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The Sense of an Ending (Borzoi Books)

The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes I read Flaubert's Parrot and Metroland back in the day, and one of his recent stories came up at the PT Writers' Conference and the session leader recommended this book, so I got it from the library. Eh. It's very competently done, but in the end it didn't engage me. Just because I can identify with the character doesn't make me care about him. Tony's an English Everyman, and Barnes makes his averageness come alive—but then he just leaves it there. Maybe that's Barnes' meta-message? We English are so boring, even as novelists' characters we're two-dimensional.Tony, nearing the end of his life (whence the title), is given an opportunity to reopen the one big wound/mistake of his youth. The opening of the book is larded with portentous phrases about the impossibility of ever understanding other people, especially in history, so we're well primed to learn that Tony has gotten it all wrong. But then it's all revealed (quite rapidly in the last few pages) as a new set of facts about an odd and unexpected situation, and while Tony's stuck with the impossibility of resolving all his mistakes and misunderstandings of the intervening forty-odd years, the reader just gets a conclusion that feels too neat. Is that all? Wouldn't the interesting thing be to see inside Tony's head starting at that point, as he struggles to integrate something that will never fit?It's a short novel and doesn't require much investment of time on the reader's part. The voice, the sentences: that stuff's pretty good, but it just didn't add up to much for me.(I tried an Ian McEwan a couple years ago and it left me similarly cold. I suppose I should try Graham Swift and even (shudder) Martin Amis again too before I give up on that entire generation of English men.)