Book: The sense of an ending
Author: Julian Barnes
Rating: 4.5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
What does the title of the book say. Does it refer to the feeling of an impending inevitable doom of an ending or it refers to understanding the meaning of an unpredictable and unthinkable ending. Well in both the cases the book can't be more aptly named.
The build up from beginning to the end is all about that ending - the mysterious and twisted ending. The speed and spread of events over 60 years of life don't prepare the protagonist or readers for that kind of an ending. This is one of those books where as soon as you reach the end you realize you need to re-read some parts. It's twisted and complicated giving nothing away till the last. If you pay enough attention any book or film gives you enough clues of its ending from the beginning even the so called mystery ones. But this gives nothing despite giving all the clues. The clues are plugged appropriately to guide as well as misguide you. But one thing they do is to keep you hooked till and even after the end. Just like the protagonist you get a sense - that you 'just don't get it' or 'you are on your own'. By making this reference the authors makes a brilliant response for the critics and haters who can dispute that the ending is not satisfactory and the book doesn't turn out the way it was supposed to. But if it was satisfactory then why would we try to make sense of it. And I just loved the intellectually snobbish reference "philosophically self evident".
But the one reference that concludes the book for me is -
It had seemed to us philosophically self evident that suicide was ever free person's right: a logical act when faced with terminal illness or senility; a heroic one when faced with torture or the avoidable death if others; a glamorous one in the fury of disappointed love (see: great literature). None of these categories had applied in the case of Robson's squalidly mediocre action.
Other than the ending, the book holds a story of nostalgia, memories and regrets over a lifetime. How sometimes memories betray you and reality escapes you, how youth has its own energy and age does not guarantee wisdom, how most things in life are simple and somethings in life can never be explained, how a single incident from past can change your life long beliefs. Without giving out too much on the elements of the book, I just want to say that if you want a literature which keeps you in your toes, pushes you to think and then questions the same line of thinking - this one is for you. I am looking forward to more of Julian Bernes. I believe the Man booker prize was well deserved.
But there is one piece of the puzzle which the author leaves unexplored. The relationship between mother and daughter. What was about Mrs. Ford that made her extra nice to her daughters boyfriends? Was she an utterly bored housewife who disliked her own arrogant with superiority complex children? "Mrs Robinson" angle would have made a great psychological link to the story but then the ending would have made a completely different sense.
The choice of the story and its narration is also well explained by the author here -
What is history? Any thoughts?
History is the lies of the victors...
It is also the self delusions of the defeated...
History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.
I know now, it's more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated.
If you have followed my blog even a little, you must have figured my love for interesting quotes and lines and this book is a treasure chest and makes it extra special for me. Each snd every quotes defines more slugs, history and memories in the most beautiful way. Some of the keepers which caught my attention are mentioned here -
What you end up remembering, isn't always the same as what you have witnessed.
There were two sorts of women: those with clear edges to them and those who implies mystery. And that this was the first thing a man sensed and the first thing that attracted him or not. And then there were some women who aren't at all mysterious, but are only made so by men's inability to understand them.
It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others.
The more you learn, the less you fear. 'Learn' not in the sense of academic study but in the practical understanding of life.
This was one of the differences between the three of us and our new friend. We were essentially taking the piss, except when we were serious. He was essentially serious, except when he was taking the piss.
It means the powerful recollection of strong emotions and a regret that such feelings are no longer present in our lives. It's possible to be nostalgic about remembered pain as well as remembered pleasure.
If you want to make people pay attention to what you're saying, you don't raise your voice but lower it: this is what really commands attention.
In history, mental states can be inferred from actions. Whereas in private life, the converse is true: that you can infer past actions from current mental states.
He thought logically and then acted on the conclusion of logical thought. Whereas most of us, I suspect, do the opposite: we make an instinctive decision, then build up an infrastructure of reasoning to justify it and call the result common sense.
Memory equals events plus time. Who was it said that memory is what we thought we'd forgotten? And it ought to be obvious to us that time doesn't act as a fixative, rather as a solvent. But its not convenient - it's not useful - to believe this; it doesn't help us get on with our lives; so we ignore it.
And a small piece from 60s for the book lovers -
In those days, paperbacks came in their traditional liveries: orange Penguins for fiction, blue Pelicans for non-fiction.