I work in a bookstore. I say this first because I think it's important for the reader to know where I'm coming from: I talk about books all day; customers count on employees to know their stuff and to be able to engage with them about what's new and good. Most often, I talk with them about books I've never read (you can't read them all), relying on hearsay and reviews to educate me on the finer points of a book's readability. And sometimes, I just wing it.
One of the novels I sold most this holiday season, and one of the books that's sparked the greatest amount of water cooler talk around the store, is the 2011 Man Booker Award winner, Julian Barnes's The Sense of An Ending
. It's a slim novel, 176 pages in length, and I read it in one sitting. Yet oddly, I have a harder time talking about it than I do books I haven't read, or books I've enjoyed less.
Beyond the Book
In Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending
, Tony Webster admits that he may not be a reliable narrator. He acknowledges that it's probably impossible to tell, objectively, the story of your own life, and that it's therefore up to the reader to question or validate his authority.
The idea of the unreliable narrator has long been an issue in fiction, dating back to medieval times. The term, as a formal literary device, comes from critic Wayne C. Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction
There are many reasons why a narrator might be deemed unreliable....