I often wonder how people communicate at all. There are such complex layers of spoken and unspoken words, subtexts, agendas covertly pushed and conclusions jumped to. It seems like an impossible web and the idea that you can look somebody in the eyes and use words that reach them and be understood as you intended seems like a pure and naive dream. Add the fallibility of memory into that and you're in a quagmire.
And so The Sense of an Ending was one of those books that left me feeling a little hopeless, because it embodies everything I fear the most about our ability, or inability, to reach each other. And the force of this story isn't the result of the misunderstandings, the events around which comprehension and memory failed. But the fact of it, the mistrust we must have for our own memories, for our own certainties. Especially when it comes to reaching other people.
There's nothing more heartbreaking than being misunderstood, than taking the care to say things as clearly as you possibly can and still not be understood or loved. And all of this troubles me constantly. I fret about the usefulness of words and am ridden with angst about what I've said, written and how it's read. And I blame myself for others not listening or reading openly. And I blame myself for needing to try in the first place.
The book expressed all of this powerfully, desperately and without resolution. It is, for me, the worst kind of tragedy, a blameless failing to reach outside oneself and be met. I found it all quite devastating, to the point that I can't claim enjoyment in the conventional sense, because this story contains a too-brutal truth. But also devastating in a good way; in Barnes succeeding at the very thing he describes the failure of.