Post by bookaddict on Sept 6, 2012 15:42:06 GMT -5
I've just finished reading this novel and am impressed with it. However, despite going back and re-reading certain pages, I am still puzzled about the true relationship between Adrian and the disabled lad called Adrian. I also don't get how disabled Adrian can be Mary's brother. Why does she have two names? Mary and Veronica. What is the link between Veronica's family and Adrian senior's family?
I hope I haven't spoiled the book for anybody who hasn't read it yet, but this is really getting to me. Answers please!
This is the first book that I've read by Julian Barnes, but it certainly won't be the last. I can recommend his novels.
"The Sense of an Ending" was also the first book by Julian Barnes that I read and I was absolutely floored by its brilliance.
Part of the reason "The Sense of An Ending" is a genius piece of writing is that this is all Barnes gives his reader: the "sense" of an ending. By the end of the book, we, the reader, have literally become Tony--left with the feeling that "we just don't get it." And so, we reread the novel, then scour the internet for "Answers" and interpretations. In our obsessive search, we mirror Tony's desperation to know for certain "The Answer". But alas, like Tony, we are destined to never fully "get it." The only person who will ever know the answer is Mr. Barnes, and I sincerely hope that he hangs onto it. He is like a magician who has pulled off the amazing literary feat of psychologically turning his reader into his character.
I have read a lot of other people's interpretations of the story and strongly disagreed with a lot of them, but if it works for them and helps them be at peace with the outcome of the story and its characters, who am I to say that it is "wrong"?
Just like in life, we never really get "the answer". Like Tony at the end, we piece together some explanation that works for us--an explanation that may be part truth, part misinterpretation.
Personally, I believe that "The Sense of An Ending" is not about what happened to Adrian, who is the disabled man, etc. It is about the deep and abiding sense of regret--things that are ruined, things that are unresolved and unknowable and ultimately, unchangeable.
I heard an interview in which Mr. Barnes mentioned that the original title for the novel was "Unrest" (which is equally brilliant as a title because it has the same effect and makes the same point). Like Tony, we come to the ending, and feel that strong, obsession inducing sense of "unrest."
(I realize none of that "answers" your question, so if you'd like me to offer my interpretation, I could... but that's all it would be--an interpretation. I don't think this is a novel that should have a cut and dried correct "answer." And quite frankly, I prefer it that way!!)
Last Edit: Sept 7, 2012 14:52:27 GMT -5 by dawnoshiro
Post by dawnoshiro on Sept 18, 2012 3:20:48 GMT -5
I have been looking all over the web for this one person's exceptionally well written explanation and haven't been able to find it again.
I was hoping to share that link because it made a simple and eloquent interpretation that was similar to my own.
Maybe if he or she is on this board, he or she can provide a link to the post. I can't remember where I read it (on another forum or someone's blog), but it pretty much summed up the same interpretation I had.
Keep in mind, it's just an interpretation and it might be wrong.
Tony's school friend Adrian is the father of the younger Adrian. Since younger Adrian's mother is Mrs. Ford, that would make him Veronica's brother. I'm guessing Veronica's alias could be the result of personal embarrassment or a desire for privacy, or maybe younger Adrian just called her "Mary" so she allowed him to do so. A lot of people have nicknames that have nothing to do with their given names.
I've seen all kinds of other theories (for example, the idea that Tony is really younger Adrian's father, etc.) but most of them seemed a bit too complex to me and a few of them didn't seem like they could be supported by the text.
Hopefully someone else will offer another interpretation and you can have your choice of readings and pick whichever one works for you. Like I said before, one of the things I love about this book is its subtlety and the fact that we're not meant to really have solid "answers".
Post by Book Addict on Sept 21, 2012 16:43:10 GMT -5
Thanks Dawn, that's an interesting interpretation, though still puzzling! I think I will just have to be content with not knowing. That is the genius of Julian Barnes work. I look forward to reading more of his novels in the future.
Just finished this wonderful yet unusual book and still enormously puzzled why Tony was willed the diary and left money by Veronica's mother. I was so carried away with Adrian and Tony's often not profound but real thoughts and questions that I found myself "reading" the book but my mind "pondering" the memories of my life. I just checked out Arthur & George and hope for another terrific read.
Post by dawnoshiro on Oct 14, 2012 15:07:26 GMT -5
I'm also reading "Arthur and George" right now and I am enjoying it quite a lot.
I think how you read the gift depends on your interpretation of Veronica's mother.
If you think that she and her daughter had a very tense or antagonistic relationship (there are hints of this), Mrs. Ford might have left Tony the diary to hurt Veronica one last time, from beyond the grave. After all, she did have the gall to name her son "Adrian"--a name that seems designed to pain her family by reminding them of the affair and the suicide. The money might have been nothing more than bait to lure Tony into claiming the inheritance; the average person may not get too excited to discover he or she has been left an old diary, but most people love to get free money.
