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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
5,089398881 (3.83)1 / 624
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)

Recently added byJosephEdwardDenham, Jayked, Marek36, KZ2, charlie68, leselotte, tkaouk, ehongsp, private library, lisarenea
  1. 103
    On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (Cariola, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    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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  3. 61
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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.
  4. 32
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    AlexBr: If you like unreliable narrators.
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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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English (360)  Dutch (11)  Spanish (7)  German (5)  French (4)  Norwegian (3)  Italian (3)  Danish (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (398)
Showing 1-5 of 360 (next | show all)
The plot is better than the writing and the solution at the end is vague. But the book is short so I didn't waste too much of my time. ( )
  charlie68 | Jul 23, 2016 |
life isn't just addition and subtraction. There's also the accumulation, the multiplication, of loss and failure'
By sally tarbox on 3 April 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a novel which takes a totally different path to what you expect in the first few pages. A group of lads at school, one of them notably intelligent. Life at uni, getting a girlfriend...As the elderly narrator looks back at his youth, it feels like a Kingsley Amis 'Lucky Jim' kind of storyline.
But events pull us up sharp. Twice. And as narrator Tony looks back, he is forced to confront memories that he had obliterated: 'when you're young- when I was young-you want your emotions to...create and define a new reality. Later I think you want them to do something milder, something more practical: you want them to support your life as it is and has become.'
Intelligent and readable work that makes you stop and contemplate what you've read. ( )
  starbox | Jul 10, 2016 |
I was very intrigued when I read the synopsis inside the jacket cover. The book is a tale of Tony Webster and his look at his own personal history. The book takes a philosophical view of the human tendency to view our own history through our own lens, often missing the clues and insights into the truth of what we are really experiencing. The first part of the book was a bit slow and confusing. I had a little trouble piecing together the story line, but the second half of the book takes off and you begin to see the greater story emerge.

I believe the strength of this book is its ability to make the reader think about how we view our own experiences and how we often tell the story of our own lives. Tony Webster's story also challenges us to see how small, often forgotten interactions with others can have a profound effect on other peoples lives. I often found myself stopping after reading a few pages to think through experiences in my own life that were somewhat similar to the main character's. We often take a rose colored view of our own history and this book will challenge you to think about the relationship between your own experiences and those with which you interact. A fascinating tale. ( )
  joefreiburger | Jul 3, 2016 |
jun 2013
  MatkaBoska | Jun 15, 2016 |
I'm not one of the up-to-date readers here who focus on the Booker short list, among others, so I'm only getting around to this now. Our f2f reading group was more thumbs-down than thumbs-up, disliking the characters and what some felt was a contrived ending. I'm more inclined to agree with Marianne (MichiganTrumpet) in her review from a few years ago, where she says she finished it and immediately started again at the first page.

The title turns out to be one shared with a book by the literary critic Frank Kenmode, in which he discusses 'peripateia', or the critical twist at the end of a story that puts all that comes before it in a new light. The classic is 'Oedipus', of course, but the narrator of Barnes's slim book is no hero, just a man in his sixties who has made the safe choices all his life and is thrust back into his memories by an odd bequest. Memory is the central question here, how and what we remember, and what we thought we knew or understood in the remembered time. Tony is the most unreliable of narrators, and what he narrates of his own memories is belied by each discovery he makes as he tries to figure out this bequest.

If I have a quibble with the novel, it is that the antagonist to Tony's search is cryptic to the point of total frustration, for both Tony and the reader. But after thinking about Oedipus, I've come to see her as the warning chorus to Tony's search. Barnes does prepare us for her difficult behavior, after all. But it is difficult, nevertheless. This is definitely a book that should be read twice, even if, maybe especially if, you don't like it the first time. ( )
  ffortsa | Jun 8, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 360 (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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Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
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People/Characters
Important places
Important events
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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)

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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)

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