I keep forgetting how much I admire the writing style of Julian Barnes, but as soon as I start one of his books it all comes back; how enjoyable they are to read.
It was thus I began this latest of his novels, The Sense of an Ending yesterday; a few pages into the novel, I recognised its quality and relished the thought that there were many more pages to go.
Not that many, actually, as it is a short novel of 150 pages. A lot is packed into those 150 pages, as the narrator Anthony Webster, a 60 something divorcee, recalls certain events in his life, after receiving an odd legacy from the mother of one of his old girlfriends.
The predominant theme of the novel is memory – its trustworthiness or rather its fallibility and how liable a person is for the actions of their life in relation to other people. Theories of history also play a part in the novel, in terms of truth and reliable reportage of facts.
Despite the novel being written from a male point of view I found myself identifying with it, being at that 60 something age myself. However, in my case, I smugly thought, I have a record I can refer to in my diaries, which I kept for 20 years or so.
I mean to reread them at some stage, not to vicariously relive my youth, but to clarify my memory of times past. It could be very embarrassing, reading one’s callow youthful thoughts, but then again it might be enlightening and finally force me to decide whether to retain them for future generations or destroy them.
Sorry to get off the track, but perhaps the protagonist of Barnes’ novel would have benefitted from keeping a journal.
Be that as it may, of all the Booker long list novels I have so far read, The Sense of an Ending strikes me as a likely winner of the prize. It has a maturity and quality quite lacking in the others, which were entertaining and well written, but hardly prize winners.