Thanks to the Decatur Book Festival, I was able to get a copy of Julian Barnes' novel The Sense of an Ending for cheap and after reading it in two hotels, knew it to be a wise choice.
The story, told from the perspective of protagonist Anthony Webster, is one that is fraught with memories and more importantly, regrets: spending too much time with the wrong girl and then later sleeping with her, not contacting friends enough, remembering parts of memories rather than the entire picture, and learning to let go of the past when it is ready to move on. In his youth, he and his friends are wild intellectuals of the 60s in Britain and nothing can stop them, or even remotely change them . . . until they meet Adrian, in whom they all try to gain favour with, only to realize later that he is impenetrable, thereby making their challenge even more lucrative. After breaking up with Veronica, an enigma all to herself, Anthony learns that Adrian has taken the plunge with her, thereby cutting all ties with Anthony and not even realizing it. Then, Adrian commits suicide and the world that Anthony knew now has a black hole in the center.
Years later, after a marriage that ends in divorce and having a child that grows up to later become slightly resentful and weary of him, Anthony learns that Veronica's mother has died and left not only money but Adrian's diary for him in her will, thereby beginning the twist to the already twisted tale that confirmed my thought that Julian Barnes is quite the distinguished writer. His writing style is quite simple and yet, in the voice of Tony, you know that this could be a real person. The dryness, layered with repressed emotions that surface at the wrong times, are apparent in Webster and at times my feelings for him wavered between a mild embarrassment to pity to impatience to finally, resignation.
Do not let the slimness of the novel deceive you, for The Sense of an Ending is one that, when you reach the final page, you will want to read again immediately. If it wasn't for the fact that I had to get sleep in order to make my drive back to Memphis, I would have read it all over again that night in my Days Inn Hotel.
I can now safely add Julian Barnes to my list of adored writers and I can not wait to get my hands on another of his works.
Thank you, Mr. Barnes.