2014: 37. The Sense of an Ending

"I remember, in no particular order:

- a shiny inner wrist; 

- steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it;

- gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house;

- a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torch beams;

- another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface;

- bathwater gone long cold behind a locked door."

The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

A Booker Prize winner - which is frankly why I read it.  I've read Barnes before - somewhere in the archives of my blog is my review of Arthur and George, but not yet transfered over to the new site, and I liked it ok, but it was a desire to make some progress on my Booker Project that lead to me picking this one up.

And I found it to be a very good literary book.  It's pretty slight, and it didn't set my world on fire - but I get why it won awards.  It's the story of Tony Webster, a middle aged man looking back on his life, and learning that things were not quite how he remembered them.  As such, it's one of those critic-favored books about loss and memory and growing old, and it does all those things beautifully.  And I will be the first to admit that I read it very fast (and a little bit tipsy, maybe), so some of the pure beauty of the language was perhaps lost on me.  But I just thought it was ok.  And think that's because of the central premise - warning, herein after there be spoilers.

A lot of the book is Tony reflecting on his first relationship, with a woman named Veronica.  They dated in college, and then they broke up.  And he remembers the relationship with bitterness - which drives the rest of the plot, but it was totally unclear to me why he was so mad at her.  It seemed like the break up was amiable - they just didn't have much in common. OH, and she wouldn't put out.  And yes, part of the point of the book is that young Tony was a prick.  But either I missed something, or it wasn't there - I felt like some central fact that would drive his anger was left out.

Categories: Booker Prize Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017