The Man Booker Prize novella, The Sense of an Ending was released five years ago today, on 5th October 2011.
The novel concerns about a man called Tony Webster, who is retired and living alone, reflecting on the choices he and his friends have made in their lives after being bequeathed £500 from his ex-girlfriend’s mother.
The book discusses missed opportunities such as how Tony “had wanted life not to bother me too much, and had succeeded”. He discusses about how he used to be a “book-hungry, sex-hungry, meritocratic, anarchistic,” boy who was “waiting to be released” into adult life. He asks himself if one’s character changes over time, and in doing so reflects on what change really is. He recognizes that despite an average and comfortable life how pitiful wanting an un-bothered life was, and he’s very brutal about how age affects us – “the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss”.
As a result, Tony finds that he is incapable of thinking outside of his own head; the fact he doesn’t even understand himself which makes for a strangely satisfying narration. He recognises that he sees himself differently to how others do, or as he summarises it “I have an instinct for survival, for self-preservation, perhaps this is what Veronica called cowardice and I called being peaceable.”
It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2011, and awarded it a month later. The head judge Stella Rimington said it was: “exquisitely written, subtly plotted and reveals new depths with each reading”. It was also nominated in the Best Novel category at the 2011 Costa Book Awards.
The novel has subsequently been adapted into a film starring Jim Broadbent. Hear some more information about the adaptation below: