This book has been on my TBR pile since it won the Booker Prize in 2011. I am trying to read my way through the Booker Winners and have challenged myself to read at least one of these books every month in 2014. The last Booker Winner I read was "Hotel du Lac" by Anita Brookner and one of these days I hope to get around to reviewing it.
The Sense of an Ending is narrated by Tony Webster, a divorced, retired, middle-aged man as he reminisces about his childhood and youth and realises that memory isn't always most reliable of mediums. The book takes us on Tony's journey as a pretentious schoolboy, trying to fit in as much as he is trying to stand out and how his road takes a sudden turn when he meets Adrian Finn. Finn is the quintessential "cool outsider" and it doesn't take long for everyone to fall for him. Almost a decade and the decimation of a relationship later the plot culminates into an climatic suicide and this allows for the explanation and unravelling of events in the second half of the book.
Ironically, what bothers me about the book is the ending. The anticlimax can only be rivalled by that of "The Little Friend" by Donna Tartt and leaves one with the vulnerable feeling of "Wait, Wut?" At least Tartt had a full-sized novel to play with; at 150 pages The Sense of an Ending is more a self-conscious novella. Other than that the characters are pretty generic and some of the scenes seem straight out of "The Secret History" or "Dead Poet's Society". What I do like about the book is the questions it raises about the self-righteousness of human behaviour and how history is made of the lies of the victor. I couldn't sympathise with any of the characters but that is what is expected of the reader: to antagonise all of those characters so that we have a sense of the narrator's flawed perspective.
This quote captures the essence of the book perfectly; “How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.”