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

by Julian Barnes

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5,419416801 (3.83)1 / 655
Member:Dabble58
Title:The Sense of an Ending (Borzoi Books)
Authors:Julian Barnes
Info:Knopf (2011), Hardcover, 176 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:literary fiction, prize-winning

Work details

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011)

Recently added byRena37, Catelam, arpballew, unlucky, Adilinaria, phoibee, gigu60, private library
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    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)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These brief, intricately plotted novels are reflective, character-driven stories that examine a pivotal event from different perspectives. In a complex narrative that shifts between past and present, individuals who grew up in 1960s England discover that memory can be unreliable.… (more)
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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.
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English (378)  Dutch (11)  Spanish (7)  German (5)  French (4)  Norwegian (3)  Italian (3)  Danish (2)  All (1)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All (416)
Showing 1-5 of 378 (next | show all)
Intriguing and oddly gripping tale of dull man looking back on his life and especially his youth, when things seem to have gone wrong. As usual with Barnes it's mostly about rather cerebral matters: moral niceties, philosophical conundra, what did so-and-so really say or mean. Towards the end, it leaps into action but left me a bit confused. There's an algebraic formula which is meant to sum up the nub of the story but I couldn't fathom it and it left me rather frustrated, though thoughtful.

Two questions remain:
1.what does the title mean? It's the title of a lit crit book by Kermode, a highly rated literary boffin, but not the sort most lay folk would get round to reading

2. How on earth have they managed to make a film of it? It's all letters, pages from diaries, internal monologue and abstract discussions. Quite a challenge but a superb cast (Broadbent & Rampling among my favourite actors) so i look forward to seeing it. ( )
1 vote vguy | Apr 20, 2017 |
I found reading (well, actually, re-reading) this beautiful novel reminiscent of the first time I met my wife. On that occasion I remember listening utterly spellbound, hanging on every word (indeed, every syllable) of that mellifluous Scottish accent as she spoke so earnestly and enthusiastically about 'The Dream of the Rood' and 'The Battle of Maldon'. Simultaneously, however, in another part of my brain, all I was aware of were the fireworks going off in my head and the glorious fanfare that was playing (and I do believe there might even have been a choir of angels), utterly amazed that this extraordinary woman was not only talking to me but even seemed interested in what I might have to say, or at least pretended to be.

This book brought a similar sense of dichotomous dislocation. Even reading it for a second time, I wanted so anxiously to complete it, to know how it would be resolved. Meanwhile, I also wanted to read it as slowly as I feasibly could, to savour the experience and wring every last modicum of pleasure from it.

This short but beautifully crafted novel, so worthy of the Man Booker Prize that it won in 2011, is narrated by Tony Webster who starts by recollecting the latter years of his schooldays in the 1960s at a prestigious London independent school (presumably modelled closely on City of London School which Barnes attended). Tony had two close friends with whom he had formed a gauche clique, affecting an intellectual detachment rather beyond their mental capacity. However, a new boy, Adrian, joins the school during their time in the sixth form and is soon adopted as guru by the other boys. They all complete their school careers fairly successfully, with Adrian winning a scholarship to Cambridge with Tony secures a place at Bristol where he reads history.

During his time at Bristol Tony meets and falls for Veronica, a girl from a socially more elevated family from Surrey. Their relationship develops slowly, and is never wholly comfortable. Indeed, it gradually peters out. Shortly afterwards Tony receives a letter from Adrian bearing the news that he and Veronica are now a couple. We are told that, deeply angry and hurt, Tony wrote a letter back, expressing his views of how Adrian and Veronica have behaved. We learn that he went on to meet, and subsequently marry Margaret with whom he has a daughter, Susie. Tony and Margaret are now divorced but still on relatively amicable terms.

At this point the first chapter or section of the novel closes. As the second section opens, back in the current day, Tony himself receives a letter, this one from a solicitor, which sets him thinking once again about those long lost days.

It is difficult to classify this novel - there is no fast action but it does have elements of a thriller in the way that Barnes controls how much we learn about Veronica and Adrian, and even Tony. Tautly, but elegantly written, it holds its readers attention through to the very last word. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Apr 8, 2017 |
Spotted on my father's bookshelf and read in the course of a morning, Barnes is as ever touching and clever and so adept at relating the shifting discrepancies of perception and memory. The phrase is clichéd, but his writing always touches a chord for me. All these mental traps and delusions we have in thinking of ourselves are written with sympathetic humour. Wonderful book which I think I needed to read for several reasons. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
"Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life.
Now Tony is retired. He's had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He's certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer's letter is about to prove."

