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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
4,4603571,100 (3.85)1 / 566
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. 91
    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)
  2. 93
    The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (Laura400)
  3. 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.
  4. 20
    The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe (freddlerabbit)
  5. 21
    The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (AlexBr)
    AlexBr: If you like unreliable narrators.
  6. 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
  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 Newton Letter by John Banville (StevenTX)
  10. 01
    The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (yokai)
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English (324)  Dutch (11)  Spanish (5)  German (5)  French (3)  Norwegian (3)  Italian (3)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Hebrew (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (358)
Showing 1-5 of 324 (next | show all)
This was a book that I admired but didn't fully enjoy (and indeed was glad that it didn't run on for another 200 pages).

Sometimes when you read a book it's quite 'sexless' in that you can't easily determine the sex of the author through the narrative. However, I found this book very 'blokey' (if that's a word); Barnes certainly captured very acutely a male way of thinking and acting, but as a woman I didn't identify with this and it affected my enjoyment of the prose.

This book is the story of 4 boys who meet at school, and how, 40 years later, Tony (one of the boys) struggles to reconcile some of the events that happened in their youth with recent happenings that are now unfolding.

I understand that Barnes has been quite clever in exploring whether, when we look back at events in our past, we can accurately reanalyse this history in the present. However, sometimes this philosophical exploration seemed to go on for too long, and my attention wandered.

The narrative built up to a nice little twist at the end (which wasn't obviously spelt out either - I had to reread the last few paragraphs a few times to make sure I'd got the right gist of it), and I felt the second half of the book had more pace than the first half. However, overall it felt quite typical of a literary award winning novel - very much about the literary exploring of certain concepts, and a little too formulaic, as if Barnes had an award like the Booker firmly in his sights when he set out to write this short novel.

So clever, yes, but a little too up it's own ass for me.

3.5 stars ( )
  AlisonY | Mar 13, 2015 |
Don't really know how to put this. I don't think it delivered the way I wanted it to, but I love everything Julian Barnes does. It was slow. It was messy. It was ultimately anti-climactic in its conclusion, without the serious resolution I crave from fiction.

More like life, I suppose. ( )
  ternary | Feb 14, 2015 |
The 2011 winner of the Man-Booker prize is a brief novel; a novel that felt sometimes like an essay (in the classic sense of essay as in Michel de Montaigne.) While it traces the life of Tony Webster through his thinking and reminiscences as he grows up from adolescence to old age, it is also a continuous self-evaluation of his actions and his relationships with others. His relationships with three other boys when in school (Adrian, Colin and Alex) are mostly about conversations discussing topics typical of teens- parents, girls, politics, life, death, etc. and with one young girl, Veronica. She is his girl for a while but then she leaves him for Adrian, who she marries. His reaction to this is rather childish and writes an extremely insulting letter to Adrian; Tony, in old age, regrets having done so.
We see him later in old age, after having married and divorced Margaret with whom he has a daughter. But in his later years he reconnects with Veronica and this does not turn out well at all. His rude behavior then, and his lack of self-knowledge and understanding now, are apparent to him.
But throughout the novel there is a constant self-examination of his life and of his motives.
Unlike many other novels I read, I found this one so engrossing that I read it from beginning to end without interruptions. ( )
  xieouyang | Feb 12, 2015 |
This intelligent novel is well written and thought provoking. It begins with the main character in his teens and twenties with many struggles and issues and his responses to them. Later, we find him as a retiree confronted again with the consequences of these actions and responses. It involves the questions of what is right and what is wrong, finding meaning in life, and the balance between safety and risk, courage or escape. ( )
  mks27 | Feb 5, 2015 |
With all it's acclaim, I know I should appreciate this book more, not the least of which because while I am younger than the protagonist, I can related to the reflection of my past and how it features in the present. But it often bored me...I wonder if a 'female' version would have been more relatable, and therefore, kept my attention better. ( )
  ShelBeck | Feb 4, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 324 (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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People/Characters
Important places
Important events
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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.)
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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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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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