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The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
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The Sense of an Ending (2011)

by Julian Barnes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,1223331,219 (3.86)1 / 522
  1. 92
    The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (Laura400)
  2. 60
    The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch (Queenofcups)
    Queenofcups: I found myself thinking of Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea as I read this book. There is some affinity in theme and story. Murdoch is expansive, where Barnes is elegant and economical. It won the Booker in 1978, and it's well worth another look.
  3. 51
    On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (Cariola)
    Cariola: Another brief but powerful novel that explores how our perceptions vary and memories change over time, as well as regrets over lost oppotunities. McEwan is, like Barnes, a master of words and character development. On Chesil Beach made the Booker short list in 2007--and should have won!… (more)
  4. 20
    The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe (freddlerabbit)
  5. 10
    A Partisan's Daughter by Louis de Bernières (jayne_charles)
    jayne_charles: Intelligently written account of an old guy reminiscing, with the added bonus in this case of an education in Balkan history along the way
  6. 21
    The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (AlexBr)
    AlexBr: If you like unreliable narrators.
  7. 00
    Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (kara.shamy)
  8. 22
    The Sea by John Banville (bookmomo)
    bookmomo: Men looking back on their youth, similar issues with memories. Both beautiful reads.
  9. 01
    The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (yokai)
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Showing 1-5 of 301 (next | show all)
The first time I read this book two days ago, I read this in one sitting. The first page and I was hooked, by page twenty, I was on Abebooks.com purchasing a very good hard back edition. It's the type of book that when you visit a new bookstore, you pull out the book a little bit farther out on the shelf so it will be noticed. When I now visit used bookstores, I will buy copies so I can give them as Christmas, birthday gifts. It is also the type of book that you want to stop strangers and hand them the book and tell them how wonderful it is. It is the type of book you want to include in conversations and hand friends and anyone who will listen to read this book. It is life changing. At least it was for me.

After the first reading was finished, I turned around and read it again! This time, I savored the language, re read passages and took my time reading it. Julian, where have you been my whole life and why am I just now noticing you?! ( )
1 vote allgenresbookworm | Jun 24, 2014 |
Really beautiful from beginning to end. And in this case, beginning is the narrator's memories of a himself as a somewhat pretentious British schoolboy ("we were book-hungry, sex-hungry, meritocratic, anarchistic") finishing what we would call high school and heading off to college. The period is the late nineteen-sixties, although the narrator reminds us that "most people didn't experience 'the sixties' until the seventies."

And the end is the narrator in his sixties, divorced and feeling distant from his adult daughter who is now focused on her own children. An odd inheritance sets off the recollections of his late childhood that make up the first half of this slim novel, and propel the second half forward as he seeks to understand events from decades earlier.

There isn't much middle -- and the book does not need it -- only these bookends of a life.

I won't spoil the ending, except to say that a certain amount is revealed that in retrospect makes sense of everything else. In a way you are disappointed because, like life, you did not think it really needed to be wrapped up in a bow and all explained. And it was not necessary to keep one's interest in the book. But, you have to admit, it does make a certain amount of sense. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Keen to read from this author, enjoyed the twist at the end but not the basic language. ( )
  Marlerb | Jun 19, 2014 |
I've been curious to read this book since it has gotten talked about so much on LT lately. This is the Man Booker prize winner for 2011. It is a short novel that reads somewhat like a short story in that it is tightly focused on one event and the ramifications of this event about 40 years later. It's told in first person and I liked the narrator. As in so many first-person narrations, the reliability of the narrator is always in question, but one difference is that the narrator is trying to be reliable, but knows his memory is faulty. The book really delves into how well we really remember our own lives. I've read a lot of books that deal with "how well can you ever really know another person?", but this book turns that into "how well do we really know ourselves?". Are our memories accurate and complete? Are the events that we remember the ones that really have the most impact on others that were involved? And do we remember the events the same way that others do?

I really enjoyed this book and would love to read more by Julian Barnes. I didn't read the other nominees for the Booker prize this year, but I thought this was a worthy winner. ( )
2 vote japaul22 | Jun 15, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.

***

Sometimes, you just don't get it

The Sense of an Ending is narrated by Tony Webster, a man who has been more or less successful: a steady career, an easy retirement, a friendly marriage followed by a friendlier divorce, an unproblematic daughter. In other words, life is not bothersome for Tony until he receives a letter from a solicitor stating that Adrian Finn, a friend from 40 years ago, left him a diary through the will of Sarah, the mother of his ex-girlfriend from 40 years ago, Veronica. This letter makes Tony start scrutinizing what he thinks his past is and discovering what his life really is.

The novel begins with a list of things that Tony remembers, and after going through each item, he cautiously says, as if to defend himself from his flawed remembrance, which is something that is often presented, that what you end up remembering is not always what you have seen. Memories, in this novel, cannot be trusted. Memories are either willfully forgotten or confused between imagination and reality. They deviate from what really happened and they can even be totally opposite from the truth. The veracity of Tony's memories is often challenged that the reader, at some point, will begin to see this novel as a giant puzzle where the pieces hardly fit each other.

Tony is at great unrest, like his classmate’s description of Henry VIII’s reign and like the way his story ends. Why muddle through all these if he’s at ease, if he found closure with things past? And why make a conscious selection of memories in the first place? After reading the book in one sitting as the dust jacket demanded and after rereading it a couple of times, I feel that I share his memories, owing to the novel’s first-person point of view. Reading the novel is like having a friend sleep over at your place, lying on the bed in the dark, telling random stories and confessions, and you, as the reader, urging the other to keep going and to reexamine things in retrospect.

