Friday, 23 September 2011
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes **possible spoilers ahead**
I thought that, as this is one of the shortlisted books, it would open my eyes to the best of a different style that I'd enjoy. Unfortunately this is to be my first 'not good' review.
The first part of this book deals with the main character, Tony Webster, narrating to us his memories of childhood, friends and university life (with loves included). It was listed in a way reminiscent of when I had to plan out coursework essays - I'd start with bullet points and then pad them out with as much information and filler as possible - only Julian Barnes didn't seem to want to pad it out, he may well have been happy leaving the bullet points in!
Granted this may all have had some part to play in the general dragging out of the truth in Part Two but it grated on me to the point where it took two days for me to pick 'this damn book' (as I took to calling it) up again.
The second part of the book is set in Webster's present time where we see him suddenly presented with a whole different view on his memories of growing up and his relationships with certain friends and girlfriend. This is, in general, a very good idea for a book and it did have me hoping that the story would pick up speed and drag me in after the previous disappointment. Barnes wanted to show how a person's memories of events and people can be altered to stray far from the truth or to be blotted out completely.
Unfortunately it seems this book couldn't quite claw it's way out of the ditch of monotony for me - it stayed at a slow pace and occasionally threw in a few twists and turns that, granted I didn't see coming, were presented in such a way you just end up going 'oh, okay then.' It teased me with what it could be but didn't feel like being. The ending was made difficult to work out and my brain wasn't up to the task at the first time of reading because I hadn't been made to really care about Tony and his plight and how much what he believed was his younger self had been wrong and built up out of badly formed memories.
I get that Barnes may have been trying to say 'Well, life isn't like some never-ending book/movie of excitement and adventure' but isn't that why we read? I know I read for fun and escape, not lectures on how boring life is always going to be for me in the future. If this is an example of Julian Barnes in a nutshell then I'm not a fan. I'm not going to go out and pick up his other works and I really cannot see how this beat some of the other books to becoming short-listed. I'm sorry, I can't recommend this, no matter how much I wish I could.
Be warned: If this book wins I will lose my faith in book readers everywhere :(