The Sense of an Ending The Sense of an Ending question

What do people think of the ending? (SPOILER ALERT)
Shampa Shampa Oct 03, 2011 09:29PM
I found it a bit contrived myself and wasn't sure who the "s" in the equation was. Was it v's mum? Can anyone confirm?

History, as narrator Tony Webster reminds us, consists not only of “the lies of the victors,” but also of “the self-delusions of the defeated.” Tony is one of the defeated, and The Sense of an Ending is a record of his self-delusions. It is a personal history, and like all histories, it is a “certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.” Tony’s memory proves to be more imperfect than most, and the reader must assume that Tony’s version of events is not to be trusted.

At the book’s ending, Tony reaches the shocking conclusion that Adrian, the disabled man that he meets at the pub, is the son of Adrian, Tony’s suicidal friend of forty years earlier, and Veronica’s mother, Sarah. But as Veronica reminds us many times, in relation to Adrian, Tony just doesn’t get it, and he never will. Keeping this and Tony’s general unreliability as a narrator in mind, the reader must reject Tony’s conclusion. Tony’s sense of the ending is false. Rather, the reader must reach the even more shocking conclusion that Tony himself is Adrian’s father.

Tony had numerous sexual encounters with Sarah, but has repressed his memories of those encounters through the ensuing decades. The first encounter took place during Tony’s weekend visit with Veronica’s family in Chislehurst. When Tony awoke on the first morning of his visit, only Mrs. Ford (Sarah) is in the house with him. Tony recalls that Veronica had told the rest of the family that Tony wanted to have a “lie-in,” so they left the house for a walk without him. Of course, since Tony was apparently asleep at the time, he could not have known whether the family walk truly was Veronica’s idea or actually Sarah’s. Sarah’s mysterious “horizontal gesture at waist level” in response to Tony’s goodbye wave at the end of the visit indicates to the reader that something unusual has taken place between them. However Tony has no recollection of their encounter.

Tony tells us that Veronica is unwilling to have “full sex” with him, but rather limits their physical intimacy to what he refers to as “infra-sex.” Shortly after they break up, however, he recalls bumping into Veronica at a pub, going back to her room, and sleeping with her. He is surprised that Veronica, whom he’d thought to be a virgin, is skilled at rolling a condom onto him. Tony of course recalls this as an encounter with Veronica because he can not bring himself to accept that it was actually an encounter with Veronica’s mother. His partner’s behaviors, however, are entirely out of character for Veronica, providing the reader with the clue that his partner was in fact a more experienced woman, and not Veronica at all.

Forty years later, as we learn in Part 2, new memories begin to emerge in Tony’s mind of other episodes with Veronica that he has forgotten for decades. One of these memories is of Veronica, who never danced, appearing in his room and dancing with him to 45s played on his record player. He also revisits a memory he described earlier of witnessing the reversal of the Thames with a group of friends in the middle of the night. He suddenly recalls that Veronica was there as well, and that when the rest of the group ran off with torches (flashlights) to watch the reversal, he stayed behind on a blanket with Veronica. And finally, he recalls new details of his weekend visit with the Ford family. He remembers that Veronica walked him to his room on the second night of his visit, leaned him against the door, kissed him on the mouth, and whispered into his ear, “Sleep the sleep of the wicked.”

Each of these memories remains partially repressed, the details hazy and confused. It’s apparent to the reader that Tony recalls each of these incidents as involving Veronica because he can not bear to believe the monstrous truth that he had an ongoing sexual relationship with Veronica’s mother. But an affair between Tony and Sarah is the only plausible explanation for Sarah’s leaving 500 pounds and two documents (one of them Adrian’s diary) to Tony in her will. Without the affair, Tony was simply a daughter’s ex-boyfriend who visited for a weekend forty years ago. Hardly a relationship that would be remembered in one’s last will and testament.

The elder Adrian was also seduced by Sarah. Adrian learned of Sarah’s relationship with Tony, and when Sarah became pregnant, Adrian did not know whether he or Tony was the father of Sarah’s unborn child. The two equations in paragraph 5.6 of Adrian’s diary represent Adrian’s speculations as to the child’s paternity. In one equation, the father appears to be A1 (Adrian); in the other, he appears to be A2 (Anthony/Tony). The ending of the partial sentence from Adrian’s diary, “So for instance, if Tony…” is “…is the father of Sarah’s child.” The possibility that is was actually Adrian himself who fathered Sarah’s child, and his shame regarding their relationship, lead to his suicide.

