“His action had been unphilosophical, self-indulgent and inartistic: in other words, wrong.”
This review is completely impossible to write. Nevertheless, I shall try. It’s partly my own fault – I read the book in October or November and it’s been lying around waiting to be reviewed ever since.
I don’t want to rate this highly, but I sort of have to. It is so smooth, so readable, and yet so cleverly worded and framed and constructed, that despite the narrator’s almost repulsive self-justification, you HAVE to keep reading.
Tony Webster is an ordinary sort of man, reminiscing now about his time at school and university and the group of friends he had at that time. He drops tiny hints along the way that his account might not be an entirely objective truth, but the scale of his unreliability as a narrator comes as a shock.
Some of my favourite quotes:
“We live in time – it holds us and moulds us – but I’ve never felt I understood it very well.”
“In the meantime, we were book-hungry, sex-hungry, meritocratic, anarchistic.”
“Yes, of course we were pretentious – what else is youth for?”
“But wasn’t this the Sixties? Yes, but only for some people, in certain parts of the country.”
“One of those suburbs which had stopped concreting over nature at the very last minute and had ever since smugly claimed rural status.”
Fortunately, I have a get out of jail free card on this review, namely – I convinced The Book Accumulator that he must buy and read it, which he duly did in short order, and this is what he had to say about it:
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending, which I read slowly – it was almost meditative – but could not put down. It was justifiably short-listed for the Booker prize; it won, so I suspect the judges were all sixty-year-old men. The narrator recounts his school and student days, and then forty years later has cause to look back at it – as well as at what has happened in the intervening time. I enjoyed the introspective and retrospective view of this life and the narrator’s ruminations as he tries to make sense of one part of his life, until the surprise ending. His hero claims he is average, but it is interesting to judge him as not only above but also below the mean, a limited and not always attractive individual whose memory lapses can be both useful and hurtful. A pleasantly surprisingly short novel about memories and memory and how we view our own history, about changing with age while settling into an ever more ordered and ordinary life, and yet about how life can surprise us, because we just don’t see things as we should.
See? Clever thoughts, articulately arranged. Thanks Dad