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The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes

Genre: Fiction
Sub-genre: Autobiographical narration/mystery
Rating: 4.5/5



It won the Man Booker in 2011 for good reason. As I have mentioned in this post of mine, the number of pages is hardly the yardstick of the intensity of a story. I can safely club The Sense of An Ending with the likes of Of Mice and Men or Animal Farm; their slender spines pack a whopping punch. 

Middle-aged Antony 'Tony' Webster mirrors the common folk. His demeanour and personality are not uncommon. The story centres on a particular episode in his life, described in his own self-flattering, borderline-pitying tone. What began as a perplexing letter, ends in the unlidding of the Pandora's box. 

The genius of the story rests on the author's ability to turn the tide - not once,  but repeatedly - for and against the narrator. This is like an extended diary entry not meant for anyone's eyes. save the author himself. The recordings are true, but then truth is so qualitative, so relative and so opinionated, that it may not be the truth at all. Barnes - known for his other works in a similar field (Nothing to be Frightened Of) - opens the reader's mind to the possibility of the colouring and malleability of our memories by age, circumstances, selfish choices and first-impressions.

True to the form of the book, there is no clearly worded outcome, leaving only a little to imagination. It is surprising, thus, to find a multitude of possible interpretations available online. Admittedly some are wild; others less so. The screen adaptation of the book did not fare well - understandably (in my limited knowledge, I think it is decidedly difficult to play around with the depiction of memories), but that too, has certain elements that superceded my very simplistic interpretations. But then, in this truly inconceivable journey of even the most humdrum of individuals, nothing should come as a surprise. 

The Sense of An Ending is also very artistically named. All things end and new ones begin. Everything is a journey, with a clear start and a hazy termination. Having a clear, dispassionate view - making sense, if you may - of the course of an event is a task which exceeds the timelines of the event itself. 

P.S. I find this cover of the book (the 2012 publication by Vintage) particularly brilliant, considering the significance of the egg; the one I possess looks like this (published by Vintage in 2011). The escaping seeds of the dandelion, though very symbolic, lacks the power of the solitary, white egg !

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