Tony, unlike Adrian, coped with the shame and pain of his affair through the mechanisms of repressed memory and transference, replacing Sarah in his partially repressed memories with Veronica. Or perhaps this entire theory is bunk. After all, I just finished reading this book an hour ago, it’s now 11:30 pm, and I didn’t get enough sleep last night. Perhaps my own memory and thinking are as imprecise and unreliable as Tony’s.

Completely disagree with the ending involving a second affair that completely changes the meaning and isn't even hinted at throughout, or by Tony and Veronica's reactions at the end. It's just not Barnes' style or in the spirit of the rest of the book.

Tony isn't delusional enough to have erased an entire hugely significant affair from his memory. Throughout the book, he's a sane, thoughtful, intelligent narrator. However, as he continually reminds us, memories are unreliable (as they are for all of us) -- not in the sense that he's completely made up or repressed pivotal events in his life, but that they get blurred and smoothed over and reinterpreted over time. For example, the letter he sent to Adrian and Veronica. He's right about most of the major points that were in it, but totally shocked at how malicious it is when confronted with all the details he has conveniently forgotten 40 years later.

Veronica telling him he 'just doesn't get it' in response to his apology and conclusion about it being her child doesn't make any sense if he was the father. She wouldn't be dealing with him cautiously, ignoring him in the car when he's babbling on about the man she showed him, and finally just hopelessly frustrated at his cluelessness -- she would be violently mad as he is clearly insane and had sex with her mom and is now a deadbeat father and is now somehow in denial about the whole thing. Same with Sarah's letter to him upon her death. That is not a letter you send to someone with whom you had an affair and secretly fathered a child with. It's too innocent and vaguely apologetic and just doesn't make sense.

The novel is a classic Barnes postmodern take on absolute truth and memory -- he loves to show how questionable any individual's interpretation of even major events and relationships can be, and shock the reader by getting you drawn into accepting their version, and then showing you another. In Love, etc., he showed both sides directly in the text. Here we get the key to another way of interpreting events at the end, and realize along with Tony that the tale we have been told, and which he has come to tell himself, involves some serious and shocking misconceptions:

-- Adrian didn't kill himself in some high-minded intellectual gesture (as he tried to pass it off as, and succeeded, with Tony). He got stuck in a shameful pregnancy situation just like the schoolboy they mocked, just even more base and sordid.

-- Tony had an indirect role in this happening as he passed along his misconception that Sarah was a confidant to Veronica's closed-off nature, and not the cause of it. He was also shockingly mean in his last communication with Adrian and Veronica for no particular reason since he dumped Veronica.

-- Veronica's mom didn't thankfully warn him away from Veronica in time. She was flirting with him and undermining her daughter's relationship, as she did successfully during Veronica's next relationship with Adrian.

From this last bit, I'm surprised people are confused about why Sarah left him the diary. Sure she doesn't have a well-meaning reason -- It's because she is a manipulative person who has a vindictive relationship with her daughter. She knows Veronica has painful memories of the end of her relationship with Tony and shame over what happened with Adrian, and this will bring rub them in her face from beyond the grave. Sure enough, Tony ends pestering her for details and then unknowingly torturing her with questions like "was I in love with you back then?"

It's also quite possible Sarah never had the diary in the first place. Even if they were having an affair, he came to regret it -- why would he leave her his diary? The only indication it was hers to give is based on some assumptions about a piece of tape. The lawyer never saw it. Quite possibly she knew Veronica had taken or kept it as she was unable to get rid of it despite the pain involved (as she did with the final letter from Tony) and this is a pretty diabolical way of invoking Tony's curiosity and making him think he has a right to pester her for it, when she is deeply ashamed of the contents. In this case, the $500 is just bait to get him interested and to make the 'bequeathment' plausible. "Blood Money" seems like Veronica is suggesting it was out of guilt for her role in Adrian's death, but it could be both. Sarah offers up the indeed odd-sounding excuse that he was happy with her up to the point he was miserable enough to kill himself, but doesn't sound particularly guilt-ridden. She also says she's not completely sure of her motives herself.

Also, I think part of the pain of the ending is that even in the past Sarah had a manipulative effect on Tony as well. After that one brief meeting he was interested in her (found her dashing, and wished he'd talked to her more, etc, etc) and took at face value that there was something sinister about Veronica, which comes to be way he comes to interpret his relationship with her from there on. After all his proclaimed sexual frustration, when Veronica begins to trust him and lets him start touching her sexually, he sees it as a move resulting in him ending up with a 'worse trade-off'. When she asks him about their relationship now that it's getting more physical, he sees it as some sort of imposition that now he's supposed to feel closer to her and won't even say if he thinks they're suited for each other, let alone admit any emotion.

