The Sense of an Ending, The Iliad, Slaughterhouse-Five

 The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

I read it too quickly the first time, so I went back and began again, hoping to find answers to lingering questions. There's much to think about here.

The narrator is Tony Webster. The story he's telling is his own history: the friends he had at school, his romance with a girl named Veronica, and later his marriage to Margaret and the birth of their daughter, Lucy.
Fast forward a few decades and Tony receives notice from a legal firm that Veronica's mother has left him an old friend's diary in her will. Tony has no idea how she came to be in possession of  the diary or why she left it to him. Getting answers becomes complicated when he learns that Veronica now has the diary and is not inclined to part with it. As he searches for answers he begins to realize that his memories of the past, the tidy picture of it he has created for himself, may not be completely accurate. It's possible his actions then affected other lives in ways he'd rather not face today.

This psychological drama is tightly written with flawed, messed-up, utterly human characters. I wanted to shake Veronica and yell at Tony, but mostly I just wanted them all to be ok. They would not be. I have to keep reminding myself this is fiction; it's all so vivid that surely it must be somebody's actual story. Do read this one. It's too good to miss.   

The Iliad by Homer

blood and gore,
long Greek names,
women as prizes
in war games, 
fighting and killing, 
crying and dying,
and a lot of useless gods.

Not a fan.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

I read this because I thought I should. I left it almost to the end of my Guilt List books because I was dreading it a little bit - how could you not dread a book with such a title - but in the end I got through it and I'm glad to have read it. It isn't a book I can say I liked because the subject matter is horrible, but I can say I appreciated it - the writing and the message. It's about the inevitability of war, the unspeakable damage it does physically and psychologically, and it's ultimate uselessness. Not light reading, but the darkness is alleviated somewhat by the lead character, Billy Pilgrim's, seeming ability to time travel, and his kidnapping by aliens for a trip to the planet of Tralfamadore. It's weird, but it's good.  


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