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The Sense of an Ending (Borzoi Books) by…

The Sense of an Ending (Borzoi Books) (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Julian Barnes

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4,003None1,273 (3.86)1 / 503
Title:The Sense of an Ending (Borzoi Books)
Authors:Julian Barnes
Info:Knopf (2011), Hardcover, 176 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:literary fiction, prize-winning

Work details

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011)

2011 (39) 2012 (79) 2013 (33) 21st century (41) aging (50) Booker (43) Booker Prize (134) Booker Prize Winner (46) British (79) British literature (41) contemporary fiction (29) ebook (44) England (117) English (29) English literature (46) fiction (529) friendship (84) Kindle (54) literary fiction (30) literature (48) London (30) memory (135) novel (101) read (45) read in 2011 (33) read in 2012 (45) relationships (80) suicide (123) to-read (106) UK (27)
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    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)
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    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
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    bookmomo: Men looking back on their youth, similar issues with memories. Both beautiful reads.

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English (294)  Dutch (10)  Spanish (5)  German (5)  Norwegian (3)  Italian (2)  French (2)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (324)
Showing 1-5 of 294 (next | show all)
Julian Barnes has written a thought-provoking and challenging short novel in which Tony Webster looks back at his late teens and early 20s as he approaches his 70s. He explores his memories of his friends and lovers of this time and comes to realize how partial these memories can be and how some can resurface after many years of not being consciously remembered. As a result of a surprise bequest in a will, he meets his first love only to find that their relationship is still a mystery to him. During this exploration of memory, Tony reassesses many aspects of his relationships and this leads to an unexpected revelation shedding a new light on his early life.
  camharlow2 | Apr 10, 2014 |
Tony Webster - a quiet, middle-aged gentleman, amicably divorced, one grown daughter - seems like a reliable narrator, but in his youth he felt more deeply. This is brought back to him in force when Veronica, his first serious girlfriend, re-enters his life. Her mother left Tony a journal that belonged to Adrian, a school friend of Tony's who dated Veronica after she and Tony broke up. Why would Veronica's mother have Adrian's journal, and why, now, won't Veronica let Tony have it? Tony stumbles confusedly toward the answers, never quite arriving there in time to suit impatient Veronica, and coming face to face with memories he has, for lack of a better term, repressed. Beautifully lyrical writing, examining questions of character and memory.


...what you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed. (9)

How far their anxieties outran our experience. (13)

You may say, But wasn't this the sixties? Yes, but only for some people, only in certain parts of the country. (22)

...mental states can be inferred from actions. That's in history...Whereas in the private life, I think the converse is true: that you can infer past actions from current mental states. I certainly believe we all suffer damage, one way or another. How could we not...? (36)

God knows you can have complication and difficulty without any compensating depth or seriousness. (38)

...he thought logically, and then acted on the conclusion of logical thought. Whereas most of us, I suspect, do the opposite: we make an instinctive decision, then build up an infrastructure of reasoning to justify it. And call the result common sense. (42)

History isn't the lies of the victors...it's more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated. (44)

...as the witnesses to your life diminish, there is less corroboration, and therefore less certainty, as to what you are or have been. Even if you have assiduously kept records - in words, sound, pictures - you may find that you have attended to the wrong kind of record-keeping. (46)

And it ought to be obvious to us that time doesn't act as a fixative, rather as a solvent. But it's not convenient - it's not useful - to believe this; it doesn't help us get on with our lives; so we ignore it. (48)

But if nostalgia means the powerful recollection of strong emotions - and a regret that such feelings are no longer present in our lives - then I plead guilty. (60)

How time first grounds us and then confounds us. We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe. We imagined we were being responsible bit were only being cowardly. What we called realism turned out to be a way of avoiding things rather than facing them. Time...give us enough time and our best-supported decisions will seem wobbly, our certainties whimsical. (67)

...time's many paradoxes. For instance: that when we are young and sensitive, we are also at our most hurtful; whereas when the blood begins to slow, when we feel less sharply, when we are more armoured and have learnt how to bear hurt, we tread more carefully. (71)

I have some instinct for survival, for self-preservation. And believing you have such an instinct is almost as good as actually having it, because it means you act the same way. (92)

What did I know of life, I who had lived so carefully? Who had neither won nor lost, but just let life happen to him? Who had the usual ambitions and settled all too quickly for them not being realised? Who avoided being hurt and called it a capacity for survival? (100) ( )
  JennyArch | Mar 30, 2014 |
Had I known there was a mystery to be solved, might have read it a bit more slowly and surely more suspiciously. I'm a page turner, making certain I've read everything on the page and re-read anything that didn't "register", but always eager to know how the story ends! And. . if I weren't a page-turner, might not have finished this book - as it seemed a bit repetitive. However, NOW I "get it" - that there were many nuances and very very subtle clues as those pages turned.
I missed too much and was truly surprised by the ending. Maybe that was the best way for me to read this one - and then to go search out reviews with "spoilers" - so my fellow readers who had invested more time could be helpful with the missed clues.
That said, I don't think I missed any of the more "surface" commentaries and wisdom on "Life" that can be appreciated from this "story". ( )
  CasaBooks | Mar 14, 2014 |
I think I must have missed something. Good writing, though. ( )
  rainidontmind | Mar 14, 2014 |
Memory, history, accumulation of character, assumptions formed and shifted. Julian Barnes tells a story of the outcome of youthful choices, a deceptively simple tale. Barnes' writing took me from chuckling at youthful foolishness to remembering youthful follies, to sympathizing with the arrogant all knowing attitude of young adulthood and then smack dab into middle age and the examination of our past given new perspective. Above all, this story is about remorse, and the desire, born of life experience, to change what cannot be undone. I found the novel to be poignant and true. Excellent! ( )
  hemlokgang | Feb 28, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 294 (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.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barnes, Julianprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gombau i Arnau, AlexandreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
"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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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.
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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)

(summary from another edition)

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