So then they break up (or well...he "thinks" they're over and has eyes for another girl) and Veronica has sex with him, clearly trying to win him back by giving him what he's been making it clear to us the reader was hugely important and missing from their relationship. But, nope -- he really is just interested in a woman who says no and dumps her hard the next day. She's highly upset at him having sex with her if he knew he didn't want her any more, and calls it "basically rape" as it was under false pretences when she's finally giving him what he wants so badly. He responds that NOW he's thought about their relationship, and it's not going anywhere. And yet he's the poor sap? What in the world?

This whole sequence is somehow framed as her being manipulative and stringing him along, instead of him being emotionally unavailable, fixated on sex, and then a jerk once he gets it from her. Then after Tony has dumped her, Veronica asking Adrian to do the respectful thing and write him about their relationship is some kind of "tactic". Where is all this paranoia about her motives coming from? Veronica is a bit of a cold fish (understandably), but what did she do that was so terrible? Tony just fell for her mother poisoning the well and built up a narrative around it. He finally figures out the truth and is haunted by feelings of regret and responsibility for all the pain he inadvertently caused her out of his actions based on these misconceptions, and the role he played in setting off the events that lead to his friend's death with a bitter letter that turned out to be half right about Veronica having experienced 'damage' but was all wrong about who was responsible and ended up driving Adrian right into her arms, with tragic results.

There's no need for some other shocker we're not even told about in direct terms. That HURTS.

Adrian was real, how do you explain the photo of all of them together, with Veronica slightly turned toward Adrian.
It was on that day that Tony started to feel jealous or admit to himself that he was jealous of both of them.
He was always jealous of Adrian and had put him on a pedestal, Adrian was everything that Tony wasn't, he was everything that Tony aspired to be.
That's why he let Veronica go, he felt he was no competition, and that's why Veronica got upset with him.
There are few theories out there, one of them is that Tony did have some kind of sexual encounter with Sarah (Mrs Ford, or The Mother).
That could explain the horizontal wave at the end of the weekend (some say that was a joke on her part on the "wanking"). As when and how this happened
we are left in the dark. It could have been in his bedroom, soon after Veronica kissed and teased him, the mother could have gone after her and caught him
masturbating over the sink. She could have spent the night with Tony (after all her husband was a drunk) and that explain that the rest of the family went out for a walk
the next morning and left him behind. I feel that this is a clue, why would it otherwise feature in the opening?
Years later Veronica, when she talks about her mother, she says that Sarah over the years took in young lodgers, even
though she didn't need the money. This could be because she liked toy boys.
By writing the poisonous letter, Tony somehow gave Adrian the idea to speak to Veronica's mother.
We can't blame Tony for Adrian and Sarah bedding each other, this could have happened eventually.
Why did Sarah left the money to Tony? To thank him for bring Adrian to her life or for letting him know after her death of Adrian Jr's existence?
But why would Veronica be so upset with Tony after all these years, did she just found out about Tony's involvement with her mother, after reading the diary?
But just shouting repeatedly "You just don't get it, you never did and you never will" doesn't clarify anything for us and doesn't help Tony remember or understand anything either.
What doesn't he get? That she was abused (or damaged as Tony put it in that letter), was she angry with him for being so self-absorbed and never asking her. And with her father, mother and Adrian dead she had no one else to blame but Tony. Still doesn't make sense, it was forty years ago, unless she's unhinged. We don't know much about her, what happened with her studies, what did she achieve in her life, was she married, did she have any children? All these are left blank, for Tony and us to fill in. But Tony is so self -absorbed he doesn't ask and that what's so frustrating. All he's interested in, is how to get one over Veronica, "treating her like the insurance people", pestering her with emails and small talk in the car while she's driving.
I found this part of the book unrealistic and hard to believe. But few days after I finished the book, I have been thinking a lot about the plot. Yes it's not realistic, but we mustn't forget that this is Tony telling the story, and after all he hasn't proved himself to be a reliable narrator, not only forgetting parts of the history but twisting and telling them from his point of view. He is not interested in other people's feelings, drama, lives...afterall he's Tony the pacifist, Tony who goes for the easy and uncomplicated life.
There is a brief mentioning of two suicides again, but this time Tony somehow manages to bring Adrian back down from the pedestal. However different the circumstances, Adrian's suicide, his way of dealing with the obstacles in life, was pretty much the same as Robert's, very coward and "unsophisticated". This is the only time that I felt Tony somehow "grew" (matured). Is this the start of the new Tony, the end of the old one?
I really don't know, the more I think about the book, the more I think I start to understand, the more questions I get.
If you take all the philosophical meanings, loose ends, there is not much of a plot or not much that hasn't been told in other books.
But somehow this book got under my skin and had me thinking and searching the internet days after I finished. I'm not at peace, I need answers!
I do realise now why this book won the Man Booker Prize.
Let's hope Mr Barnes will one day put an end to our miseries and ties up the loose ends.
But somehow I don't think this is going to happen anytime soon....

