The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Short story, novella or novel?

My distant memories of reading E.M. Forster’s Aspects of a Novel remind me that word length can separate short stories from novellas, and novellas from novels. The average reader will consider this to be a bit of an academic distinction, but if you are paying high street prices for your literature, there really should be minimum content, just like a packet of cornflakes or the length of a song.  Indeed, editors will draw the fine distinctions when authors submit their manuscripts.

Someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to remember that Forster reckoned that anything shorter than 20,000 words was a short story, up to 40,000 words a novella, and over that a novel.Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending comes in at about 45,000 words, so is technically a novel (but only just). But what about its impact? I am seldom taken in by a cover plaudit that tells me a novel was a Man Booker prize winner, because the judges can sometimes apply criteria that bear little relation to what the actual reading public enjoy. But I was definitely intrigued that such a short piece of fiction should achieve such a high accolade.

In reviewing books, I seldom give a resume of the plot, because that can be found elsewhere or (better still) by reading the book itself. There are many eloquent bloggers and reviewers out there who have analyzed this piece of writing till there is almost nothing original left to say about it (see the two links below):

http://litlove.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/the-nonsense-of-an-ending/

http://andrewblackman.net/2012/05/the-sense-of-an-ending-explained/

But what of its impact on the reader at a very personal level? If you happen to be of the same generation as the narrator, Tony (as I am), there is a lot to identify with. I know what he means when he suggests that the 60s happened somewhere else, but not where he happened to be. I know what it means when Adrian states “History (ie. the past) is that certainty produced at the point where imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation”.  But in E.M.Forster’s words, are these ’round’ or ‘flat’ characters, and could they populate a real world?

Strangely, having a single character as the chief narrator is both limiting (you get to see only one person’s view of the world) but highly authentic (in real life, we only ever to get to see our own view of the world). In reading this 150 page novel in one sitting, I found myself caught up in the fictional biography of one man, almost from birth to the grave, and I had the signal mystery of the story solved before I closed the book at the end. Like Tony, I was puzzled by Adrian’s death, but then I didn’t know enough about Sara (the mother of Adrian’s lover, Veronica) to be able to implicate her in the plot.

If you don’t understand what I am saying………you need to read the novel. And if you are a fast reader, a couple of hours will do it.

Advertisements

About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on April 3, 2013, in Book reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Matildas Musings

A blog written by Matilda - the "old lady" classic tandem - and her Musings about her adventures, trials and tribulations with the "old git" and Chief Pilot, aka Colin and the "old gal" and Chief Stoker (as well as Chief Engineer) aka Diane.

Fit Recovery

Stay Clean Get Fit

Northern Walker

Lightweight backpacking, hillwalking and bicycle touring adventures in Northern England and Scotland

Looking For 42

Traveling the world looking for the meaning for life (and whatever else I might find along the way)

Off The Beaten Path

Inside news from Bicycle Quarterly and Compass Bicycles

Bike 5

Five miles or less? Bikes are best!

Kite*Surf*Bike*Rambling

KITESURFING, CYCLING, SUP: ramblings, idiocy and not much more

Cycling Dutch Girl

the only certainty is change

4000milestothesea

On a bicycle from coast to coast across the USA

Self Propelled

Self propelled adventures through life; blogging on cycling, touring, micro-adventures, general shenanigans, and environmental news

chrisp666

Cycling across Europe, Cornwall to Munich

The Vicious Cycle

A man searches for meaning...in between leg shavings

2 l o v e c y c l i n g

It's about cycling ... and other travels

There And Back Again

Life at 15 miles per hour

As Easy As Riding A Bike

Well it should be, shouldn't it?

Bike Around Britain

Blog on cycling around the coast of Britain

David Noble's Blog

Life, Loves and Living

weston.front

The Weston Front - the destination of a road less travelled...

The Innocent Bikestander

It can be better

Bike, Banjo & Baby

They go together so well

Something for Kiki and the Pok

the adventures of Christopher Yardin - by plane, bike, through a lens, or the eyes of a child

Bricycling...

Cycling Blog

Richard Tulloch's LIFE ON THE ROAD

Travel adventures on wheels and legs

THE SPORTSWOOL DIARIES

................."Cherry picking the nicest places in the world to cycle"

Gippsland Granny

Musings from Metung

Serendipities of life

Taking the road less travelled

I Do Not Despair

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. ~H.G. Wells

Tom’s Bike Trip

Adventures and experiments in two-wheeled travel

All Seasons Cyclist

Real World Product Reviews For Avid Cyclists

machacas on wheels

Taking the road less travelled

%d bloggers like this: