Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

I bought this for my Kindle. Shorter novels are better value bought as ebooks, and that's one area where I think ebooks really win - making short novels, novellas and short story collections more cost-effective for the reader. This book was last year's Booker prize winner, and I always like to read the winning novel.

The story is narrated by Tony Webster. The first section covers his school days in the fifties, where he befriended intellectual philosopher Adrian, to whom he was in awe. Adrian was everything average, ordinary Tony and his other friends were not.
At university Tony has a girlfriend Veronica, whose family rather look down on Tony. After they split up, Veronica goes out with Adrian. And then, a while later when Tony has lost touch with him, Adrian commits suicide. He leaves a note explaining that suicide is the only true philosophical question, and that as he'd never asked for life, ending it was the only true answer.

Many years later, when Tony has married, had a child, divorced, and altogether led a mediocre, average life, he finds that Veronica's mother has bequeathed to him Adrian's diary. Why she would have the diary he has no idea, nor why she should leave it to him. But prickly Veronica won't give it up to him. Tony meets with her a few times and eventually, finally, begins to 'get it'.

This is a beautifully written novel, very introspective. And it's quite depressing. Tony's illusions about Adrian are gradually shattered, blow by blow, and so are the reader's. It's a fascinating look at the arrogance of youth from the perspective of old age. It's the kind of novel that stays with you, keeping you pondering, long after you've finished reading it.

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