Literally just finished this book - still trying to work out if I enjoyed it or not. The vagueness in the second half of the book was fairly annoying - yes I realise that was the point - how memories are imperfect accounts of what happened, but it would have been nice to have some loose ends tied up.

So assuming that Adrian had an affair with Sarah and got her pregnant, then killed himself, there are some unanswered questions:
1) Why did Sarah leave him £500?
2) What was that wave gesture about?
3) Why was Veronica so angry at Tony?
4) Was there a relevance to St Michaels that was mentioned by V's father but which never existed?
5) The way they slept together and then argued was odd - is that meant to be an imperfect memory of whether they slept together then broke up, or broke up then slept together?

And finally, was the letter Tony wrote, really so bad? A lot of the later plot hinges on this letter, but was it justified?

As has been said, this book started on a high and then just got unecessarily complicated. Its pretty clear Veronica's mother (Sarah) slept with Adrian and they had a son. Following from that,
1. There seems to be no good reason why that son knows his sister as Mary rather than Veronica
2. There is no clear reason why Sarah would leave the diary and the 500 pounds to Tony.
3. There is no clear reason why Veronica would act like a juvenile imbecile in the end: driving Tony around London, taking the time to meet up with him, showing him the son, and yet reiterating 'you just don't get it' to him all the time. I don't know about tony, but I am the one who doesn't get it, why she has to do that.
The ending detrsacts from the book. In a sense, Tony, the narrator, has no real reason to BE in the ending: he is not really connected to any of hese people and events anymore (and hasn't been for 40 years). Barnes could have tweaked it a bit so the ending made more sense: for example, made the son Tony's and Veronica's, or Tony's and Sarah's: I don't know, anything really to make Tony fit into the ending.

He'll do, won't he? Well, no he won't because he just doesn't get it and never will. Poor Veronica, grew up in a competitive family--intellectually competitive, but even worse, sexually competitive. Eros and Thanatos are not just Greekisms but Freudianisms as well (and Freud was a dominant intellectual theme in the time of Tony's childhood.) Veronica isn't just the Oedipal loser (her mother beat her out for her father's love) but he mother just won't stop competing. She also wants all Veronica's boy friends. Who WILL do for Veronica?

Far from warning Tony away from her daughter, she is flirting with him--competing for him. Her special wave goodbye is a token of their special secret relationship. No--I don't believe Matt's these of them actually having an affair. But they had their moments of connection in which Sarah made it clear that Tony deserves more than he's getting. There was a steaminess in this relationship (hot pan under the cold water) and a promise of the better egg of the two.

What's it like for V. to grow up with a mother like that? She would feel inadequate (e.g. afraid to dance, unwilling to show herself) and she would feel a need for control which Tony took personally (and though was attracted to it--to women who said 'no').

So Tony felt both resentful but also supported by her strength. Indeed, when his ex told him he was on his own, he missed her support. So Tony was in conflict, and Veronica slow to surrender, but she was getting there. Tony, like an Englishman, couldn't take Veronica's seriousness seriously.

Adrian is presented as the smart one, but today, I wonder if we wouldn't be diagnosing him as on The Spectrum. As a boyfriend for Veronica, he was perfect, no only because of his academic credentials, but because of his emotional stuntedness. She could control this relationship, she thought. But Sarah knew better. Still, he would do--they got married--serious about his seriousness--but led to Sarah, not just by Tony, but undoubtedly by Sarah herself, who wanted to catch them all. (Gratuitous pokemon reference--please ignore)

So, timingwise, Sarah died 6 months previously and Adrian Jr. is, what? Hard to figure his age. Was Adrian Sr. with both women at the end? Was he happy in the end? Sarah claims it because history is written by the winners. But if he was happy, why did he kill himself? And if it was because of the child, why did he make it sound like philosophy? Did he think people would be fooled? Was he fooled?

