But enough gushing. I need to talk about the story and characters.
What was Veronica's problem at the end, and why was she so angry? Why could she not just recognize Tony's ill-conceived letter as youthful, childish indiscretion? Sure it was nasty, but he was young and hurting and lashing out. She had no business *blaming* him for the course the next forty years of her life took, or for Adrian's suicide, or for her mother's cougar-ish pursuits. I kept waiting (hoping? expecting?) for Veronica to cut him some slack or, at the very least, spell out for him just what his 'crimes' were. But all she kept saying was 'You just don't get it, do you,' which was so blatantly passive-aggressive it made me want to scream. But alas, if all those tidy and convenient things had come to pass The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes would not have been such a fantastic read. For as much as I rail against the Veronicas of the literary world, I do love the conundrums and twisty endings that usually come with them. Indeed, in the deft hands of a gifted author it is the very reason I read and love books at all.
Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry, book-hungry, they would navigate their girl-less adolescence together, trading in affection, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life.
Now Tony is retired. He's had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He's certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises as a lawyer's letter is about to prove.
The Sense of an Ending is the story of one man coming to terms with the mutable past. Laced with Barnes's trademark precision, dexterity and insight, it is the work of one of the worlds most distinguished writers. (inside flap)
There was nothing to distract us from our human and filial duty which was to study, pass exams, use those qualifications to find a job, and then put together a way of life unthreateningly fuller than that of out parents, who would approve, while privately comparing it to their own lives, which had been simpler and therefore superior. pg8
This was hopeless. In a novel, Adrian wouldn't just have accepted things as they were put to him. What was the point of having a situation worthy of fiction if the protagonist didn't behave as he would have done in a book? Adrian should have gone snooping, or saved up his pocket money and employed a private detective; perhaps all four of us should have gone off on a Quest to Discover the Truth. Or would that have been less like literature and too much like a kids' story? pg16
History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation. pg17
I expect such recreational behaviour will strike later generations as quite unremarkable, both for nowadays and for back then: after all, wasn't 'back then' the Sixties? Yes it was, but as I said, it depended on where - and who - you were. If you'll excuse a brief history lesson: most people didn't experience the 'Sixties' until the Seventies. Which meant, logically, that most people in the Sixties were still experiencing the Fifties - or, in my case, bits of both decades side by side. pg40
Also, when you are young, you think you can predict the likely pains and bleakness that age might bring. You imagine yourself being lonely, divorced, widowed; children growing away from you, friends dying. You imagine the loss of status, the loss of desire - and desirability. You may go further and consider your own approaching death, which, despite what company you may muster, can only be faced alone. But all this is looking ahead. What you fail to do is look ahead, and then imagine yourself looking back from that future point. Learning the new emotions that time brings. Discovering, for example, that as the witnesses to your life diminish, there is less corroboration, and therefore less certainty, as to what you are or have been. Even if you have assiduously kept records - in words, sound, pictures - you may find that you have attended the wrong kind of record-keeping. pg59
When you are in your twenties, even if you're confused and uncertain about your aims and purposes, you have a strong sense of what life itself is, and of what you in life are, and might become. Later . . . later there is more uncertainty, more overlapping, more back-tracking, more false memories. Back then you can remember your short life in its entirety. Later, the memory becomes a thing of shreds and patches. pg104
I thought I could overcome contempt and turn remorse back into guilt, then be forgiven. I had been tempted, somehow, by the notion that we could excise most of our separate existences, could cut and splice the magnetic tape on which out lives are recorded, go back to that fork in the path and take the road less travelled, or rather not travelled at all. pg131