Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Sense of an Ending

When you finish reading some books, they leave you depressed as if you went to drop a dear friend to the railway station still you feel that the train left before you'd say a proper goodbye. This is the same feeling you get when you finish reading The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes that has won the prestigious Booker Prize this year.

I'm not the person to discuss the literary merits or demerits of this deceptively thin book (about 150 pages only), as I'm not an avid reader (I feel lucky if I complete 5 books in a year), or comment on the controversy on whether it can be called a Novel or just a Novella. Seeing the size of the book I'd promised myself to finish reading it in a sitting taking 6 to 7 hours. But, it took me some 15 to 20 hours over a weekend with couple of meals and toilet breaks. And, I even had a couple of false starts when I stopped reading after the first 15 pages (I'd feared that the jinx of leaving the book incomplete with the bookmark intact had returned), before the lucky weekend.

This book mainly deals with memory. It shows how we mix it up with imagination to make our own history as years go by to make it comfortable for us to live with. And, how devastating it can be when the reality of the past confronts us breaking the spell of our imagined history.

The reason I told it is deceptively thin is because it isn't simple as its size may make you believe and if you are the kind of reader who likes to go over a passage a few times just to savour its feel or beauty may fail in the race against time. Here is one example appearing (about the passage of time) on the first page itself:

Is there anything more plausible than a second hand? And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time's malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing – until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return.

There are such nuggets virtually on every page that would stop and make you ponder for a while.

When I finished reading it, it just left me wishing that it was written a few years earlier. So, I could have avoided making a few mistakes that have remained with me as hurtful memories.

A couple of interesting and varied reviews here and here.


Shefali Arvind said...

PCP, I had the same feeling of sadness/depression when I came to the end of "Shantaram". I actually cried when the book ended.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paresh,

Thanks for taking the even more lazy readers lke me to books that we may perhaps never read...

Good insight and thanks for making me "stop and ponder"....Keep writing...

Best wishes, SN

TME said...

Thanks for sharing Paresh. I will try to get this one here.Good to see your posts more often. I used to make it a point when I was in Bangalore to read the books which got the Booker prizes from the book shop in MG road every year.(forgot the name of the shop, it starts with G, I believe)

Hindi Jokes said...

To me, it is a semi autobiographical novel with an excellent way of story telling ability. Nicely portraying the different forms of relations in different phases of life. A bit mystery involved with the past. Search of some un-answered questions. But the end could have been much better. I was expecting some more precise ending. But overall, this is a good stuff to read and worth a piece of collection.