Veronica doesn't come out and tell Tony what's up because she's ashamed. Ashamed for herself. Ashamed for her family. And doesn't trust others. Why should she? They don't get it or they don't care. She's not playing hard to get--even from the beginning. She's not trusting, defensive, ashamed. She trusts Tony a little but her trust is always eventually misplaced. No, he won't do.

I spent a good 15 minutes trying to work this out last night and sort of understood the ending to be that Sarah had slept with Adrian as part of an ongoing affair, had a child who was diagnosed with some sort of brain problem because of her age (this is noted on pg 148) and was left the diary as he (Adrian) still had a thing for her (V's mum). Terry, the carer, als tells Tony that "Mary isn't his mother. Mary's his sister. Adrian's mother died about six months ago (which tallies up for when V's mum died). He took it very badly, That's why he's been ... having problems lately". Also, with Tony making the link back to whatshisname's suicide, I thought maybe Tony felt bad about the child and hence, killed himself.
Maybe mum left Tony the diary as she thought (well, you know what I mean) it would be treasured. The £500 is Barnes' trick to confuse the ending and encourage his readers to talk about the novel? At my most cynical, it's a means of pushing up sales figures as more readers discuss his work!

Pretentious ambiguity.

F 25x33
Judy Mann Dead on. JM
Aug 20, 2017 09:20PM

Just like often in real life, thinks are not entirely clear and Julian Barnes neatly exposes this feeling.
We’re left with a tangle and a mess, why didn’t Veronica tell Tony and why didn’t Tony get to grips with it. Maybe it is just difficult to comprehend that Adrian’s suicide wasn’t so calculated and level headed after all.

I can't figure out the equation but I'm sure that Veronica knows the answer. So I'm pondering about her words.One is about the 'Blood Money'. I Googled it and Blood Money is given by the offender to the victim. So if that's the case then the book implies that Tony is Sarah's victim here. Now the question is, for what? What damage has been done to Tony? How can he be the victim.

I've thought of 2 things.

One: Maybe Adrian Jr. is really Tony and Sarah's son. But what's the sense of naming him Adrian Jr. in the first place? It would be too noble of Adrian to use his name to help Sarah cover her mistake.

Two: Adrian Jr. is Adrian Sr.'s son with Sarah. Sarah might be blaming herself for Adrian Sr's death. And since Tony is a close friend and was linked to them in some way, the blood money was given to him as compensation for his friend's death.

But if I'll follow my gut feeling. I think that maybe Adrian Jr. was Veronica and Tony's son. And Adrian Sr. thought that Adrian Jr was his son till Veronica revealed it to Adrian Sr. which lead to his suicide.

Adrian Sr. gave the diary to Sarah because he knows that Sarah has warned Tony before (based from the letter) about Veronica's quirks. So clearly he knows that Sarah sympathizes with Tony and would be the perfect person to reveal the truth to Tony. And the blood money given to Tony is not a big amount but kind'a compensates her daughter's damage to Tony.

It also explains why Veronica wants to show Adrian Jr. to Tony. She wants Tony to recognize his own son. Even Adrian Jr. can recognize his own father, which explains why he gets upset with him.

I just don't understand why the carer referred to Veronica as the 'sister'. Well I've read a blog that in the 60's an unwed young lady who bears a child often transfers the identity of being the 'mother' to her mother (the grandmother of the child). So the real mother acts as the sister instead to hide the shame of bearing a child out of wedlock.

That is the most logical thing I can put out of this story. But if I'll base to my own theory, then why bother to pretend that Veronica is just Adrian Jr's sister. Wouldn't it be better if Veronica just claim Adrian Jr as her son and pretend that his 'real' father just died? (pertaining to Adrian Sr.)

Desiree (last edited Mar 21, 2017 05:20PM ) Mar 21, 2017 01:34PM   0 votes
In short, Tony is Adrian Jr.'s father, not Adrian.

After many nights of discussion with two fellow readers on the novel, I’ve written our analysis of the novel’s ending in this wordpress link-- had to put it there because it's pretty long. Initially bought Tony's version of events but after reading various theories my gang and I started re-questioning everything.

Kudos to the many readers and their insights across online forums who have shaped what I and my collaborators think is the actual series of events in the book. (We may be wrong, all the same.)


Shampa wrote: "I found it a bit contrived myself and wasn't sure who the "s" in the equation was. Was it v's mum? Can anyone confirm?"

