Tracing my finger down each of their spines, head tilted, concentrating, I stood in front of a small bookshelf at the Pierre-Elliot Trudeau International Airport. While waiting for a flight to Los Angeles I was scouring for my next great read. It was a small selection with a dominant presence of some mainstream key players such as Amor Towles's Rules of Civility: A Novel, the Fifty Shades Trilogy, a Nicholas Sparks title, a few Self-Help books, and of course The Hunger Games series.
I wasn't feeling inspired by the offerings, or simply wasn't in the mood. I started to give up when my gaze fell onto a single, lonely copy of Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending. It was an instant enigmatic -- physical and mental -- pull. I fell in love with the cover (shame on me), skimmed the reviews on the back cover and the synopsis in the front fold out--this is going to be so dark, I exclaimed in my head. Flipping to the back, I saw Julian Barnes's photograph. He looks like a wise man. His back combed hair, thin lips, deep forehead wrinkles, clean-shaven face, and strong eye focus exposes the complexity in his thought and his work. His facial expression, and as I found out later the novel itself, is telling of the overwhelming working and moving inside his mind--opinions, reflections, musings, and knowledge are crammed so tightly into his head space that he is tightening his lips in order to ensure it doesn't all spill right out. His prolific writing career consisting of 10 novels, two collections of essays, three books of stories, and a translation of Alphonse Daudet's In the Land of Pain, confirms my observation.
Most strangely, I felt like I knew him. Read this book and it will change your life, the photograph whispered to me. I nodded in affirmation and decided to trust Barnes, my long lost friend.
I put my head down in shame when I tell you the truth: having studied English Literature on a post-secondary level and being a committed reader, The Sense of an Ending is my first introduction to Barnes's work. I look you straight in the eyes when I attest: this novel is brilliant. It's the type of brilliance that leaves you shaking in cold sweat, images of your life playing on fast-forward in your head while your mind is frantically scouring for flawed thinking and memories that you are hoping aren't there; it's the type of book that forces you to re-examine and re-evaluate everything you thought true in your life. That's all I am going to tell you--you'll just have to read it to experience the same terribly pleasant shaking.
While reading The Sense of an Ending, you too, like Tony -- the protagonist -- will peel layers and layers of your life, despite your young or old age, in attempts of finding the lie in the truth and the truth in the lie.
Upon landing in Los Angeles, closing the book, I saw my memory's insecurities and the inconsistencies in my perceptions. Because after all, as Tony puts it, "...what you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed."