). The fact that Adrian has repressed the memory of the sex act (but not the washing up after) would seem totally implausible, except in the context of this book which is all about how our minds rewrite history to suit our opinion of ourselves.

It's a mind twister, and credit Barnes for giving plenty of clues but being brave enough to perplex his readers by providing only the sense of an ending.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tony is the father. Conception didn't happen at Chislehurst, it happened the night Tony watch the Severn Bore - an experience he describes as "unsettling" and "quietly wrong". Initially he thinks he was there by himself, but later tries to convince Veronica that she was present (a fact she denies with a head shake). Tony says anxiously "Really, no?". Tony would like to believe that Veronica was present but this was the night of his sin against nature. Tony still doesn't "get it" and this will be his epitaph.

boychik said...

I'd like to think Julian dropped by and posted this, because it's just the kind of thing I'd expect him to say. Look at the punctuation of "Really, no?". That's British grammatical style, folks.

Meera said...

Human relations are complicated. And human emotions are much more complicated. WHY ? coz most of the times we ourselves don’t know how will we react to particular situation. We surprise ourselves.

Memories are still more complicated and tricky. We unconsciously and conveniently alter them and present it for others (sometimes for ourselves) the way we want... rather the way IT EXACTLY WAS!!

Initially author tries to give different definitions of history through different characters of the story about some great political events of the past and then the way he uses those definitions to the history a common man creates out of his own life may not be of much importance to others. But YES, each and every man creates history in his own way!!

“The sense of an ending” is one book which tells a simple story but the complications of relationships, emotions and altering memories to write our own history the way we wanted it to be.

In authors own words “What you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed.”

The discussions which are there in the book makes us think about many aspects of life. And sometimes forced me to think and accept ignorance is bliss. The more we know or think about life, the complicated it becomes.

All in all, this entire book is a master piece and worth every bit of appreciation and awards it has received!!

Hindi Jokes said...

Certainly did not deserve the MB Prize. A lot of unexplained premises. The ones which have been explained are mostly logic less. No reason for why do the people behave the way they do. I was disappointed. Writing style is very good and keeps you bound to itself until the last page where you will be left heartbroken for having wasted your time.