Comical, really, that the reader is now he who "just doesn't get it."

The book is the work of a skilled craftsman. Genius. Loved it.
He just didn't get it. very tragic story.

deleted member Feb 23, 2012 08:56AM   0 votes
I wasn't a big fan of this book, and I just want to make one point. The most interesting thing Barnes tried to do was show the inconsistencies of memory that we all experience. This, however, was shown with far more skill and humour by Mordecai Richler in Barney's Version. I would therefore recommend to anyone considering reading A Sense of an Ending to just go ahead and read Barney's Version instead.

I found it fairly pointless whereas historical crime fiction is totally absorbing.

All of the female names are biblical: Sara, Veronica, Mary. Do you think there is any symbolic significance in the names that helps unravel the equations? Sara = Abraham's wife, beautiful, desirable, mother of Issac very late in life. Veronica = Catholic Saint with iconic image of Jesus on her veil; in Latin Veronica means "true icon". Mary = virginal, mother of Jesus; but also the more complex Mary Magdalene, healed by Jesus of evils, often pictured as a "fallen woman"/"prostitute" who has been redeemed.

Hi, everybody!
i like to post the discussion of the TOPIC of the book.
anybody know what 'an Ending' from the topic 'The Sense of an Ending'refer to / means?
I read the book and try to grab an idea of what Ending refers to but i am still not sure what exactly it means.
is it about the ending of life?, or ending of the questions in Tony's mind from his previous life?, or the conclusion of tony's life?

Thank you very much

Did Barnes ever say anything abt the ending himself?

I enjoyed it very much and I think it worked:
- The £500 was a token gesture, a wee thank you aligned to the diary
- The diary must have been left to her by Adrian - who was she going to give it to? Her daughter? Although Mary Veronica got hold of it.
- Veronica - I guess her middle name. She used this as Mary, her first name, is rather boring - especially at University. I've known people that do this. Her brother (Adrian's son) calls her by her first name
- Veronica was just so angry that her life had been ruined - she had obviously been the one that had looked after Adrian Jr - and she did think Tony was partly responsible for that, as it was his letter that suggested, in black and white, that Adrian should visit the mother. The death of the father to alcohol also ties in with the birth of Adrian Jr
- So why did she want to show rather than tell? Where in the novel does Veronica ever give a straight answer? It's not in her DNA. She doesn't tell - but she wants Tony to feel guilty anyway

My take - which I found added up just fine to give closure

OK I am completely wrong then... I thought Adrian and Veronica were Brother and Sister and that is why Adrian killed himself... but Adrian Jr and Veronica were brother and sister so... Adrian had an affair with Veronica's Mother?!? Why would you kill yourself after that??


Adrian Jr is Sara's and Tony's son.
Both Tony and Adrian had an affair with Sara- Tony repressing that memory and clues.
Both loved Veronica but the mothers sexual prowess inticed the young guys.
Adrian could have fallen deeper in love/ lust with Sara than Tony. And so discovering she was pregnant with Tonys child could have led him to his suicide. Tony's letter asking him to talk to Sara could have led to this discovery. Or simply Adrian thought the child was his. Maybe Adrian was uncertain - represented by the equation.
Sara left the diary for Tony so that he didn't feel guilty for Adrian's suicide- if the reason for suicide was thinking he was to be a father/ Sara's promiscuity.
Also knowing Veronica would destroy it ,Sara left it to Tony. Veronica would destroy it as it would be a reminder of the betrayal of her mother and a lasting documentation of what had happened.

Shampa wrote: "I found it a bit contrived myself and wasn't sure who the "s" in the equation was. Was it v's mum? Can anyone confirm?"
Yes that took me abit also-Sara -Veronica's mother's name was Sara.That's the S in the equation.

hello. i am not from English speaking country so would really appreciate it if you understand my clumsy English.

i just finished this book and still not fully understand the ending. it was interesting to be hear hearing many opinions about the ending of this book.

what i couldn't understand about the book was, why Adrian took suicide. he was grown man. it was't necessary for him to take suicide for getting a woman pregnant especially she was the one he was really in love with.

So, here is my theory about what really happened and made him choose to kill himself. i remember Adrian had mother who left his family when he was young. and he never knew whom his mother was really with.
My theory is, Adrian's mother left her family since he fell in love with guy who already had two children, daddy of Veronica.

