I have read very few works of fiction, and am so glad that ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes is one of them. In very few words, Barnes has traced the arch of rich narrative, leading the reader to an inner world of reflections and questions.
The narrator is a middle-aged man who recounts the early and youthful days of his life — the desire to stand out, the sex drive, and grand thoughts about life. He shares how he has ‘evolved’ in to a peaceable, risk-averse grown-up. At the center of the story is the character of Adrian Finn, the confident, self-assured genius who is looked up to by the group of close friends. How a tragedy unfolds, and how perspectives about it change with time, is the constant theme of this book.
Reality, quite like the description of ‘history’ in this work, is like an onion. With every new perspective, you peel a new layer. Every new experience helps you look at things from a different vantage point. Hidden somewhere within is fundamental truth.
The story is also an engaging tale of love, jealousy, hate, and coming of age. But it does very well to treat each of these emotions with a very delicate narrative.
There is one event that creates a sense of surprise, urgency and shock in the middle of the story. The narrator’s perspective about this specific event changes over time, and also with knowledge of new facts. I was left wondering… how one action can be seen, years later, as either good or bad in light of consequences that were unknown at the time of event. You may have said something mean to a friend. It may have turned out to be inconsequential and a non-event. But if it leads your friend in to depression, is the very same action now worse? In other words, an act by itself is not good or bad… it’s consequences — unintended or intended — and the knowledge thereof make it so? Adrian Finn would’ve been much more eloquent about this.