Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Sense of an Ending

This was literally pushed into my hand by a colleague I barely know, who said, "I think you'll love this," and left it with me. Initially, I sighed, as I have an ever-growing pile of books to read already, and really didn't need another. However, I took the wee thing home and placed it on top of the pile by my bed.

It so happened that I was, shortly after, heading for two days in London to see War Horse and knew that I would finish my current read on the train. I therefore wanted something light to pack, so in went The Sense of an Ending. (Yes, this might be where a Kindle comes in useful, but I will always and forever argue the other side - in this instance, not having a Kindle meant I read a book I might not have done otherwise and would therefore have missed out on.)

It is short. It is also probably worthy of the Booker, though I am no judge of judgements; it's good. It's a good book. Let me clarify 'good' - it's enjoyable, clever, re-readable, quotable. You sense a 'however', however... and the 'however' is that I simply don't have very strong feelings about it. If you were to ask me about it in six months time, I doubt I would be able to tell you very much at all, except the 'sense' that it has left me with. Ah. Perhaps therein lies its genius...

It is a book of slow reveals. When I started it, I'll be honest and say I had little to no idea what it was actually about. Essentially, then, it is about a man, retired, remembering a particular time in his life, and then being left a surprising bequest that begins to change his understanding of past events. We learn as Tony, our protangonist - or rather, not protagonist, for, as he would argue, he has never actually made anything happen, but simply allowed life to happen to him - learns, so there is no dramatic irony, no sense of superiority for the reader.

Tony, however - another however - does not do himself justice. He compares his own way of approaching life disfavourably to that of the philosophical thinkings of his friend Adrian, and yet this is a deeply philosophical work. It is as much a treatise on time and memory as it is a story, and equally a lesson for us all in the need for kindness, even when kindness might be the last emotion we feel.

There is much in the first half of the novella that reminds me of The History Boys; some sections even feel like lost scenes from that play, such are the questions posed and answers given in school lessons. It also reminded me - or at least, the characters reminded me - of some of the works of Iris Murdoch, particularly The Black Prince and The Sea The Sea, though without the vastness of the mistakes made by the protagonists ( and her characters really are that, in the truest sense of the word) in those books. More simply put? One Day for the educated older members of the reading public, perhaps.

The Sense of an Ending is a worthy book, an enjoyable book, an easy yet thoughtful book; it is a good book, and leaves one with...well, the sense that one has read and understood it.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Marx my words...

Groucho understood books and readers:

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday, I intend reading it."

“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.”

2011 in books

Rule 1: Never apologise for blogging absences. Check.
Rule 2: Come back with something fast and jaunty.

So here it is. Lulu's fast and jaunty trip through books read over the past year, in order, with six-words-or-fewer reviews:

Cloud Atlas. Beguiling. What they say is true.
Florence and Giles. Fabulous narrative voice. KS4 love it!
Room. A present. Not my thing.
Prisoner of the Inquisition*. Disappointing.
Out of Shadows*. Powerful; political; really for kids?
The Bride's Farewell*. Thomas Hardy for teenagers. Gorgeous.
White Crow*. Typical Sedgwick - doesn't quite work.
The Tiger's Wife. Recommending it to everyone.
The Edge of Physics. Understood most of it, happily.
The Chymical Wedding. A bit Iris Murdoch.
Just a Man. I had my reasons...
Miss Ranskill Comes Home. It's Persephone, though not my favourite.
The Stranger's Child. Thought I'd love it. Didn't.
Dusty Answer. Evocative, claustrophobic, 1930s bildungsroman.
Le Grand Meaulnes. See above. But French.
The Parasites. Continuing my du Maurier reading list.
Picnic at Hanging Rock. Film better.
Bleak House. Lived inside it. For long time.
Infinite Variety: Marchesa Casasti. Where's she been all my life?
Ice Road. Couldn't quite get into it.
Alberta and Jacob. Wonderful.
The Journals of Robert Falcon Scott. Yes, I cried when Oates left...
Pure. Enjoyable and easy.
Gillespie and I. Cop-out court verdict.

*read for Carnegie Shadowing Group at school