I believe Adrian was really in love with Veronica. unless he wasn't serious about Veronica, he won't sent letter to tony asking his permission. Adrian made her pregnant, and i think he went to see her parents to talk about that. Then, he realized Veronica was daughter of his mother.

Aakanksha Berwal If that was the case, it had nothing to do with Tony! Then why was Veronica mad at him throughout ?
Jul 13, 2017 04:44AM

I believe it was, yes - but by this point I was so uninterested I think I started to skim over it so may have misunderstood.

I haven't read the book - only finished watching the movie, so this may be way off.
My take is that Tony was Adrian jnr's father and that the diary belonged to Adrian jnr. Which might explain why Sarah was in possession of it. The diary is never shown - it could have been the scrawl of the handicapped Adrian jnr. Even more reason for Veronica to destroy it.

The book was entertaining but I couldn't relate to the fact that Veronica didn't tell Tony about Adrian's affair with her mother. WHY??? All that time that's why Veronica was messed up, because her mother was so unscrupulous and preyed on her boyfriends. This drives me crazy when it happens in movies too.

I feel like an idiot. I totally missed that affair with Sarah. I did think their interactions were bizarre but it never crossed my mind that they could be having an affair.

A big theme is the interpretation of history. In the history class the teacher says people's mental states can be inferred from their actions and later Tony thinks that past actions can be inferred from current mental states. So perhaps we're supposed to infer something about Veronica's past actions by her strange behaviour at the end?..... what those actions are I have no idea..... Another book that I really enjoyed, took a lot from but suspect I might have missed the point of entirely (as usual!)


i just want to make sure i got it right: veronica's mother had an affair with adrian, they had a child, adrian killed himself (before or after the child was born?...). is there the implication that tony too slept with the mother (as implied by the horizontal wave of the hand/repeated memory at the end) or just that looking back he had the opportunity to sleep with her? i just want to make sure i put all the pieces together. thanks so much. amy

Does anyone not think the guy in care is actually Jack, Veronica's brother?


Really? It's a very common trope in all fiction, especially literary fiction, not to trust the "First-Person" narrator. Unreliable, and not because they intentionally obsure facts and details, but because memory and even vision are subjective.

Veronica was pretty difficult to like to say the least! What on earth were Adrian and Tony doing getting involved with her in the first place? Why (and how) did she maintain her anger for such a long time, it was a letter written in the heat of the moment for heavens sake and wasn't she partly responsible for the mess?

I did enjoy the book though and think these discussions add weight to its brilliance.

Could it be possible that there is another child, Mary? Both equations INCLUDE Veronica & Sara. Only one of the equations includes both Tony and Adrian. I like the theory above of the "cracked egg" symbolism - which makes Sara the mother of Adrian. Also the multiplication symbols in the equations are placed interestingly. In the first, Sara has Veronica subtracted from her, Veronica has a successful relationship (addition) and multiplication (possibly in the go-forth and multiply sense) with A1, which has equaled a baby. In the second equation A2 has been added to Veronica who has been added to A1 who has multiplied with Sara, creating a baby. Probably not going to solve this algebra, but super curious what others think. Is there a clue in the order? A clue in the names? Going to read anything I can find on the author's or others comments. I feel like there are enough clues in this loaded book to work out the puzzle, if I can only be smart enough.

How about there really is no Adrian... That a1 and a2 is Tony and it his alter ego... dual personality. It was Tony who had an affair with Sarah, Vs mom and it was Tony who wrote all those letters and and it was his diary.. he had affair with Sarah and did have sex with V or maybe he did, and then they broke up. And that Adrian, the b, the baby is really their son (Tony's and Sarah's). And that he left them all. Ok, I'm getting lost more. Anyway, maybe there's something else I'm missing. The Sense of an Ending, well the ending (of the book) doesn't make sense to me and maybe that's the goal of the author... and that's history... "History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”

Shampa wrote: "I found it a bit contrived myself and wasn't sure who the "s" in the equation was. Was it v's mum? Can anyone confirm?"

I'ms sure the S was for Sarah.

I believe S is Sarah, Veronika's mother.

I found this book a real bore. Sorry, maybe I didn't understand it but I have nothing to say about the ending.

Now everyone has me confused. I felt that the aim was for the reader to identify with Tony and realise that here is someone now in their 60s recalling events which seem a lifetime away. We are all Tonys to some extent in creating our own "truth" and when something happens which causes us to reexamine our "truth" it is painful. The events in the story could have been different but the message remains the same. We all want life to be a bed of roses and the reality is that it is not. We therefore compensate by remebering our life as we would have liked it.
Veronica was right. We just dont get it.

