Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

This is a story about the accuracy of our memories. Tony Webster is a middle aged man looking back over his life. It has been a fairly average life, he has had a reasonably successful career, he is amicably divorced, his relationship his daughter isn't perhaps as close as he would like, but they get along ok.

Then something unexpected happens in this ordinary life. He receives a bequest from the mother of a former girlfriend. It it this which prompts his reminiscences. The girlfriend was Veronica, who he met at university. He met her mother only once, when he spent an awkward weekend at their home. Tony and Veronica were together for about a year, they split, and Veronica started going out with Tony's friend Adrian. Adrian was an important figure in Tony's childhood and youth. Clever and self-confident, Adrian was hero-worshipped by Tony.

Tony believes that he has the events of that time accurately archived in his memory. But the bequest from Veronica's mother, who he barely knew, is a puzzle. As he investigates further he is forced to accept that his memories are not as accurate as he had thought.

This is a thought provoking book. It made me wonder about the accuracy of my memories, and whether events that appeared one way to me, might appear a completely different way to someone else. I have to admit that I was as puzzled as Tony, and by the end I was probably more puzzled than Tony. I didn't quite get it, and I think I'd like to read it again just to see if I could get it straight.


  1. Gosh, I just read about this:

    and here someone mentions reading the book again!

    I think it sounds fascinating, and I thank you for your fine review.

  2. Nan, clearly something somewhere is telling you to read this book! It was thought provoking, though as I said in the review, I think some of it went over my head!