Friday, March 8, 2013

Review: The Sense of an Ending

Julian Barnes explores memory, loss, and lives built around the empty spaces in his Booker-winning novel, The Sense of an Ending. Ostensibly the reminiscence of the recently retired and contentedly divorced Tony Webster, the story deepens to tragedy when Tony reconnects with his college girlfriend and re-examines what he thinks he remembers about his past.

As Tony bit-by-bit abandons his understanding of passed events, he gives up the assumption that “memory equals events plus time” and realizes that “time doesn't act as a fixative, rather as a solvent.”

This scrutiny of memory makes the novel reverberate. Because I try cases on behalf of adults who were abused when they were children, I deal daily with imperfect memories, forgotten details, and re-created stories as my clients and the people we sue patch together their history. I’ve learned that truth – or as close as we can get – is three-dimensional and can be built only collaboratively.

Or, as Tony muses:

[A]s the witnesses to your life diminish, there is less corroboration, and therefore less certainty, as to what you are or have been. Even if you have assiduously kept records – in words, sound, pictures – you may find that you have attended to the wrong kind of record-keeping. What was the line Adrian used to quote? “History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”


If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.


The Sense of an Ending deservedly won the 2011 Booker Prize.  

Book Beginnings & GIVEAWAY: Dry Rot, A Sage Adair Mystery

Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.

TWITTER, ETC: If you are on Twitter, please tweet a link to your post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I also recently signed up for Google+ and have a button over there in the right-hand column to join my circles or whatever it is. I don't really understand yet how that one works.

MR. LINKY: Please leave a link to your post below. If you don't have a blog, but want to participate, please leave a comment with your Book Beginning.


A fat raindrop smacked the back of his neck and slid down his spine like a cold knife edge.

-- Dry Rot: A Sage Adair Historical Mystery by S.L. Stoner.  This novel may be set in the Portland, Oregon of 1902, but that opening sentence described my walk this morning.

Dry Rot is the third mystery in Stoner's Sage Adair series, but is enough of a story to stand alone.  Here, Sage's adventure involves a  losing labor strike, a union leader framed for murder, a ragpicker poet, and collapsing city bridges.  The historic details show a wild and wooly Portland of an earlier age -- an age of hobo jungles, lumber camps, brothels, saloons, and corruption.

Dry Rot will be released in April.  Ask your local bookstore to order it for you or you can pre-order it on Amazon.  You can also sign up here to try to win one of two giveaway copies.


This is a "leap-frog" giveaway. This means I have two copies to giveaway to Rose City Reader readers, and each winner will get to host another giveaway for an additional copy, thanks to the delightful book publicist, Mary Bisbee-Beek.

The contest is for readers in the USA and Canada and is open until Thursday, March 14, 2013, at 9:00 PST. There are five ways to enter and each one is worth a chance to win. To enter, do any or all of the following, but you must leave a comment for each one and you must put an email address in a comment:

1. Comment on this post. You must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner. (1 entry)

2. Blog about this giveaway. Posting the giveaway on your sidebar is also acceptable. Leave a separate comment with a link to your post. (1 entry)

3. Subscribe to my rss feed, follow me on blogger, or subscribe via email (or tell me if you already are a subscriber or follower). Leave a separate comment for this. (1 entry)

4. Tweet this post on Twitter. Leave me a separate comment with your twitter user name. (1 entry)

5. Post this on a social network. Put it on facebook, post it on Google+, pin it on Pinterest, Stumble it, digg it, technorati fave it, or otherwise put it out there in the social network. Leave a separate comment with a link or explaination. (1 entry)

There are a lot of ways to enter (maximum of five entries), but you must LEAVE A SEPARATE COMMENT for each one or they will not count. I will use to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is open to entries from the U.S. and Canada only. The deadline for entry is 9:00 PM, Pacific Time, on Thursday, March 14, 2013. I will draw and post the winner's name in my Book Beginning post for March 15, 2013.

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