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The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

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

by Julian Barnes

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4,6273671,030 (3.85)1 / 588
Title:The Sense of an Ending
Authors:Julian Barnes
Info:Vintage (2012), Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011)

Recently added byprivate library, Ritinha_, boppisces, rarauch, daemon6, PaulusK, valorrmac, davidgn, TheresaCIncinnati
  1. 91
    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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    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.
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English (330)  Dutch (11)  Spanish (6)  German (5)  French (3)  Norwegian (3)  Italian (3)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Hebrew (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (365)
Showing 1-5 of 330 (next | show all)
Tony Webster is now retired, but when the mother of an old girlfriend leaves him some money and a diary he must revisit his past. The diary belongs to one of his old school friends who committed suicide, and his old girlfriend is determined not to let it go. Okay. ( )
  boppisces | Aug 22, 2015 |
Maybe it's a sign of aging (I turned, gasp, thirty last month), but I've been thinking recently about how much of our culture's stories are about youth. So many of our stories are about young people doing young things, like falling in love, getting married, and so on-- especially in these days of the YA explosion. But being young occupies a surprisingly small part of your life; you're in high school much less than you'll encounter stories about being in high school. (It was the Up series that drove this home to me, oddly enough; many more of its installments are about "growing old" than "being young.")

So perhaps I was primed to read this novel (novella, probably). The first third or so is about all that youthful stuff: going to school, making friends, dating. It's pretty good. Though these are stories you've heard before, Julian Barnes has got the touch to make them work. From A History of the World in 10½ Chapters onwards, I've always been impressed with how he writes; Arthur & George, I often say, is one of those rare books to be both well-written and well-plotted.

But the bulk of The Sense of an Ending is not about youth. It's about what you do when you've done everything, when you've gotten married, gotten divorced, raised your kids, worked your job, settled down. When you start to look back and remember what your life was like and think about who you really are. Not much happens in this book in absolute terms, but Barnes captures the constant stream of thoughts that move through our minds and turns them into the drama they really are. What's at stake is both self-perception and the understanding of others, and it's almost unsurprising how this seems to turn into a thriller as it goes on. Even when I'd worked it all out, I was still wrong and there was more to learn. Growing old can be gripping, and it can be gripping reading.
2 vote Stevil2001 | Aug 22, 2015 |
This book is really short, and I wish I had read it in one sitting. I read the first half in one sitting and I was drawn in, but I didn't get back to it right away and I then read the second half over the course of a few days. So the book lost its flow for me. The narrator's voice was engaging, and his thoughts on memories and how they can be lost and recreated over time were interesting. However, I don't think the book will stick with me. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
I hate to speak badly of any book, because I always imagine that its author has slaved away poring heart and soul into every tiny word. I've no doubt Barnes did just that. So I waited several weeks after finishing the book before commenting on it, in case I liked it better after stewing on a while.

I still don't like this book. The narrator was likable enough when the story begins while he is in high school. But shortly after that, and not far into the book, he becomes an increasingly shallow and self-centered person. So it's always hard for me to like a book if I don't like the main character. But that's not the worst of it. A constant refrain throughout the story is someone saying to the main character "You just don't get it." When the big reveal comes at the end of the book, apparently the main character "got it" -- but I, the reader, did not.

Perhaps I read the book too quickly. Perhaps I was distracted while reading. Perhaps I am just a dunce. Whatever the reason, "I just didn't get it." ( )
  Phyllis.Mann | Jul 13, 2015 |
I'd been avoiding Barnes because
    A History of the World in 10½ Chapters
annoyed me for some reason. I think it had seemed too deliberate.

This book didn't feel that way. It felt like a book should--like it was about real people. I wasn't on Goodreads when I finished it so I didn't review it when it was fresh in my mind. I do want to say that it had a remarkable feel of the passage of time to it. So detailed and overly important when you're young yet less clear and surprisingly formless in the present, despite it being "now." Maybe the point is that hindsight creates the cohesion of the past (there is much discussion of the validity of history in the book) but I believe it is the loss of illusion that removes the binding that held the past together. That, plus the the present's lack of uniqueness when organized in the light of what has already happened. ( )
  Gimley_Farb | Jul 6, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 330 (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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for Pat
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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.)
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.
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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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"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.

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