Finishing 2011 with The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Sense of an Ending

Deciding to have some fun with my last read of 2011, I chose Julian Barnes’ Man Booker Prize winning The Sense of an Ending and it was more apt that I had even realized.

Memory is a tricky thing and looking back over the list of books I’ve read this year, some standout and many have already faded into obscurity. Tony, the main character, is finding much the same experience when he is forced to look back on his college years some forty years after the fact.

We remember the first kiss, that professor who shocked us or made us laugh with his disheveled appearance, and we still feel a touch of the pain when other’s slighted us. However… how well do we remember when we hurt others? Sure the biggies are there, for me, like the first breakup I instigated, but what about the times when we lashed out and then promptly moved on with our lives? Were those people able to move on as easily as we were, or did it follow them, haunting them, seeming to linger over their future like the dark hand of a curse?

Memory is a tricky thing, filtered by each individual’s experience. We don’t know, what we don’t know, and sometimes there are things that we just can’t know. The past is a really big mess when you sit down and ponder it for a bit. Tony realizes this in The Sense of an Ending and bless him, he wants to try and not only understand what he missed, but undo some of the crap that made him look bad in the eyes of others. Closure is what many shrinks say that we need to have in order to move on in life, but that isn’t always possible. Sometimes we are unable to close the door and are stuck with what we’ve got, the sense that it is over and there is nothing we can do to make it better.

Now I feel like Tony when I look over the list of books read in 2011. Did I focus too much on quantity over quality? Did I waste too much time devouring the entire 39 Clues series? Did my nonfiction reading really teach me anything or did it just leave me more convinced that there is no hope and that history does indeed repeat itself?

How has my reading changed me? How has your reading changed you?

Enough of the navel gazing, let’s just make a pact to have a better year than last year, ‘kay? That isn’t saying that last year was bad, just hoping that 2012 will be the teeniest tinniest better.

P.S. In case you hadn’t noticed, I really enjoyed The Sense of an Ending. What started out as a pun, ended up being a much deeper experience.

Comments (8)

  • Beautiful review, Gwen! I hope to get to this book soon this year! I loved reading your thoughts on this book.

  • I like your question–Did my nonfiction really teach me anything? I realized I read no theology, religious, spiritual nonfiction this past year. But, I do feel like my nonfiction taught me a lot and opened my eyes to some social issues that are pressing in our day and age. Am I convinced that there is no hope? Only if good people sit on the sidelines and do nothing.

  • It was such a quick read, you should be able to get to it. Cheers!

  • Good answer Heidi. My nonfiction reads this year were mostly centered on the past, no current issues. I need to read more current topics, like social issues. There is where I think that I will gain both compassion and hope.

  • This is a lovely review! I’m glad reading this book turned into such a good experience for you. I love when that happens. 

  • Whether my book club picks it or not, I am going to read it. 

  • Sort of strange review, but glad that you liked it:)

  • Good! 

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