Last year's Booker Prize winner was a must-read for me. I have never read anything by Julian Barnes before, which is clearly a mistake. If the rest of his novels are half as good as The Sense of an Ending, they are definitely worth reading.
The main character, Tony, and his friends Alex and Colin meet Adrian Finn at school. Serious, philosophical and infinitely mysterious, Adrian becomes the glue that holds their small clique together, even after their graduation. But then Adrian commits suicide and the three remaining friends lose touch with each other.
Now Tony is retired, divorced and ageing. He feels content with his life, accepting the inevitable forgetfulness that age brings. But a letter from a lawyer raises new questions about what really happened to Adrian and why. As Tony tries to come to terms with the past, he meets old friends and ex-girlfriends from decades ago.
The novel is about a tragic friendship, the unreliability of personal memory and the regrets that old age can bring. It also explores the definition of history and how it is related to the archives of memory. As Adrian says in the novel: History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.
The novel is intense, carefully structured and surprisingly short and compact. Barnes is one of those writers who obviously knows how to craft beautiful sentences. Although the novel is relatively fast to read, it is also worthwhile to slow down and savour the language.
I thought the ending of The Sense of an Ending was frustrating and confusing! There is a strange and unexpected twist at the end, which made me want to read the book all over again to see if I could make sense of it from a new perspective.
But I might just read it again simply because it was so good. :) I really hope that the book will be translated into Finnish as well. Definitely one of the best novels that I have read in a long time!
Julian Barnes: The Sense of an Ending. Jonathan Cape. 2011. 150 pages.
The Guardian: The Sense of an Ending
Wikipedia: The Sense of an Ending