The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes

I changed my mind and it feels good to do so. I didn’t enjoy the lackluster voice of the protagonist in The Sense of An Ending until I sat down and read it for a length of time; sometimes reading a chunk of a book at one time makes a difference to me in how I can register a book’s tone and voice. Well, I  settled in with in and came to like this 60’s man who was really an ordinary “every man” who took what life gave him and made it enough. Not pro-active until the end. The book became an alternative to Catcher in the Rye with the same sensibility. The book was forming a puzzle I was unaware of and once caught in the puzzle and given the ending, I find myself rereading the book and enjoying it even more.

The Sense of an Ending is an excellent book for a memoir writer to study the voice of the protagonist. The memoir needs to be written in the author’s natural voice, a tone that includes others and is not too congratulatory. Recently, according to news reports, ex-Prime Minister Tony Blaire wrote a memoir he called The Journey.  After payment of $3.6 million for an advance, at the last minute, he was  asked to make himself less self important. The title was changed to A Journey.

You know what I am taking about. The perfect aunt who could have been a better mother to her niece than her own sister. The older brother who could do nothing wrong in childhood and became a champ in adult life. No stumbles on the way. Sometimes the tone is too self involved, other times the tone relies on editing out difficulties. We’re not interested unless it’s a telling of a the ups and downs of a real life.

Watch any sour grapes. Grapes don’t taste good when over ripe. The tone will put your readings off. If you have been the victim as a child, that’s not your fault. To write only from the victim place as an adult, is hard to believe and read.  If you had a terrible childhood and want to write how you not only survived, but thrived, please wait to write your story, important that it might be, until you’ve done some forgiving of yourself and your abusers. No one wants to read about someone being all bad or all good. It may be how we feel at times, but it isn’t going deeply enough into the experience. You probably need more healing before you’re ready to get it out of your journal. That’s what is exciting about memoir. The author shows others how they left their miserable horse behind and became stronger for the difficulty or more compassionate. Not all healed, no unaffected, but able to make a life for yourself and we want to hear about it.



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