How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but--mainly--to ourselves.

Because this book deals heavily with the unreliability and faulty nature of memory, it is filled with corroboration, as if this were enough to come up with an ideal version of truth. We only have Tony's story to read, but the small versions from Adrian, Veronica, and other characters provided to us put Tony's narration in a state of doubt. The story sounds sincere enough but the parts that would make it credible are forgotten and left out by Tony, therefore making a puzzle out of himself.

Aside from memory, it also deals with meditations on history and its nuisances, on growing old, on sinking into an ordinary life, on regretting the things you did that you forgot you did, on the unwavering force of things left undone, of man's instinct for self-preservation. Perhaps the last item is the point of all the forgetting, but is it also the point of living at least two-thirds of your life?

Tony has accused others as damaged people, but isn't he just as damaged as the others? He fears these damaged people who, according to him, avoid inflicting further damage to themselves, and yet, he has become a perfect replica of them. He thinks he is being in touch with his senses when the fact is he has become another insensitive man who has lashed at people who were once close to him with his vitriolic words. He would not realize this because he can only figure out the picture that he has created inside his head and he would not get out of it.

The novel has been praised, or criticized, for its readability. It is true that one can effortlessly breeze through the text. It appears to be a simplistic two-part memoir: the first part concerned with Tony's schooling where he met Adrian and Veronica, and the second part concerned with shifting narratives that weave back and forth to the present and the past. One may pick any page at random and most likely find something that is worth quoting.

But reading isn't only concerned with the text. Digging deeper is another factor. A book that can be finished in one sitting without really getting it is not a readable book. One is even tempted to start all over after reading the last sentence of this book. Readers may gather and discuss what really happened, but they will never be able to pin things down. They will agree, but the possibility of disagreement is higher. This irresolvability adds another constraint to the understanding of the book, and perhaps its readability is the greatest irony that it has to present.

So what is the sense of an ending? It is how the novel ended. It is what we have when we cannot undo certain things. We only have a sense of an ending when something in our lives has been buried too deep that we are fooled to believe that it really has ended. ( )
1 vote angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 301 (next | show all)
By now, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes has gained itself a reputation for being the novel you must read twice.....

Nearly every paragraph in this book has multiple interpretations. Once all the questions are answered, the reader is left in the same state that Tony is in the book’s final pages—floored at life’s essential mysteries, and frustrated that they cannot be relived. Fortunately for us, we can just read the book again.
added by Nickelini | editForbes, Geoff Mak (Mar 29, 2012)
 
Barnes' work is one in which, event-wise, not a whole lot happens. Unless we’re talking about the events of the brain and the tricks of time and memory. If that's the case, then Barnes has impressively condensed an undertaking of biblical proportions into a mere 163 pages.
added by WeeklyAlibi | editWeekly Alibi, Sam Adams (Nov 10, 2011)
 
Deservedly longlisted for the Man Booker prize, this is a very fine book, skilfully plotted, boldly conceived, full of bleak insight into the questions of ageing and memory, and producing a very real kick – or peripeteia – at its end. As Kermode wrote: "At some very low level we all share certain fictions about time, and they testify to the continuity of what is called human nature…" Barnes has achieved, in this shortish account of a not very attractive man, something of universal importance.
 
As ever, Barnes excels at colouring everyday reality with his narrator's unique subjectivity, without sacrificing any of its vivid precision: only he could invest a discussion about hand-cut chips in a gastropub with so much wry poignancy.
 
A man's closest-held beliefs about a friend, former lover and himself are undone in a subtly devastating novella from Barnes. It's an intense exploration of how we write our own histories and how our actions in moments of anger can have consequences that stretch across decades. The novel's narrator, Anthony, is in late middle age, and recalling friendships from adolescence and early adulthood. What at first seems like a polite meditation on childhood and memory leaves the reader asking difficult questions about how often we strive to paint ourselves in the best possible light.
added by kthomp25 | editKirkus Reviews. (Nov. 1, 2011)
 

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barnes, Julianprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gombau i Arnau, AlexandreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
for Pat
First words
I remember, in no particular order:
   -a shiny inner wrist;
   -steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it;
   -gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house;
   -a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams;
   -another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface;
   -bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door.
Quotations
"We could start perhaps with the seemingly simple question. What is History? Any thoughts, Webster?
'History is the lies of the victors,' I replied a little too quickly.'
Yes, I was rather afraid you'd say that. Well as long as you remember that it is also the self-delusions of the defeated...' (p. 25, large print ed.)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
By an acclaimed writer at the height of his powers, The Sense of an Ending extends a streak of extraordinary books that began with the best-selling Arthur & George and continued with Nothing to Be Frightened Of and, most recently, Pulse.

This intense new novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he has never much thought about—until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance, one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony Webster thought he’d left all this behind as he built a life for himself, and by now his marriage and family and career have fallen into an amicable divorce and retirement. But he is then presented with a mysterious legacy that obliges him to reconsider a variety of things he thought he’d understood all along, and to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world.

A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single sitting, with stunning psychological and emotional depth and sophistication, The Sense of an Ending is a brilliant new chapter in Julian Barnes’s oeuvre. .
Haiku summary
Middle-age memories
of times past, both good and bad.
What is the meaning?
(sushitori)

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This intense new novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he has never much thought about until his oldest friends return with a vengeance, one of them from the grave another maddeningly present. Tony Webster thought he'd left all of this behind as he built a life for himself, and by now his marriage and family and career have fallen into an amicable divorce and retirement. but he is then presented with a mysterious legacy that obliges him to reconsider various things, and to revise his estimation of his own nature and his place in the world.… (more)

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