Monday, 14 May 2012

A Sense of an Ending Review

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes has been on my ‘to read’ list ever since I saw that Barnes had at last won the Man Booker prize in 2011 after many years of being nominated and shortlisted.  I already had on my bookshelf his ‘Arthur and George’ which I had started reading although the bookmark one fifth of the way in tells me that this one lost out to other books in the competition to sustain my interest.  No such problem with The Sense .... with its mere 150 pages reminiscent of the Great Gatsby.  Some books just do not need to be longer and The Sense .... is definitely one of those.  The story is well paced and I read it in two sittings.   The plot evolves through the nostalgic meanderings of one Tony Webster as he recalls his schooldays with three friends, only one of which will be referred to later in the story.  ‘This is not part of this story’ is a phrase used often to indicate that some recalled event, feeling or conversation has no later relevance in the story that is unfolding before our eyes.  As the book is about memory and seen only from one perspective, we would be foolish to think we can believe everything we read and in this respect Tony Webster is an unreliable narrator.

In the first part of the book he makes brief reference to writing a letter to his friend – a brilliant academic with a promising start at Cambridge university.  The letter is prompted following the discovery that Adrian and Tony’s ex-girlfriend are now reported to be ‘an item’.  His recap of the letter is short with some detrimental reference to Veronica.  In part two he is presented with the actual letter which we now see is a lengthy piece of vitriolic sentiment written from the heart – a broken and revengeful heart.  He sees it for what it is - a rant written in the heat of the moment and he is suitably humbled and eventually remorseful of his descent into the invective with such a diatribe.   But the discovery of the letter and his increasing curiosity about his ex-girlfriend lead him down some unexpected paths and no-one is more surprised than Tony to discover on the last two pages what the letter may have triggered all those years ago.  No-one, that is ... than the reader.

Such is the puzzling ending of this book – and note the title involves both the word ‘sense’ and ‘ending’ that great debates now rage on various literary blogs as to what might have really happened earlier in the narrator’s life and how the story takes the final twist.  Some reviewers suggest a better ending than the one we have just read.  One suggests the title should be No sense in the Ending and with that I do concur as we are never privy to the full truth of what happened on a crucial weekend many years past.

It is impossible here to give away the story, the plotline and the eventual outcome for the characters as there are so many questions unanswered and the book has left me wondering whether that was the author’s aim ie to stimulate the readers’ and leave them with an unsatisfactory ending upon which they can lay their own ideas.

The Sense of an Ending is beautifully written and deserves all the accolades it has received and I wouldn’t have missed reading it.

I suggest that you read the book yourself and then, and only then, consult the debate on

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Contribution to Your Royal Wedding Anthology

This is my contribution to an anthology competition which was held last year to coincide with the Royal Wedding.  Louise Gibney, a prolific writer and enthusiast, arranged for the booklet to be printed and it is available on ebay - just search Royal Wedding Anthology.  It is £5 plus 92p postage and half the receipts go to UNICEF.
I am hoping that by showcasing my own entry, sales of the complete anthology will increase.
I had fun writing this so I do hope you enjoy it too.
Di Castle, writer

The Royal Wedding 29th April 2011

Well it was just the day we had all been looking forward to and we were not disappointed, were we?
First there was the early morning cup of tea drunk in leisurely fashion in front of our bedroom television set on this bonus bank holiday to celebrate the first Royal Wedding for thirty years.

Most of us will remember the joy and anticipation of that other Royal Wedding on a sunny July day in 1981, especially those who had young children for whom the parents were arranging a street party.  For us, there had been a swathe of meetings with mothers organising food and mini meetings of Dads organising tables and music broadcasts.  That year there were no flat screen televisions on which to broadcast the pomp and ceremony of a London State event, only our small sets around which we sat all morning while preparing food, games and activities.

 Another mother and I spent most of that morning huddled in a corner disappearing frequently into my garage to organise the script and props for the amusement we had planned for the children.  No magician or kids’ entertainer had been booked; it was the days of simple birthday parties and under-stated follow on activities.  Party teas in those days comprised egg or paste sandwiches and jelly in a cardboard dish with a dollop of ice cream.  We had hats, flags and party dresses.  In the mayhem that was the television coverage of Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding and party preparation,  our children failed to miss their scooter and bouncy jump ball, hooters and bicycle bells which we had commandeered for our raucous entrance with which we intended to bring the party to a sudden halt.

 My acting partner was well versed in the vagaries of putting on entertainment having honed her skills in an infant classroom.  I did as I was told, acting as her stooge and we gave a good rendition of two lost clowns who were late for the wedding and required directions from the assembled children.  We were slightly deaf too, demanding constant repeats of the shrieks of “It’s finished” and “You’ve missed it”.  Some of the brightest sparks attempted to give us an approximate route out of Middlesex if we followed the road ‘that way’ and went up to the A40.  Much was inaudible above my fellow actor’s fury as she scolded me for spending too much time on my hair, whacking me with a national jack flag and above my bawling protests that I was wearing my best dress – well, a bright orange clown outfit of bloomers and mop hat.
Eventually, we were exposed by one or two of our own offspring who had no conscience about spoiling the display for the younger less observant children.  After all, the jelly and ice cream was more enticing than watching a couple of mothers make fools of themselves.  We had, with foresight, arranged a quick getaway in an open top sports car belonging to a young neighbour who we had sworn to secrecy. So with our jokes now falling on deaf ears, we beat a hasty retreat.  It was our ride in the sports car which my children remembered, their envy a source of conversation for days.

 This Royal Wedding was spent more quietly due to the effects of ageing and the fact that our present road is unsuitable for street parties.  But there were other differences.  How television has changed; this time there were countless venues where we could have viewed the big event on a large screen.  But our own 32 inch screen gave us perfect visions of this magnificent spectacle.  The shrinking violet that was Diana 1981 had made way for a confident mature young woman, fully aware of what lies ahead.  The frilly, flouncy and over-gathered dress of 1981 was replaced by a fitted, beautifully shaped and unfussy creation which said much about the wearer.
And the words on all mothers’ lips were no doubt, how proud Princess Diana would have been of her eldest son and how much she would have loved to be there.