As we saw in Part 2 our memory is a construct and if the ability to remember and recount our stories gives us our identity then is ourself a fiction?
This is the premise of the 2011 Man-Booker Prize winning book The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, written when he was 65. In an interview in the Guardian he said, “Various things change you as a person and a writer as you age. You think more about time and memory; about what time does to memory, and memory does to time. You also mistrust memory more than when you were younger: you realise that it resembles an act of the imagination rather than a matter of simple mental recuperation.”
This delightfully written short book deals with many themes. It is retrospectively narrated by Tony, a retired, divorced man whose life is thrown into chaos when he receives a letter from a lawyer telling him he had received a legacy from his ex university girlfriend’s (Veronica) mother. To fill us in on the background we need part 1 relates his and his three school friends school life and then into Tony’s university days where a break up of the friends occurs as a natural event as they all go their own way. Tony and Adrian both feature in the book due to a letter Tony wrote to Adrian. This letter throws Tony as he realises that the person he has constructed as his past is not the person he he was in the past. Part 2 is the current day after Tony receives the legacy notification from the lawyer and finds him making contact with his old girlfriend Veronica and finds Tony re-evaluating part 1.
The themes deals with death, sex, class system, intellectuality, time and memory. The Sense of an Ending is a perfect title as we are left at the end with a mystery which makes us want to reread, ponder and discuss with others.
Would I recommend this book: Absolutely. Apparently it has been made into a film. Has anyone seen it?Although reading is subjective I believe that this book would hit a chord with every reader. We all have memories and it is these memories that give us more than the historical identity, our name, that our parents gave us when we were born, it gives us our sense of self.
If you want to read more on this I wrote an article for Carrot Ranch on identity.