(From Goodreads) By an acclaimed writer at the height of his powers, The Sense of an Ending extends a streak of extraordinary books that began with Arthur & George and continued with Nothing to Be Frightened Of and, most recently, Pulse.
This short, intense new novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he never much thought about–until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance, one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony Webster thought he’d left all this behind as he built a life for himself, and by now his career has delivered him into a secure retirement much as an amicable divorce has left him still fond of his ex-wife and daughter, who now has a family of her own. But suddenly Tony is presented with a mysterious legacy that obliges him to reconsider a variety of things he thought he’d understood all along, and to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world.
The entire time I was reading this book I didn’t know whether or not I liked it. I knew it was well written but I didn’t know what I thought of it. It wasn’t until I was finished and really thought about it that I knew just how much I liked it. And the more and more I thought about it the more and more I liked it.
The funny thing is this book reminded me of grown up Catcher in the Rye. Now, first let me say it’s been about 150 years since I’ve read Catcher in the Rye. When I was in High School it was one of my favorite books but I can’t bring myself to read in again. I have a feeling if I were to read it today I would just think Holden Caulfield was a whiny, pretentious teenager who needs a swift kick. And I don’t want to fall out of love so I just can’t reread it, you know what I mean?
Anyway, it’s not that the narrator is annoying or whiny but there’s something about the feel of this book that made me think of how I remember Catcher in the Rye felt. I guess you could say they both have an unreliable narrator, though Tony-the narrator of Ending-admits from the beginning that these are his memories and they could be skewed.
There were times I felt what I was told happened and what actually happened were two completely different things. And in the end that’s part of what I really liked about it. That’s how someone’s story should be. We shouldn’t see all sides of a persons story when they’re ones telling it. I didn’t always like many of the characters but I appreciated who they were. We meet them and get to know them when they’re teenagers. They’re at the time in life when the know everything, think far deeper, and feel much more than anyone on the planet. (this is said with a heavy roll of the eyes-really sometimes there’s nothing like a teenager to make you want to kick another human being) So, I knew I wasn’t suppose to always love them. But, you could see the people they could become.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away because this is one of those stories you really need to let unfold in front of you. And Tony is a character I found myself liking more and more as I got to know him. I appreciated seeing how you’re not the person you are when you’re young. I loved the whole idea of Tony’s sense of an ending, realizing he’s getting farther away from his youth and closer to “the end”. The way he deals with the person he was and the person has become it what was makes me think about this story even now a couple of months sense I’ve read it.
This is an incredibly short book. At only 176 pages it’s a really fast read yet it’s packed with story, characters, and so many layers. I’ll guarantee you’ll feel like you’ve read a much longer book. I can see why this book has gotten all the praise it’s gotten. This is one of those smart books without trying too hard. You’ll really feel like you’ve read something special. I haven’t read any of Barnes’ other works but after this I’m certainly going to be reading more.