by Stephen Tall on October 28, 2013
The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
We all know a Tony and an Adrian: the former an intelligent, decent guy who’s made an ordinary, comfortable life for himself; the latter a brilliant, erratic guy who will either explode as success or implode in failure. Throw into the mix a spiky university girlfriend who dates Tony but falls for Adrian and you have the backdrop to a novella that examines life and loss and how we deal with both. But, crucially it does so through the lens of a trusty narrator whose memories we can’t necessarily trust; not because he sets out to deceive but because none of us are reliable witnesses to our own lives, let alone the lives of others. The final reveal is devastating not because it’s unpredictable, but because it upends all assumptions that have gone before about what Tony understood and therefore gave us to understand.