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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, Richard Morant (Narrator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,196403861 (3.83)1 / 635
Member:mikyra
Title:The Sense of an Ending
Authors:Julian Barnes
Other authors:Richard Morant (Narrator)
Info:AudioGO (2012), Edition: Unabridged, Audio CD
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011)

  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)
  2. 104
    The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (Laura400)
  3. 61
    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. 32
    The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (AlexBr)
    AlexBr: If you like unreliable narrators.
  5. 21
    The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe (freddlerabbit)
  6. 11
    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. 01
    The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (yokai)
  8. 24
    The Sea by John Banville (bookmomo)
    bookmomo: Men looking back on their youth, similar issues with memories. Both beautiful reads.
  9. 03
    Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (kara.shamy)
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English (365)  Dutch (11)  Spanish (7)  German (5)  French (4)  Norwegian (3)  Italian (3)  Danish (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (403)
Showing 1-5 of 365 (next | show all)
I'm confused.. I missed something. I think. ( )
  Deankut | Sep 26, 2016 |
By God, there’s a lot of wanking in this book.
But should this really come as a surprise?
Writing is, after all, a solitary occupation, unless you’re a co-author, or a footballer.
But really, there is a lot of wanking in this book. OK, not a lot, I mean, not wanking on every page, it’s not ‘Got up, wanked, went to shops came home, wanked, watched some telly, had a wank, lunch, wank, nap, woke up, wanked, went back to sleep, woke up, had a Massive Wank, dinner, wank, collapsed from dehydration, went on internet to self-diagnose, got distracted, had a wank, bed, wank, sleep, dreamed about wanking.
But there’s more wanking than the average novel.
And this is an average novel. Sadly.
To be fair, the average novel doesn’t have a lot of wanking in it, or actually any. Possibly that’s a massive drawback (ooh er) and, possibly, some novels would be enhanced by a spot of self-pollution (“You may be wondering why I have gathered you all to talk about the murder of Sir Charles. I shall tell you, right after I have cracked one off. Nobody go anywhere. Especially you Vicar!”). Possibly not?
And let’s be quite clear. This is not sordid wanking, oh no, this is literary wanking. This is not the sort of prose that makes you think ‘I am really, really glad that I am reading this in the loo’, it’s not even the sort of wanking that makes you think, on the train, ‘Oh Christ I hope that nobody is reading this over my shoulder, should I flip forward past the wanking, no, there might be something important. Shit! Now I’ve lost my place, I will have to read it again. Now anyone reading this over my shoulder will be thinking I am reading the same page, about wanking, over and over. Shit! Shit!’.
No? Just me?
Frankly, the wanking is the high point. The rest is dirge. Whatever Barnes was trying to convey is lost in a middle aged miasma of regret as the narrator examines and then re-examines his past. When one is writing bad poetry as a teenager in one’s bedroom about the complexities of relationships in an uncaring universe (cf every teenager’s poetry, anywhere, ever) then one may be forgiven, but turning that dross into a novel is either bold, or folly, or both (‘Bolly’?).
So, apart from the wanking, what else is there? When, the female protagonist is a bad driver. We are left in no doubt about this, as the description of her lack of driving ability goes on for so long that one almost hopes for a repeat of a wanking anecdote.
This is truly innovative stuff, a bad woman driver.
Things get better with a string of mother-in-law jokes and an immigrant neighbour.
Just kidding.
But, really, trying to define somebody’s character by the way they drive? Why not just write ‘Veronica was angry and self obsessed, but mostly angry, that is why she couldn’t drive. That, and she was a lady’.
This is a chore. It’s a story about people you don’t really care about, doing things that even they don’t care about, narrated by somebody who you would not, under any circumstances, wish to shake hands with.
This is actually one of the worst books I’ve ever read. Normally, as a reader, one tries to insulate oneself from books that are going to waste your time and detract from precious reading time when you could actually be reading something good.
If you rather like ploughing joylessly through a book, flipping to the final page to count the pages left to go, like some sort of demented endurance reading challenge, then you might enjoy this. Unlikely, but you might.
‘Sense of an Ending’ is proof positive that you can’t stitch together an unbaked plot with some half baked characters and expect literature to result.
There is probably a place for kitchen-sink-to-wank-into-books where middle aged characters recall and regret the folly of their youth, or the boldness of their youth, or indeed the bolly of their youth.
If it must be done, it must be done well, that is not the case here. ( )
1 vote macnabbs | Sep 12, 2016 |
All about a jerk who is difficult to empathize with most of the time, even a little. On occasion, his emotions and decisions make sense, but usually, he's just selfish and spiteful without a reason. Hard to read. ( )
  valzi | Sep 7, 2016 |
Tony Webster, now retired and in his sixties, divorced with one grown-up daughter, reflects on his personal story and what he considers a fairly uneventful life. But sometimes those memories aren't the whole truth, and a bigger picture slowly begins to emerge as someone from his past reaches out from beyond the grave to shake his fundamental beliefs and makes him question who he really is.

The novel, set out as reflections from his sixth-form days to almost the present day, not always in chronological order so that the time frame jumps from various points in the past to fairly recent events and back, almost reads like a detective story as the reader is given the backbone of an event in Tony's past: Adrian Finn, a former classmate and friend, killed himself. But it becomes clear in the second part that there's a bigger picture behind this fact, and Tony (and thus the reader) has to figure out what really happened. In the course of the book, Julian Barnes addresses issues of self-determination, death, philosophy, getting old and the imperfections of memories, among others, in prose that askes to be read again and be reflected on; but in my view he also unnecessarily – and rather frustratingly at times – also obfuscates the central question. Though the pieces all fall into place at the end, it was not entirely convinced that this event would really have occurred, but, like Kazuo Ishiguro's , the book is worth re-reading in light of the revelations and twist at the end. ( )
1 vote passion4reading | Aug 14, 2016 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 365 (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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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)
Reflections on how
a life can be changed by a
careless turn of phrase.
(passion4reading)
Memory can be
tricky, showing not what was,
but how one perceives.
(passion4reading)

No descriptions found.

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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)

» see all 9 descriptions

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