Surprise and sad ( )
  jack2410 | Feb 2, 2017 |
Why Write Average Books? (A Review for Writers)

Why bother writing a book like this? That's what I asked myself that as I read this, thinking not as a reader but as writer. I'd bought it because reviews suggested it dealt with a number of themes I'm trying to manage in the novel I'm writing: an elderly narrator remembers his life imperfectly; the people he has known all say, in one way or another, that he has never understood them; he's shocked into semi-awareness of his state by a letter he'd written years ago and conveniently forgotten; there are meditations on whether life, and people, progress or remain static.

The book is "brilliant," in the loose way that word tends to be used in book reviewing. Barnes is master of English / British public school nuances. The characters are given to subtle counterfactuals, conditionals, the subjunctive, multiple qualifications, evasions, feints, and coynesses, and when they're forthright they immediately doubt themselves and the people to whom they're speaking. Ironies pile on misdirections and misunderstandings. I don't find that sort of thing entertaining -- in order to take pleasure in it, I think you'd have to see yourself in it -- but I do appreciate it. And yet the wrigglings of imperfect understanding seem to be there mostly for the fun of writing them, and only secondarily to support the narrative about the delusions of the main character.

And the book is "brilliant" in its structure: it feels plotted in advance, like Ian McEwan's novels. I felt all the time as if a novel, for the author, is a project: one finds one's theme; one concocts a twisted, imbricated, temporally folded structure; one writes from the first page to the last. Needless to say that may not have been the process of writing, but it feels that way: like a professional job, well done. As if Barnes needs, for his English audience, to display a virtuosity parallel to that of a scientist or an engineer: each to his metier. But what sense does it make to write about a disastrous life, inadequately understood and minimally controlled, lived by a narrator who has to fumble his way to a minimal understanding of his relationships, in a form that presents itself as utterly professionally controlled?

And there's a "brilliant" ending, which makes the book dramatic. But why go in for improbable plot twists (for example, an inherited diary that is only seen in the form of one ripped-put, photocopied page -- how often does that happen?) when the story is about everyone's utterly ordinary, nearly inevitable loss of control over memory and age? Why spice things up with puzzles and oddities? It's as if the story itself wouldn't be of interest if if didn't have Hollywood-style surprises. (There's even a website where someone attempts to figure out some of the book's complexities -- see the review on www.ratracerefuge.com.)

My feeling, as a writer, is that this book is the product of a professional novelist, who feels he needs to produce books at reasonable intervals in order to keep his career going. But these subjects -- the loss of control over our own sense of ourselves, the sense that we invent our own histories, that we don't really know the people we love -- are so interesting and complex that there is little point in dressing them up as brilliant writing.

"The Sense of an Ending" is larded with philosophical prose-poems, aphorisms, Wittgensteinian fragments, Stoic proposals: the author collects them like corals and gemstones. Any one page of this book could be twenty or a hundred pages, or simply another book, in the hands of writers more reflective than Barnes. Some of the ideas in the book are potentially seriously corrosive of sense and meaning: but the novel itself, in its brilliance, insists that they are ornaments to prose.

In terms of the history of the novel, "The Sense of an Ending" adds nothing: not that every book can, and not that every author must try, but that if you aren't trying then you are producing entertainment. Barnes is ten years older than me: time to try to do something other than continue the traditions of the mid-twentieth century English fiction.
  JimElkins | Jan 27, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 378 (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 (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barnes, Julianprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gombau i Arnau, AlexandreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hörmark, MatsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morant, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Original title
Alternative titles
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People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
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.)
We muddle along, we let life happen to us, we gradually build up a store of memories. There is the question of accumulation, but not in the sense that Adrian meant, just the simple adding up and adding on of life. And as the poet pointed out, there is a difference between addition and increase.
Indeed, isn’t the whole business of ascribing responsibility a kind of cop-out? We want to blame an individual so that everyone else is exculpated. Or we blame a historical process as a way of exonerating individuals. Or it’s all anarchic chaos, with the same consequence. It seems to be me that there is--was--a chain of individual responsibilities, all of which were necessary, but not so long a chain that everybody can simply blame everyone else. But of course, my desire to ascribe responsibility might be more a reflection of my own cast of mind than a fair analysis of what happened. That’s one of the central problems of history, isn’t it sir? The question of subjective versus objective interpretation, the fact that we need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us.
That last isn’t something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.
And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time’s malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing--until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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References to this work on external resources.

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)
Reflections on how
a life can be changed by a
careless turn of phrase.
(passion4reading)
Memory can be
tricky, showing not what was,
but how one perceives.
(passion4reading)

No descriptions found.

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"Tony Webster, a middle-aged man, ... contends with a past he never thought much about--until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance: one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present"--Flap p. 1 of cover.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 9 descriptions

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