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Past Reads > The Sense of an Ending, Part 2.

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message 1: by Jay (new)

Jay | 37 comments Please discuss Part 2 of The Sense of an Ending, Here.


message 2: by Nicqui (new)

Nicqui | 45 comments So, I've finished the book. I don't remember where Part 1 ended so to avoid spoilers I'll just comment here.

From reading this book, I get the impression that somehow Tony is supposed to be the villain of the piece and that he should feel guilt for the letter he wrote. But I just don't get it. I don't mind Tony at all. I understand his passive approach to life. I don't see it as a bad thing. I don't quite understand what Veronica expected from him (whether in the past or their later present), especial when she wasn't very vocal. She just expected him to know.

I really wish I knew what was in that journal, though.


message 3: by Irene (last edited Nov 09, 2014 01:29PM) (new)

Irene | 526 comments I just read this book for the second time. It blew me out of the water the first time I read it and I knew I would need to read it more than once.

I loved the wayit explored various themes, as well as the engaging way it was written.


message 4: by Irene (new)

Irene | 526 comments Nicqui wrote: "So, I've finished the book. I don't remember where Part 1 ended so to avoid spoilers I'll just comment here.

From reading this book, I get the impression that somehow Tony is supposed to be the vi..."


I do not think that Tony was a villan. I think this was more about the conclusions we falsely draw, about the way many little individual actions can lead to a grand shift in history, no one person being fully responsible, yet each being responsible in their own way. I think that the various observations of the young men in the first section become the interpretative lense of the personal histories in the second part.

What that journal would have revealed was that Adrian had a sexual relationship with Veronica's mother. Like Adrian's answer to the question of the cause of the First World War, each player in the story could have easily claimed innocense and blamed another. Yet, each played their little part, were that link in the chain which is the idea Adrian is playing with in the page of the journal Tony does see.

We rarely fully understand the ripple effects of our actions. That is much more so when our actions are done in anger. Tony did not even remember the tone of his letter accurately. So, he unwittingly pushed Adrian into the arms of Veronica's mother. Had Tony been less insecure, he might have handled is break-up with Veronica differently. Had he been less worshipful of Adrian, he would have written a very different letter. Had he been less naive, less easy to draw arrogant conclusions, he might have assessed Veronica's family more accurately. Certainly, Tony is not to blame for Adrian and Veronica's mother. Many things played into that. Adrian's abandonment by his mother at a young age, Veronica's drunken father, unknown forces in the background of Veronica's mother all played their part. And, ultimately Adrian is responsible for his own suicide. Yet, there are never easy explanations such as Adrian is just too clever.

I loved the way this book played with the idea of memory formation and clarification by time and life circumstances. For 40 years Tony had clung to the easy and dismissive conclusion that Veronica was a fruit cake. And, as long as we can keep such facile explanations in a tin with the face of the Queen on it, all can be well. But maturation and character formation happens when we have the courage to open that tin and face the fact that what we stuffed in there is so much more complicated than a fruit cake.

Tony wonders if character, like intellegence, forms and solidifies at some point in life, maybe the mid 20s. I think this novel argues against that, or at least opens the possibility that character can continue to form if we have the intestinal fortitude to be honestabout our own history and the person we are.


message 5: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Burton (goneabroad71) | 12 comments I know I will need to -- want to -- reread this book several times over the next couple of years, and that I will see and absorb a little more each time. Why did Veronica's mother warn Tony against her? Why would Adrian have actually taken Tony's bitter advice to ask Veronica's mother about her? (Can you imagine going to the mother of your girl/boyfriend and asking for the dirt?) And so many other questions. I love what this book says about the unreliability and subjectivity of memory. My favorite quote:
"I think -- I theorise -- that something -- something else -- happens to the memory over time. For years you survive with the same loops, the same facts and the same emotions -- resentment, a sense of injustice, relief -- and vice versa. There seems no way of accessing anything else; the case is closed. Which is why you seek corroboration, even if it turns out to be contradiction. But what if, even at a late stage, your emotions relating to those long-ago events and people change?...I felt a new sympathy for them -- and her. Then, not long afterwards, I began remembering forgotten things. I don't know if there's a scientific explanation for this -- to do with new effective states reopening blocked-off neural pathways."

That just sums up so much of the book.


message 6: by Nicqui (new)

Nicqui | 45 comments Irene wrote: "Nicqui wrote: "So, I've finished the book. I don't remember where Part 1 ended so to avoid spoilers I'll just comment here.

From reading this book, I get the impression that somehow Tony is suppos..."



I was hoping more that the journal would tell us more about why Adrian had the relationship with the mother and not so much the fact that they did. I was always curious about the reason why the mother warned Tony away from Veronica.

I really liked that the retrospect aspect of this story leaves so many questions unanswered. It prompts the reader to keep dwelling on different aspects of the book.

