“The Sense of an Ending”

by davidbjensen

Barnes, Julian.  The Sense of an Ending.  New York:  Aflred A. Knopf.  2011.

The Sense of an Ending

The opening passage for this novel goes like this:

I remember, in no particular order:

     –a shiny inner wrist;

     –steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it;

     –gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house;

     –a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams;

     –another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface;

     –bathwater long gone cold behind the locked door.

This isn’t something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.

Intrigued from the get-go, I delved deeply into this provocative work by author Julian Barnes.  This novel recounts the story of a man’s life, as he is forced to recollect his past in order to make sense of an unexpected and mysterious turn of events in his present.  To say much more would give it away.  Unmistakably British in tone, his sentences are very sharp and pointed.  He breaks the rules of grammar with sentence fragments and indulges in conjured-up misspellings.  Sometimes one paragraph will convey what occurred over a period months, while at others it takes numerous pages to depict what took place in just a few minutes.  As the reader is drawn into the story, the mystery behind what it all adds up to only gets deeper. Not until the last couple of pages does it all coalesce.  At which point, upon returning to the opening passage, everything makes sense.

At 163 pages, this is the type of book that deserves to be read in a single sitting.  Under a blanket. On a cold, grey day.  Over tea.  Remarkable read!

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