The latest book my book club was The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. Yes, it is critically-acclaimed, but my friends and I were not crazy about it.
Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they navigated the girl drought of gawky adolescence together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they swore to stay friends forever. Until Adrian's life took a turn into tragedy, and all of them, especially Tony, moved on and did their best to forget.
Now Tony is in middle age. He's had a career and a marriage, a calm divorce. He gets along nicely, he thinks, with his one child, a daughter, and even with his ex-wife. He's certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer's letter is about to prove. The unexpected bequest conveyed by that letter leads Tony on a dogged search through a past suddenly turned murky. And how do you carry on, contentedly, when events conspire to upset all your vaunted truths?
Confession: I knew nothing about this book going into it. I found it among my library's e-books, so I checked it out without even reading its description. So for the first third or so of the book, I actually thought this was a memoir, not a work of fiction.
What I liked: The narrator talks about perceptions and distortions of memory, which I found to be insightful.
What I disliked: Basically all of the characters are not likeable, if not downright despicable. Plus the male privilege almost overwhelmed me during my reading. An early plot point is a classmate's suicide, allegedly after he knocked up his girlfriend. The narrator and his friends don't even bother to think about this pregnant teenager girl and how this might affect her or her child. The narrator doesn't even realize his blindness and arrogance until near the very end of the novel. I think the writer intended this as a big revelation, or maybe character development, but for me, it just emphasized the narrator's selfishness.
It is an interesting book, and I was surprised by the plot twist at the end.
But honestly, the whole thing just reads as smug self-importance. Like my boring life and philosophical musings are so enlightened that everyone needs to know my story.
So... read at your own risk.
Linking up for Book Club Friday!
*On the off chance that you want to read this book after my review, I do have an Amazon Affiliates link included.