‘The Sense of an Ending’

This is the first book that I’ve read by Julian Barnes and if I’m honest, I’m not completely sure how I feel about it. It was interesting to read this shortly after finishing Before I go to sleep because in both books, memory plays a key role. Our protagonist is Tony, a normal, unremarkable man who finds himself nearing the end of his life and reflecting on various events…you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that this doesn’t exactly grab the imagination but the seemingly simple narrative is complicated by an unexpected suicide and Tony’s unreliable memory…

The first half of the book moves very swiftly through Tony’s life and doesn’t faff around. The second half of the book takes more time to try and piece together Tony’s disjointed memory…I found that my reading pace matched the narrative throughout…I flew through the first half and suddenly Tony was an old man! I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of school life and feel that this sentence sums up the school lives of Tony and his friends…

 “…the girl drought of gawky adolescence together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit.”

While at school, the gang of four (previously three until Adrian Finn joins the clique) bumble along quite contently…then a short while after leaving school, they hear that Adrian has committed suicide and Tony and the other boys drift apart…Years later, Tony receives a letter from a lawyer which throws things into disarray and Tony finds himself reliving events from 40 years before and being in that situation that we all hate…remembering times when we’ve said something in youth that we now regret or even doing something in haste that we’ve forgotten about…but are faced with the consequences of, years later.

I’d describe this as a kind of, casserole of a book…a slow starter where a lot of things happen at the outset but then not a great deal happens throughout, but what does happen is important to the protagonist and the narrative. If you take out the mysterious suicide and related events…this book deals quite nicely with the themes of time and memory and there are lots of elements that we can empathise with, even if we aren’t nearing the end of our lives…the moments of childish confusion at school, saying things in haste that we subsequently regret and also, Tony embodies the fear that we all have of finding ourselves aged and wrinkled without having made the impact on life that we had aspired to do as children…the fear that we will grow old and regret not making enough of our lives…

‘Before I go to sleep’

Holy Moly!!!!

I was completely unprepared for this book! It was recommended to me by a colleague who had listened to the audio book on Radio 4 and I was intrigued! So, having a kindle…I bought the book there and then and began reading it on my way home that night – wow! Now, I always go on about loving crime fiction and finding it hard to be surprised by books…this completely blew that out of the water! I kept thinking that I knew what was going to happen, only for it to be completely shattered! It’s quite hard to put this book into a genre but I’d go for psychological thriller fiction?

What I also love about this book is that it is S J Watson’s first novel, which gives budding writers (like me…yes I’ve been very lazy recently…) a burst of inspiration! As I write this, the novel remains at number one in the book charts!

Anywho, this is another book that has done remarkably well in the charts for good reason! It is a cracking read! Our protagonist is Christine Lucas, a 47 year old amnesiac who wakes up each day convinced that she is a twenty-something at the start of her life. Each morning, her memory is wiped clean from the night before…now, I think you must have already realised that there is A LOT more to the novel than this ‘50 First Dates‘ – esque narrative. As the plot develops, Christine finds that there is a lot more to her life than she knows or is being told…

This book focuses heavily on the concept and importance of memories and how they define us. We never think about what would happen if we couldn’t remember things, whether we’d still be the person we think we are, whether we would still feel the same way about loved ones…for Christine, she must learn who she has become every day and who her husband is! Ben has to tell her who he is, who she is and explain about the accident that caused her to lose her memory and effectively, her life. Another theme that takes centre-stage in the novel is the issue of trust…how do we really know who we can trust? So the two themes interweaving throughout the novel make for a tremendously exciting read!

At the start of the book, she receives a phone call from Dr Nash, who has apparently been working with her to try and retrieve her memories over the past few weeks…he tells her that she has been writing a journal in order to try and retain memories, which he currently has in his possession. She agrees to meet him and collect the journal and on the very front page in her handwriting are the following words:

“DON’T TRUST BEN!”

Dum dum dummmmmm!

As the novel progresses, the horrors that Christine faces everyday become more and more terrifying, you find yourself willing her to remember, pleading with the author for Christine to remember what has happened and what is happening but this moment seems less and less tangible as the narrative develops.

This is a fantastic chilling read and is really quite haunting as both a novel and a concept! I couldn’t put it down! I’ve recommended it to so many people already but will continue to do so! I’m really looking forward to reading more from S J Watson in the future!