The Sense of an Ending (can I just say how much I love this title!!) is another of my recent reads that has been long listed for the 2011 Man Booker Prize.
The book is told from the perspective of Tony Webster who as a man aged in his 60's is now looking back over his life, friendships and relationships - in particular a friendship he formed in high school with Adrian and his first serious relationship with a girl, Veronica, whom he meets and dates while in college.
This is quite a short novel (150 pages) and it is one of those books that you just want to devour in one sitting.
From the very beginning there is a sense of a mystery and tension building and even though as the reader you are completely in the hands of the narrator and how he chooses to tell his story he is constantly letting you know that he may not be able to be trusted:
If I can't be sure of the actual events any more, I can at least be true to the impressions those facts left. That's the best I can manage.
As the reader I felt I was reminiscing along with Tony - as he is going back through his memories I had a small sense of feeling as though I could have been there too - I think this is the skill of the author in constructing a story that moves and grows through the reading of it. The concept of time and how it is used, how it is remembered and how it moves is a big theme of this novel. Tony reflects on this quite a lot, one of my favourite paragraphs is this:
But time...how time first grounds us and then confounds us. We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe. We imagined we were being responsible but were only being cowardly. What we called realism turned out to be a way of avoiding things rather than facing them. Time... give us enough time and our best-supported decisions will seem wobbly, our certainties whimsical.
The ending of Tony's story is what the book is building to - and I have to say I did not see it coming, I was too caught up in the narrative itself. When I had finished the book I was in shock - I couldn't believe such a small book where seemingly not a lot of action took place could have such an impact on me!