Hi, there! I am not an English native speaker but like to read this book!
Could someone please kindly explain the meaning of:
1. "Marshall was a cautious know-nothing who lacked the inventiveness of true ignorance" (on page.5),
2. "Colin, argued that everything was down to chance, that the world existed in a state of perpetual chaos, and only some primitive storytelling instinct, itself doubtless a hangover from religion, retrospectively imposed meaning on what might or might not have happened." (on page 11),
3. " 'technique' consisted in not having a technique; others, no doubt rightly, considered it ineptitude. Even the supposedly simple trail of like-a-drink-fancy-a-dance-walk-you-home-how-about-a-coffee?" (on page 20)

your kind explanation is much appreciated!
Thank you

deleted member Jun 26, 2012 05:34AM   -1 votes
I agree with Bernadette. Tony had at least one sexual encounter with "S", Veronica's mother Sarah. I think it was once, over the weekend he visited while they were alone and right after Sarah cooked him eggs. The broken egg in the hot skillet being foreshadowing for Sarah's damaged, old, egg that resulted in young Adrian. The laughter in the memory Sarah's flirtation. The clues for this conclusion, many mentioned by Bernadette, include Tony recalling a "secret" signal given by Sarah in the wave, which Tony recalls later in life as occurring under a wisteria if I recall correctly.(I have just finished the book and need to hunt specific clues.), the taking on of young tenants unnecessarily, etc. And we are reminded many many times of the fault of memory as an instruction. We are told to question Tony';s recollection. We are told it is likely flawed, so we must be skeptical of it and recognize that indeed, as others have pointed out, Tony has repressed many. Tony has repressed the sexual encounter. And that encounter explains the breakup with Veronica.
The reason Veronica is so upset with Tony is still perplexing. It may have to do with Tony recommending in the scathing letter to Adrian that Adrian check with Veronica's mother, an introduction of a sort, but that hardly explains other plot elements such as Veronica's anger and the leaving of the diary and money by Sarah. The conclusion that does work better is that young Adrian could be Tony's child. That explains Sarah leaving the money and diary(the diary explains what occurred) and Veronica being so very upset with Tony. It doesn't support the suicide by Adrian, however. Not so much.
I anxiously expected more to happen throughout the book and tired of Tony's mental meandering, but I enjoyed the overall plot and puzzle.

I have to say I'm with Hayley. I got to the end through grim determination to finish, and because I was pretty convinced that I'd guessed it and wanted to prove myself right. I thought it was really contrived and overly pretentious and the maths was unnecessary. I think the 'm' was for mother though.

To be honest, I was initially confused, and then slightly underwhelmed. I don't know if I was unintentionally skim-reading or something, but my initial reaction to the ending revelation was "...wait, what?" I honestly felt like the conclusion didn't deliver on the promises made by the rest of the novel.

I'm with Sean. The beginning of this book was so promising; the end, meh, not so much. I ended up not liking any of the characters, especially Tony. What a self-absorbed buffoon! His ex-wife was the only "real" person in this book for me. "You're on your own, Tony."

I found it to be a real stretch that Sarah called out Tony in her will. I was disturbed by the author's cute shout-outs for suicide - Wittgensteian, Zweig, etc. I think he portrayed Tony as too much of an idiot to do the right thing and off himself.

Can someone please explain to me why Veronica is called Mary by her disabled brother?

Frankly I didn't think the end of the book really held up. There is no reason for Veronica to be as angry as she is. As horrible as his letter was, it is forty years ago. The Booker should have gone to Hollinghurst.

As much as I admire the ingenuity of many of the above readers, I don't find any evidence to believe that the narrator is unreliable. I think the ending is pretty straight forward.

deleted member Nov 02, 2011 01:05AM   -2 votes
This is a peculiarly English suburban novel and illustrates brilliantly the peculiar English suburban mores of thirty years ago. It's about the 'skeletons' we have rattling around in our cupboards and the lengths some will go to prevent wider knowledge of them.

No, Tony did not sleep with Sarah but he sensed the possibility of doing so, he sensed an invitation, a possibility that Adrian accepted later on.

I am sure there is no unique way to put all the pieces together. If you can't rely on the narrator's honesty (like in the Good Soldier) or in his memory (like in this novel) you cannot be sure to find out which clue to believe in. Maybe Adrian jr. is neither Adrian's nor Veronica's or Sarah's son. Maybe Veronica's just the dumb bitch I think she is.

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