THE SENSE OF AN ENDING: A Novel ~Julian Barnes
THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is actually a long short story told in two chapters. It is a piece of exquisite writing which will just amaze you, dazzle your mind, and require you think. The writing is so tight and vivid the very words can control one’s thinking about the story. It actually takes a bit of effort to see the subject of the story for what it is, and I found that workout to reveal a rather unsavory tale.
The stage of the short story is often to approach a character with problem or trauma one after each other, creating in the story a tension, which quite often leaves the reader pondering or wondering about the bigger outcome. This story has little movement because the narrator is so devoid of emotion and is just step-by-step walking through his life from his boy’s school through his retirement. Tony just does not seem to understand and he cannot recognize his life lesson. From the first page he is attempting to figure out the meaning, the part he plays in the unfolding of the narrative.
The Mothers in the story are fascinating in that each and everyone attempts to turn on Tony’s emotions and assist him into actually living a life with meaning. Not even his daughter holds out hope that he will engage in life and just tells him how he can relate to his grandson. He does note that his ex-wife has a bigger role in his daughter’s life and she is willing to let him talk through his dilemma, but even she lets him know she is done and “he just does not get it”.
The section of the story about the Severn Bore, is a fascinating reveal to the reader that THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is just that as Tony experiences something deeply and is mystified by one of natures occurrences.
“,,,I stayed on the bank my myself. I don’t think I can properly convey the effect that moment had on me. It wasn’t like a tornado or an earthquake – nature being violent and destructive, putting us in our place. It was more unsettling because it looked and felt quietly wrong, as if some small lever of the universe had been pressed, and here, just for these minutes, nature was reversed, and time with it. And to see this phenomenon after dark made it the more mysterious, the more otherworldly.”
The reader grasps that eventually when Tony gets his smack in the face it is going to be a Tsunami in order for him to understand. It will be a violent, dark, otherworldly aspect of nature.
I had to read THE SENSE OF AN ENDING two times and enjoy the form and the writing. The destruction of a school chum who did not have a Mother was compelling and such a devastating emotional tug, it made it hard to double dose.
Mr. Barnes won the Man Booker Award for THE SENSE OF AN ENDING. He has a long list of successful books and articles.
This book is from my own personal library and I purchased it and analyzed it per the request of my friend DEB who said her book group, folks who are very smart just went on and on about the writing in the story but nothing about the understanding of what the story was trying to tell us – “Just what does it mean and what is it about?” So thank you DEB for presenting me with this opportunity to share my thoughts about what I read.