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The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
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The Sense of an Ending (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Julian Barnes

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,2463421,168 (3.86)1 / 536
Member:AnglersRest
Title:The Sense of an Ending
Authors:Julian Barnes
Info:Random House Export (2012), Paperback, 144 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:Fiction, Book Group

Work details

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011)

  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. 61
    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
    The Newton Letter by John Banville (StevenTX)
  8. 00
    Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (kara.shamy)
  9. 22
    The Sea by John Banville (bookmomo)
    bookmomo: Men looking back on their youth, similar issues with memories. Both beautiful reads.
  10. 01
    The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (yokai)
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English (309)  Dutch (11)  Spanish (5)  German (5)  French (3)  Norwegian (3)  Italian (2)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (342)
Showing 1-5 of 309 (next | show all)
Not a hell of a lot happens, but it's a page-turner. The end is a bit gimmicky, but you don't mind. It's a great character study and besides, Jullian Barnes could write a laundry list and make it compelling. ( )
  jimnicol | Sep 26, 2014 |
A wonderfully short heart-gripping story.
With an ending you would least expect.
I enjoyed every single page. ( )
  lisa.isselee | Sep 26, 2014 |
This book felt like something I was just plodding through, the endless self analysis of the characters felt rather tedious. Then I got to the end and wondered--WHAT!?? What was really going on? What did it all mean? I had to go read some interpretations of the twist to see what might have been the real story that was going on behind all the self analysis by Tony, the narrator, who it turns out may have just been a dolt who didn't really ever figure out what was really going on in his life. A slog of a read, but it will make you think afterwards and it would be great for discussion groups because you do want to compare notes with others to see if you can figure out the real story behind Tony's distorted narrative. ( )
  debs4jc | Sep 10, 2014 |
Masterful. Hard to put down.

Also, wtf.

Also, if I were Tony, it would be all I could manage not to write (or at least not to send) an email that read, "OOOOOOOOOOOooooooohhhhhhhhhhhh."

Also, the memory stuff was really interesting; yet another reminder of just how faulty our memories are. It made me think of another book that dealt with a similar subject, the weird ways we remember, or don't remember, or misremember things. Ironically, I can't remember what book I'm thinking of. (Maybe Atonement?) ( )
  GraceZ | Sep 6, 2014 |
The Sense of an Ending is a book about ideas rather than story, and it is very good.

The book is short, at 163 pages, and is told in two parts. The first part is about Tony Webster's youth: the story of school, his friends, and his first serious girlfriend. Part two finds Tony in his early 60s, amicably divorced and generally content, when he is confronted with the consequences of a youth he thought he understood.

Really the book is about memory. Tony's recollections come in to question as he is confronted with his past as it is perceived by others. We all know that history is tainted because it is largely told by the victors. The version of American history we learned in school is very different than the version that would be told by the ancestors of the Native Americans. But is the same true for our personal history? The events that we recall that make up the story of our lives; are they really just our own perception of that story? And could we be completely wrong?

This book reminded me of a quote from a movie I loved: The Big Chill. Michael (Jeff Goldblum) says "I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They're more important than sex". Sam: "Nothing's more important than sex." Michael: "Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?"

The Sense of and Ending is a very good read for those who enjoy the occasional philosophical introspection. If you prefer action, look elsewhere. ( )
1 vote richard.thurman | Aug 29, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 309 (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 (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barnes, Julianprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gombau i Arnau, AlexandreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hörmark, MatsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.)
Last words
(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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(see all 2 descriptions)

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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