Tuesday, May 28, 2013


When The Unreliable Made More Sense

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is a novella written by Julian Barnes that explores the inconsistencies of memory, and how these inconsistencies define us.  The book was published in 2011 and won the Man Booker Prize that same year. From the very first page, the reader will realize that the book is riddled with philosophical verses.  And despite its thinness, it will not be a quick read; neither mere pondering will suffice to understand those verses. Yet, Julian Barnes possesses the ability to wield words that will keep the reader’s curiosity.

I did not hate Tony Webster instantly, but I did eventually.  I hate his pretentious intellect to please Adrian; his passivity with his relationship with Veronica; his inadequacies as husband and father; and his perpetual claim of innocence.  But I guess that was how the book worked for me.  I believe that it was Barnes’ intention for us to perceive Tony this way.  I believe that understanding the Sense of an Ending lies in Barnes’ choosing of an unreliable narrator.

“That’s one of the central problems of history, isn't it, sir? The question of subjective versus objective interpretation, the fact that we need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us.”

If I understand it correctly, Barnes wanted the readers to realize that our memories define us.  In a sense, we shape our own history by intentionally forgetting the bad memories, then altering it with false but good ones.  Who else will contest such altercation, if our perception of the truth is what we lived by, our very being?  Over time, the truth becomes but a shadow.  And so eventually, doubting our memories of the past is valid. 

“But we also learn something else: that the brain doesn’t like being typecast. Just when you think everything is a matter of decrease, of subtraction and division, your brain, your memory, may surprise you. As if it’s saying: Don’t imagine you can rely on some comforting process of gradual decline – life’s much more complicated than that. And so the brain will throw you scraps from time to time, even disengage those familiar memory-loops.”

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is not a book of answers, but of questions.  The moment I hit the last page, I went back to the first page, then scanned my way through again, desperately looking for the answers to my unanswered questions.  I must admit that I was highly intrigued by the twist at the ending, something that created “a sense of an ending” for the story, but it did not satisfy my curiosity.  No doubt, that the perplexity of this book is its charm.

Book Details:
Title: The Sense of an Ending
Author: Julian Barnes
Publisher: Vintage
Genre: Fiction 

Buddy readers indulged in each other's curiosity.
April 12, 2013, Alabang Town Center


  1. "...Barnes wanted the readers to realize that our memories define us."

    One of my favorite lines from Mitchell's number9dream is, "All we are is our dreams." There's truth in that, yes? :)

    1. Yes, there is!
      Oooh number9dream, I have a date with that book that I have yet to claim. :)