Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

I'm truly going to try and keep up with the local book club this year. This is our first book and I really struggled reading it. The prose felt strangled and I kept getting dropped out of the actual story by the language. I read quite a bit and have a pretty good vocabulary but I had to keep asking me Kindle to define words because there was little to no context. Boom...dropped again.

I found that I didn't really want to finish this book but now I have an accountability partner for book club so I picked it up again and got myself through Part One.

Tony Webster and his friends bring new kid Adrian into their clique. The kids all sounded pretentious enough that I wanted to slap them but we sort through them "dealing" with a fellow students suicide. Dealing as in, it really doesn't seem like they cared. They move on through college with Tony getting a girlfriend, Veronica. There's nothing about her that seems remotely redeemable and, by the end of the novel, I really think she's only in this book to drop clues. Eventually, Tony and Veronica break up and Veronica and Adrian get together.

Then Adrian commits suicide.

Part Two actually got me more interested. Tony marries, has a kid, divorces. He moves through his mundane and adequate life. A perfectly acceptable, simple life. When he gets a letter from a lawyer letting him know that he came into money and documents from Veronica's mother when she passed. Oh, intrigue! Tony goes on a retiree's quest to get the documents from Veronica, which turn out to be Adrian's diary. Here is where Veronica is particularly 2D and useless. I will admit that the story picked up a bit, once you ignore the writing, and led to an interesting twist. A twist that I was completely unsure of when I got to it and had to go and re-read several sections and then check the interwebz to see if I was right. I was and that was weird.

So, Amanda, you say....was there anything you liked?

Yes, thanks for asking!  The gist of this book is about memory. How what you think you remember isn't really the reality you should remember. Tony reframed his memories to feel better about himself so when he sees his letter to Adrian and Veronica, he got a rude awakening of how horrible he actually was. We all do this, don't we? We smooth away the rough edges of memories so we can live with them and go on with our mundane lives.

I wrote down a section because it did hit home. My mundane life was stifling me so last year I made an effort to get out of my comfort zone and travel. This year, I have no desire to see another airport again for a long time, but I'm very happy I finally did the "immature" thing and packed my bags and winged around the country.

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.

I've always prided myself on being a mature, responsible realist.....maybe not anymore.



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