Book number 14: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
What it is: Rich, deep, dynamic, and funny, The Sense of an Ending is about a man reviewing his life, about a man seeking closure. It is peppered with insights on memories, loss, opportunities wasted, regret, assumptions, remorse, and how all of these accumulate at the end of life and you are faced with the sense of impending doom that you can’t change any of that.
It’s kind of sad at times but I guess that’s life: some achievements and some disappointments; stumbling as you go along, trying to do your best. I love how it explores the thought that life happens but how much responsibility and control do you have over what occurs, not only to you but also to those around you? What is the point of living anyway? Such difficult questions, but what matters is whatever you do, commit to it so that towards the end you don’t finish with a question mark; if it’s not an exclamation mark then at least it’s a period.
What I liked about it: The main character, Tony, is likable. He is flawed but I still root for him. At the surface, the narration may seem a bit cynical but the message is positive – you have to live your life. Live it for you, not for anybody else, because no matter what the opinion of others, at the end, it will only be you who has to deal with everything. There’s no blaming anybody else for what you did and what you did not do. No flaming excuses. It is all on you. So in a way, The Sense of an Ending inspires readers to be brave and just do what they have to do.
Consequently, the discussion on time rocks, “how time grounds us and then confounds us.” It’s truly very interesting the way “time doesn’t act as a fixative, rather as a solvent;” very mysterious as it is amazing. “We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe. We imagined we were being responsible but were only being cowardly. What we called realism turned out to be a way of avoiding things rather than facing them. Time… gives us enough time and our best-supported decisions will seem wobbly, our certainties whimsical.”
Indeed, “time finds you out.” This may not always be a good thing so we try to rework our lives, consciously or otherwise. Fact is, “Our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others- but mainly – to ourselves.” Some stuff we write out of our story, some we hold onto more than others.
The bits on self-preservation are brilliant too. “We all suffer damage.”
Now there’s a heavy line for you. I’m blown away when Tony asked whether what he thought was being peaceable was actually cowardice, and his reflections on the merits of the comfort of being ordinary. It’s a common mistake, I think. It’s what people do. Settle. Because of convenience. There is nothing wrong with ordinary, but hey, why not try to do something great?
What I didn’t like about it: It seems Tony lives in the past. Seriously, towards the end of my life I’d like to think there is still something to look forward to, something to hope for in a day than simply sitting down and sticking a knife on old wounds or even smelling the very last scent of the good old days. Oh well. I guess this makes The Sense of an Ending all the more a good book because it is real as most people live as such. Either they give up or just become uninterested. Only a few keep the zest and inspiration one is supposed to carry all days of living. And oh, I don’t like Veronica; did not see any motivation on the character.
Recommended for: The Sense of an Ending is a very relatable book that any book loving adult will enjoy but I think those on the older age of the spectrum benefit most from it.
Note: The first project for this year is to finish the book reviews I’ve been procrastinating on since forever. Sorry.