We know that whatever Adrian wrote was painful enough for Veronica to burn it (or at least claim that she did).
The key question then becomes: what was in the diary? Again, this is a mystery that is left open to interpretation.
On a basic level, the diary reveals that Adrian and Mrs. Ford had an affair and conceived a child (based on Adrian's mathematic formula, etc.)
However, there is more of the diary that Veronica doesn't want Tony to see, and we are left with only a glimpse of what that might have been.
To me, the diary probably reveals that Veronica is still in love with Tony, and had been going out with Adrian as either a rebound or revenge. This is why Veronica repeatedly insists that Tony "doesn't get it"--he never understood how much she cared for him. There are many clues in the book that suggest that Tony is or was Veronica's only love. However, even when they are older, he continues to "not get it", and not get her. Some of their scenes together are so devastating. He actually ASKS her whether he was in love with her, which continues Tony's pattern of unintentional cruelty.
Why would Veronica go to so much trouble to guide Tony on his quest for understanding? If she were really angry with him in regard to Adrian and the affair, she could have simply not responded to his emails or just flat out told him the reason. I wonder whether a tiny part of her hoped he still cared for her, or whether she just wanted to spend time with him only to discover he hadn't really changed at all.
There are so many layers to this story, and that is one of the reasons I adore it.
I don't have the book with me know, but I think Tony, when first recalling his memory of Veronica, says her second name was Mary. This would explain the duplicity of names, though why she chose to be known as Mary by Adrian junior would also be an interesting question. I've enjoyed reading your views on the novel, which I also consider as one of Barnes' finest works.
Like many people who have read this wonderful book, I was left needing explanations for all those unanswered questions. While Tony tells us what happened, there are too many loose ends. I turned to the internet to read other people's opinions and quickly discovered a wide range of weird and wonderful interpretations. Here is my understanding (at least, this is the understanding provided by Tony at the end of the book)...
Adrian hooked up with Veronica, and wrote to Tony to seek his approval. After a typically unserious reply, Tony wrote a horrible letter that excoriated both of them and urged Adrian to seek out Veronica's mother to lean more about his new girlfriend. This was the catalyst for an affair between Adrian and Sarah Ford (Veronica's mum), which spawned a mentally handicapped child. At some point during the unfolding of this tragedy, Adrian killed humself.
I think that's about it, but here are my unanswered questions:
1) The bitterness Veronica feels for Tony presumably stems from her belief that his letter drove Adrian into the arms of her mother. And judging by Tony's reaction, he feels she is justified in feeling so angry. Sorry, but I don't buy this. Adrian would have doubtless met with Sarah Ford at some point, with or without Tony's letter, and she may still have made a play for him anyway. Whether Adrian would have responded in the same way, we can't say, but there's sufficient doubt to reject the idea that Tony put Adrian directly into the arms of Veronica's mother.
2) Why is Veronica known as Mary to Adrian Junior and his carers? I've read explanations along the lines that it would have been an easier name for a disabled boy to use, but that's weak. If Julian Barnes had simply stuck with the name Veronica, no one would have raised an eyebrow; the story would have been no less plausible. This Mary business is a needless piece of detail that poses unwanted questions. If it is NOT an irrelevant detail, then what is its significance. Does it mean that Tony's interpretation of events is false?
3) If my analysis of events is correct, then why does Veronica use the term 'blood money' in reference to the £500 left by Sarah to Tony? That implies guilt money, or payment to a friend or kin for someone the giver of that cash has killed or harmed in some way. But Adrian was not seduced by Sarah at Tony's expense. If the £500 had gone to Veronica, that would make sense as 'blood money', but not to Tony. Any thoughts?
4) The theme of the book is the unreliability of memory. If the nasty letter that sparked Adrian's affair with Sarah is the only plot-defining event that Tony mis-remembered, then that's a little weak - especially if, as I've suggested above, it's unreasonable to draw a straight line between Tony's letter and Adrian's suicide. Are there other events that Tony mis-recalled that cast the story in a different light? Is Veronica right when she says that Tony will never get it? Is his understanding of events still way off the mark?
I got to thinking that maybe that during that strange weekend with Veronica's family Tony slept with Sarah. Remember that morning when the other three went out for a walk leaving Tony and Sarah alone? Did Veronica really urge them to let Tony sleep in? Was that Sarah's idea? Was Adrian Junior really Tony's child?
Or perhaps not. After all, for Sarah to have Adrian's diary there must have been something between them. And the idea that Tony would have forgotten sleeping with his girlfriend's mother is fanciful, to say the least. The lie-in is another unanswered question, but perhaps Tony is wrong on that one. After all, if he was really a man who got up early, why didn't he in this instance? He tells us he never laid in, and yet he laid in.