For me, it's the little things like why none of the friends bothered to ask questions about Adrian's home life. It seems they all hero-worshipped him but never bothered to get to know him.

It's definitely a book I would read again, although I know rereads will only prompt more questions than answers.


message 7: by Mary (new)

Mary (maryingilbert) | 67 comments Finished the book and immediately started re-reading it (which is something I never do). Found the book fascinating and somewhat frustrating, as I struggled to find out what really happened. I think it was Barnes' intent to leave the reader guessing, because we relied on Tony's flawed recollection of events 40 years prior.

I think the book was expertly crafted. Loved the prose, the metaphors. Although the novel was short and could be quickly read, it was not an "easy" read -- given that many themes were explored.

I found Irene's comments to be very insightful and a great summation of the major theme of the novel: " I loved the way this book played with the idea of memory formation and clarification by time and life circumstances. For 40 years Tony had clung to the easy and dismissive conclusion that Veronica was a fruit cake. And, as long as we can keep such facile explanations in a tin with the face of the Queen on it, all can be well. But maturation and character formation happens when we have the courage to open that tin and face the fact that what we stuffed in there is so much more complicated than a fruit cake. "


message 8: by Irene (new)

Irene | 526 comments I loved the image of the river doubling back on itself as a metaphor of this forced re-evaluation of that time in Tony's life.

As for why Veronica's mother warned Tony off of Veronica, I got the impression that the mother was stealing Veronica's boy-friends. I thought it explained the string of boy-friends in Veronica's life, the gesture she made as he left that first weekend, Veronica's passionate kiss and the way she erotically lead him to his room the night Tony was at her house


message 9: by Nicqui (new)

Nicqui | 45 comments Reading it initially, I never got the impression that the Mom was making a pass at Tony. It wasn't any sort of overt flirtation. It just looked to me like the Mother was sort of apologizing for the way her family were treating him.

Even in her warning him off felt more like she was telling him to save his time because her daughter isn't serious about him. I never got that impression at all.


message 10: by Irene (new)

Irene | 526 comments I could be totally wrong and the mother was not coming on to Tony.


message 11: by Nicqui (new)

Nicqui | 45 comments Perhaps. But this is, I suppose, what Barnes intended with this story, to have us talking and questioning every little detail in retrospect. Having our memory of the events we read take on a whole new meaning in the face of the events revealed in the end of the book.

I'm still annoyed, though, by Veronica's treatment of Tony when she was meeting with him all those times. She behaved as if it was his fault any of this happened despite the fact that she chose to date Adrian and Adrian chose to get romantic with her mother. From the moment she became romantic with Adrian, everything became their fault and their responsibility regardless of how many angry letters Tony wrote. They were all consenting adults.


message 12: by Irene (new)

Irene | 526 comments Again, I could be totally misreading this, but I did not think Veronica was angry with Tony because Adrian was the father of her brother. Although, I suspect that there was lots of anger and shame in realizing that your boyfriend prefers your mother as a sexual partner. I thought she was angry with Tony for his failure to correctly understand her and her circumstances. I think she felt Tony's judgmentbased on false conclusions, on false assumptions he brought from his up bringing. We all want to be understood and Tony couldn't or wouldn't understand her. I thought the lunch with Tony and Veronica was telling. She lets him start sharing about his lie and lunch is over before he has heard anything about her life. From his perspective, she is secretive, withholding, unwilling to reveal any personal info. But, I got the impression that Veronica might have interperted that lunch differently; Tony never shuts up long enough to hear her story, does not insist on her story coming out, is too self-absorbed to truly care about her.


message 13: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Burton (goneabroad71) | 12 comments So I read a thread in another discussion group that provides an alternate interpretation of the story -- one which I don't agree with, but find intriguing. The theory was that Tony is a completely unreliable narrator and has repressed much that he doesn't tell us but vaguely hints at. The poster suggested that Tony, not Adrian, was actually the father of the child. His theory is that Tony started an affair with her when he visited, and that the scene when he and Veronica have sex after they've broken up is actually Tony and the mom (Sarah) having sex (!) but that Tony has repressed and altered that memory. To give the theory its due, Veronica's anger toward Tony makes a lot more sense in this context. But somehow I don't buy it. So I'm just throwing it out there as food for thought!


message 14: by Nicqui (new)

Nicqui | 45 comments Irene wrote: "Again, I could be totally misreading this, but I did not think Veronica was angry with Tony because Adrian was the father of her brother. Although, I suspect that there was lots of anger and shame..."

