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The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

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

by Julian Barnes, Richard Morant (Narrator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,1883381,195 (3.86)1 / 527
Title:The Sense of an Ending
Authors:Julian Barnes
Other authors:Richard Morant (Narrator)
Info:AudioGO (2012), Edition: Unabridged, Audio CD
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned

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. 51
    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
    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 Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (yokai)

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English (304)  Dutch (11)  Spanish (5)  German (5)  French (3)  Norwegian (3)  Italian (2)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (337)
Showing 1-5 of 304 (next | show all)
Een prachtig boek, relatief dun maar met veel inhoud. Een man van boven de 60 kijkt terug op zijn studententijd. Zijn herinneringen komen op gang door een erfenis die hij krijgt. Hij ziet een brief van zichzelf terug aan een goede vriend en vriendin, vol kwade gedachten. Hij gaat op zoek naar het leven van de vriendin, Veronica, die een relatie heeft gehad met die vriend, Adrian. Veronica wil niets van hem weten en zegt steeds opnieuw dat hij (Tony) er niets van begrijpt en het ook nooit zal snappen. Met veel zelfrelativering komt Tony uiteindelijk er toch achter wat er nou eigenlijk is gebeurd. Heel knap geschreven, fijn om te lezen. ( )
  elsmvst | Aug 9, 2014 |
I liked this story of how one's past can be very different from how one remembers it, and how we never know all the facts. Barnes has an especial talent for describing how we think in youth versus age. The story gradually reveals memories and details until the reader has a more complete story, but even at the end we are left with more questions than answers, and I know this is intentional. The point is that we never have all the answers; we just muddle through on the information we have and sometimes revise our memories so that we can live with them.

I think I liked Arthur & George better, although it's hard to compare the two very different stories. I think The Sense of an Ending is one that will stay with me for a while, as I ponder all the details and potential meanings and events. A couple of passages I particularly liked were early in the book:

In those days, we imagined ourselves as being kept in some kind of holding pen, waiting to be released into our lives. And when that moment came, our lives--and time itself--would speed up. How were we to know that our lives had in any case begun, that some advantage had already been gained, some damage already inflicted? Also that our release would only be into a larger holding pen, whose boundaries would at first be undiscernable.


This was another of our fears, that Life wouldn't turn out to be like Literature. Look at our parents--were they the stuff of Literature? At best, they might aspire to the condition of onlookers and bystanders, part of a social backdrop against which real, true, important things could happen. Like what? The things Literature was all about: love, sex, morality, friendship, happiness, suffering, betrayal, adultery, good and evil, heroes and villains, guilt and innocence, ambition, power, justice, revolution, war, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, the individual against society, success and failure, murder, suicide, death, God. And barn owls. Of course, there were other sorts of literature--theoretical, self-referential, lachrymosely autobiographical--but they were just dry wanks. Real literature was about psychological, emotional and social truth as demonstrated by the actions and reflections of its protagonists; the novel was about character developed over time.

The funny thing is that the character of Tony thinks his life is dull and "average," but this simple tale includes many of the elements he lists as important to literature and thus life. It is sometimes hard for us to see the grand themes as we are living our lives, but often they are there, perhaps more subtle and drawn-out than in literature, but present nonetheless...

I'm interested to read more of Barnes's work because he seems to be versatile and inventive. ( )
  glade1 | Jul 31, 2014 |
The first time I read this book two days ago, I read this in one sitting. The first page and I was hooked, by page twenty, I was on Abebooks.com purchasing a very good hard back edition. It's the type of book that when you visit a new bookstore, you pull out the book a little bit farther out on the shelf so it will be noticed. When I now visit used bookstores, I will buy copies so I can give them as Christmas, birthday gifts. It is also the type of book that you want to stop strangers and hand them the book and tell them how wonderful it is. It is the type of book you want to include in conversations and hand friends and anyone who will listen to read this book. It is life changing. At least it was for me.

After the first reading was finished, I turned around and read it again! This time, I savored the language, re read passages and took my time reading it. Julian, where have you been my whole life and why am I just now noticing you?! ( )
2 vote allgenresbookworm | Jun 24, 2014 |
Really beautiful from beginning to end. And in this case, beginning is the narrator's memories of a himself as a somewhat pretentious British schoolboy ("we were book-hungry, sex-hungry, meritocratic, anarchistic") finishing what we would call high school and heading off to college. The period is the late nineteen-sixties, although the narrator reminds us that "most people didn't experience 'the sixties' until the seventies."

And the end is the narrator in his sixties, divorced and feeling distant from his adult daughter who is now focused on her own children. An odd inheritance sets off the recollections of his late childhood that make up the first half of this slim novel, and propel the second half forward as he seeks to understand events from decades earlier.

There isn't much middle -- and the book does not need it -- only these bookends of a life.

I won't spoil the ending, except to say that a certain amount is revealed that in retrospect makes sense of everything else. In a way you are disappointed because, like life, you did not think it really needed to be wrapped up in a bow and all explained. And it was not necessary to keep one's interest in the book. But, you have to admit, it does make a certain amount of sense. ( )
1 vote nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Keen to read from this author, enjoyed the twist at the end but not the basic language. ( )
  Marlerb | Jun 19, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 304 (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 (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barnes, Julianprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gombau i Arnau, AlexandreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.)
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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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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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