When he left the house in Chislehurst, he recalled two things: the furtive, conspiratorial wave Sarah gave him, and the conversation in the car with Veronica's father. The first was probably just an indication of Sarah's yearning for Tony. It's not unknown for middle-aged women to envy their daughters, and to flirt with their boyfriends. The second is a conversation that is unlikely to have happened if Tony had just slept with Sarah. Tony's memory is unreliable, but his mid-remembered 'facts' are never described in such detail. I like to think that the dialogue Tony reports is reliable.
I've many more thoughts on this book, and on the other theory's that are out there, but I'd love to hear what other people have to say.
I think we can definitely put the whole "why is Veronica called Mary" question to rest.
Xfraga is right. It's been a long time since I looked at the text but I went back through it today and Mary is one of Veronica's middle names. I only remembered the part when Tony said (at the end) that it was her "second name" which I assumed was like an alias or nickname. If he had said middle name, I think it would have been clearer... Ironically, as readers, our own unreliable memories are coloring the readings.
This is just my interpretation, but I still think that Veronica was always in love with Tony. If she only went out with Adrian to make Tony jealous, she might have been pleased to read his letter. That might have been the wedge that drove her and Adrian apart. (We don't get the rest of Adrian's journal, so we can only speculate.) But this explains a lot of her later behavior, including her claim that Tony has never gotten it.
I think Tony does get it, in the end. The accumulated damage is not just Adrian's suicide and the birth of younger Adrian (I think it is safe to say that Tony's letter plays only an indirect role in these events). It's also the way we go through life unintentionally hurting others with our words and deeds. Tony realizes that he has been cruel to someone who actually loved him a great deal.
His initial recollection of Veronica dancing does not carry much weight to it, but by the end he realizes that she only danced because she loved him. She had such a serious personality that she wouldn't let herself go like that for anyone but him. At the end of the novel, he remembers her dancing "for once in her life". Once he "gets it" he has to re-evaluate everything he thought he knew. Suddenly it's clear why she slept with him only after they had broken up, why she continued to humor him in his quest for understanding, etc. But even if he understands, there's nothing to be done.
This interpretation works for me, but maybe not for everyone.
I just don't think that Tony is THAT unreliable of a narrator to forget that he had an affair with Mrs. Ford, or to imagine Adrian's features on a child that he had fathered. Also, if Veronica really blamed or hated Tony, I don't think she would have bothered to reply to him, nor would she have acted so mysteriously. It's far easier to tell someone you hate "You ruined my life" than to tell someone "I was madly in love with you, and I've never really stopped loving you."
Last Edit: Oct 24, 2012 4:44:59 GMT -5 by dawnoshiro
Thank you for your insights. I am leading a book club discussion on "The Sense of an Ending" this week. I have read the book twice and am still slightly confused, but have appreciated hearing from others. Mostly what I got from the book was that at the end of our lives we look back. Our memories are erratic. And sometimes we have regrets. I am going to recommend this book to young people, not that I expect to change the world.
Hello all: this is a wonderful book. Here are my two bits worth: I think that we are intrigued by the unanswered questions in this book, but if we dwell too much on it, we have missed the main point. Margaret tells Tony the story of the nanny and the diary. He asks; "Did they fire her?", and Margaret says; "That's not the point of the story." Later she chastises him for being stubborn and trying so hard to stay on the plot. I think that might be a type of foreshadowing, or a message to the reader. I don't think Tony ever "gets it". Tony appears to be the same guy right to the very end. (While he feels remorse, he doesn't seem to be aware of his interpersonal skills, and how they impede his ability to have decent relationships with people.) Near the end, when the male caretaker comes to his table, Tony starts talking about the way the chips are cut in the restaurant. He is nervous, and can't talk easily about young Adrian. He probably has a chance to be in a relationship with Margaret or Victoria, but he doesn't pick up the cues or hints. He blows all his chances. He has a poor relationship with his daughter. While we might sympathize with Tony throughout the book because he doesn't understand all the mysteries .... In the end, he becomes a character that is less sympathetic and more just pathetic. I think that while history and memories are bound up into an interesting mess, the more important message here is that you only have one life, don't screw it up by losing your ability to relate to people in an honest and open way. You might end up alone and nostalgic for the days when you had "feelings". It's a pretty sad book.
Regarding Veronica's name Mary; I think this is just used to show that young Adrian is a family member. Probably only family members called her Mary. Veronica (similar to Tony) has trouble being clear and direct. Instead she keeps giving hints that something is very important with these people, and Tony starts talking about other things (which pisses her off). Then when she goes off topic, and starts talking about obese people, he veers back to the topic and insults her again by calling Adrian goofy. He wasn't sensitive enough to see the difficulty she was having while trying to show him how important this young man is to her.