I can see what you mean from the lunch they shared in him being self-absorbed but I think it might be a reaction to how he usually related to her from when they were younger and he would try to get her to open up and she wouldn't. I got the impression that she expected him to read her mind in various circumstances then got mad when he read it wrong. Granted, this goes back to, again, the fact that we are viewing this whole thing through his memory and we've already established that memory is faulty in recalling accurately the events that took place.


message 15: by Nicqui (new)

Nicqui | 45 comments Michelle wrote: "So I read a thread in another discussion group that provides an alternate interpretation of the story -- one which I don't agree with, but find intriguing. The theory was that Tony is a completely..."


I like the idea of this theory just on the basis that it provides a reason for Veronica being so harsh towards Tony when they reconnect. I just found her reaction to him from the very beginning to be very aggressive. It's as if he did her a great wrong that she has not been able to forgive, when based on the story it should be he, if anyone, who should feel that way.

Other than that one point that whole theory sounds ridiculous.


message 16: by Irene (new)

Irene | 526 comments And, I am not sure how Adrian's suicide fits into that alternate theory.


message 17: by Nicqui (new)

Nicqui | 45 comments Irene wrote: "And, I am not sure how Adrian's suicide fits into that alternate theory."

Yeah, the alternate theory only provides reason for the anger and nothing more.


message 18: by Ashley (new)

Ashley I also found Veronica to be a very aggressive and unlikable character. But I guess that is also based on Tony's perception of her. I also didn't find Tony's letter to be all that bad. He was an angry young person who felt betrayed by his ex and friend. I think it was one of those reactions in the moment felt right but later you may regret it.

I like how after finishing the book I still have so many questions. I love that it leaves room for interpretation and alternate theories.


message 19: by Nicqui (new)

Nicqui | 45 comments Ashley, that is exactly how I feel too. I feel like Tony was justified in his angry letter, especially since they wrote him first, and together at that, to add insult to the injury. I don't think it was too harsh, I just think it was unfortunate that the details of the letter mirrored the facts so perfectly.

Vanessa seemed really aggressive. Almost as if she blamed the outcome of her life on Tony rather than the actions of the people around her.


message 20: by Irene (new)

Irene | 526 comments I did not think too much about whether or not the letter was justified or too angry in tone. What struck me was the complete contrast between the actual letter and his memory of the letter. When he recounts the story, he tells us, with complete confidence, of a blan response. He just tells them to have a good life, even though he does remember that he was hurt by what felt like a betrayal. In actuality, his letter conveys his anger and is insulting in tone. I don't think this novel is primarily about some college kids that have a fling for a while before taking new partners, about a college guy who gets his girlfriend's mother pregnant before committing suicide. I think this is primarily about the falibility of memory, the flawed perceptions that we never think to question. I think Veronica is a secondary character; memory and time are primary characters.


message 21: by Janine (last edited Apr 07, 2015 03:55PM) (new)

Janine | 100 comments Mod
I found this book fascinating. I agree with all the comments that it is intriguing on many levels and leaves much unanswered. I also think that the fallibility of memory is central to the story. Tony creates narratives of events and circumstances in the past that fit in with the story of his life and the people in his life at any given time. Revising the narrative to fit with changes in life and changes in who is in our life is probably something we all do and Barnes has captured this so effectively throughout the book as we view the events through Tony's narrative.

The mystery of what happened, the role of Tony, Adrian, Veronica and her mother is interesting. But I was particularly drawn into Tony's narrative and his perspective, his self-absorption and his paranoia. His need to present himself in ways that other's find acceptable, to appeal to the 'tastes' of others, and the need to prove his worth were all fascinating to me. His consciousness of distorted memories was curious. And the focus on class was a key theme and how it affects our sense of who we are and how others perceive us... and then how people might feel they need to behave in specific circumstances.

I have no idea how Veronica could think Tony would know about what had happened... She refused to give him the diary and she provided fragments of information and expected him to guess. I'm not sure what her motive or her expectations were based on. And I agree, I don't think Tony was meant to be portrayed as a villian. That was his own thinking, his own self-perception as he reflected on actions 40 years previously.


message 22: by Irene (new)

Irene | 526 comments And, with such an unreliable narrator, we, the reader, can never be sure if Veronica did provide more information that he has forgotten or discounted and surpressed because it did not fit into his self-story, his understanding of the way reality should be.


message 23: by Janine (last edited Nov 22, 2014 10:36PM) (new)

Janine | 100 comments Mod
Irene wrote: "And, with such an unreliable narrator, we, the reader, can never be sure if Veronica did provide more information that he has forgotten or discounted and surpressed because it did not fit into his ..."

Indeed - I agree completely... So interesting. I think self-deception is also part of Tony's narration and recollections. I suspect I'll be tempted to re-read this one too!


message 24: by Angus (last edited Apr 07, 2015 04:54AM) (new)

Angus (angusmiranda) I've read this book twice (for two different reading groups). I would like to copy-paste my insights based on the questions from the first reading group.

(view spoiler)


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