Cate's Reviews > The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
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Jun 02, 12

Read in May, 2012

Exquisitely written and carefully observed, but I'm still puzzled by what happened. Still not sure how the book holds together.

Tony Webster is a 60-ish man living a semi-failed life. He has one grown daughter he doesn't really see often, he is still friendly with his ex-wife, but he doesn't really have much except his own constructed sense of self. The reader quickly comes to the conclusion that Tony is an unreliable narrator, both due to the mutable nature of memory, and due to Tony's own character flaws. But how unreliable is he, exactly?

He is suddenly confronted with his own past when he receives an unexpected legacy from the mother of his first girlfriend, a woman he met once during an awkward weekend when Veronica took him to her home to meet the family. That was over forty years ago, and there is no obvious reason why she should have left him this money. She also left him a diary kept by his school chum Adrian, who was dating Veronica when he committed suicide as a college student.

Tony doesn't actually get the diary because Veronica has it and won't give it up. He undertakes a campaign to get it from her, and his actions reveal him to be an increasingly self-absorbed and unattractive character. By the end, I shared Veronica's disgust with him, even if I didn't quite understand the specifics.

There is a double twist ending in which Tony comes to his own conclusions about why Adrian killed himself so many years ago--but I'm not sure that Tony is right about that. Which would constitute a triple twist ending perhaps?
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