Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending (2011)
Apologies for the sluggish tying-up-of-loose-ends going on hereabouts. But I did say (in this post, on Awards) that I would 'report back' on this Booker-winning title after I'd had the chance properly to read it; and whilst I don't fool myself that anybody's hanging on the edge of my seat waiting to hear my verdict there is an active enough Imp of Pointless Completion living in my skull to prompt me to post someting here.
Post what, though? It's a thin novel, literally and figuratively. It's not a novel, actually: it's two linked short stories. The first of these is pretty good; Tony is a callow undergraduate with blue balls, at university before Permissiveness became the norm. He is priggish and unlikeable, but that's the point; the milieu is well drawn. and the Drama! of the story (his girlfriend Veronica, she of the 'I'm not putting out for you', leaves him for his friend Adrian; he writes a pompous, aggrieved letter to them both; Adrian later commits suicide), though melodramatic, is appropriately so for the world described. The second short story picks up the events after grown-up Tony has become a father himself, divorced and retired. This second half is drek. You see that link I included, up there, on the word 'Drama!'? The cat in the Erasure pop video at the other end of that link could write a better short story than this: stiff, implausible, clumsy and crap. It is, in addition, contrived, tedious, wet, smelly and meagre.
This title won the Man Booker Prize for 2011. My heart fills with gloom at the very thought.