Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes

Winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize
Author: Julian Barnes  
Publisher-Format: Alfred A. Knopf, Hardcover, 176 pages
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: The meaning of life
Genre: literary fiction
Source: public library
Recommended? Absolutely.  A must - read

There are a few books so well-written, so stunning in their impact, and perfect in their ability to stop us in mid-thought that they defy conventional review. I am not normally excited when I see the label "Winner of the Man Booker Prize" - I've read several good ones, but I've read others that have left me cold. This one however, is the best of the best. The book jacket describes it as being one of "Stunning psychological and emotional depth and sophistication." It is a short book, written in a clear, flowing, soothing style. It's not flashy, the sentences are not convoluted. Instead, the prose is eloquent, graceful and so thought-provoking as to be almost breath-taking.

Basically it's the story of one man, Anthony Webster and his attempt to reconcile the memories of his early life with the realities of his later one. He seems to build his musings on a quote from Patrick Lagrange : "history is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation." The protagonist ruminates further: "It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others."

There's no real plot, but as we are inexorably drawn to the end, we are suddenly confronted with an climax that is not foreseen. Anthony tells us, "Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however long it takes, that life isn't all it's cracked up to be." This is a must read book. I won't spoil it by revealing anymore.  I got it from the library, but it will definitely be added to my personal library.

1 comment:

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