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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
5,421418801 (3.83)1 / 655
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: A Novel 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 (380)  Dutch (11)  Spanish (7)  German (5)  French (4)  Norwegian (3)  Italian (3)  Danish (2)  All (1)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All (418)
Showing 1-5 of 380 (next | show all)
What a great premise for a story: what is memory? How reliable is it? When Tony Webster receives an inheritance from a former girlfriend's mother (a woman he met only once), he begins to question his own past.

Tony's ex, Veronica, began dating his friend Adrian Finn shortly after they broke up. Years later, Adrian committed suicide. Now, Veronica's mother has left Tony a small amount of money and Finn's diary....which Veronica wont' turn over to him. So, Tony begins a new relationship with Veronica in an attempt to obtain the diary, and to understand why her mother would remember him in her will.

Well written, as always, but I did feel that Veronica's character was too enigmatic to be real, and Tony's ex-wife too good to be true. This was not, in my opinion, the best development of female characters. ( )
  LynnB | May 18, 2017 |
There's been a lot of talk about the ending of this book, and having just finished it, I'm still mulling over what I think about that part of it. Regardless of the ending, this compact novel is a literary gem. I am just old enough to appreciate Barnes' musings on life and memory, and how our expectations change over time. He captures something as delicate at a butterfly's wing in words. Yes, had the ending been less ambiguous I may have given it 5 stars, but that does not diminish the virtuosity of the writing. I suspect you have to be over the age of 45 to enjoy it. ( )
  Eye_Gee | May 8, 2017 |
Horrible character building. I did not care about the characters in the book. Plot is boring. What is the purpose again? Not for me. ( )
  soontobefree | May 1, 2017 |
Intriguing and oddly gripping tale of dull man looking back on his life and especially his youth, when things seem to have gone wrong. As usual with Barnes it's mostly about rather cerebral matters: moral niceties, philosophical conundra, what did so-and-so really say or mean. Towards the end, it leaps into action but left me a bit confused. There's an algebraic formula which is meant to sum up the nub of the story but I couldn't fathom it and it left me rather frustrated, though thoughtful.

Two questions remain:
1.what does the title mean? It's the title of a lit crit book by Kermode, a highly rated literary boffin, but not the sort most lay folk would get round to reading

2. How on earth have they managed to make a film of it? It's all letters, pages from diaries, internal monologue and abstract discussions. Quite a challenge but a superb cast (Broadbent & Rampling among my favourite actors) so i look forward to seeing it. ( )
1 vote vguy | Apr 20, 2017 |
I found reading (well, actually, re-reading) this beautiful novel reminiscent of the first time I met my wife. On that occasion I remember listening utterly spellbound, hanging on every word (indeed, every syllable) of that mellifluous Scottish accent as she spoke so earnestly and enthusiastically about 'The Dream of the Rood' and 'The Battle of Maldon'. Simultaneously, however, in another part of my brain, all I was aware of were the fireworks going off in my head and the glorious fanfare that was playing (and I do believe there might even have been a choir of angels), utterly amazed that this extraordinary woman was not only talking to me but even seemed interested in what I might have to say, or at least pretended to be.

This book brought a similar sense of dichotomous dislocation. Even reading it for a second time, I wanted so anxiously to complete it, to know how it would be resolved. Meanwhile, I also wanted to read it as slowly as I feasibly could, to savour the experience and wring every last modicum of pleasure from it.

This short but beautifully crafted novel, so worthy of the Man Booker Prize that it won in 2011, is narrated by Tony Webster who starts by recollecting the latter years of his schooldays in the 1960s at a prestigious London independent school (presumably modelled closely on City of London School which Barnes attended). Tony had two close friends with whom he had formed a gauche clique, affecting an intellectual detachment rather beyond their mental capacity. However, a new boy, Adrian, joins the school during their time in the sixth form and is soon adopted as guru by the other boys. They all complete their school careers fairly successfully, with Adrian winning a scholarship to Cambridge with Tony secures a place at Bristol where he reads history.

During his time at Bristol Tony meets and falls for Veronica, a girl from a socially more elevated family from Surrey. Their relationship develops slowly, and is never wholly comfortable. Indeed, it gradually peters out. Shortly afterwards Tony receives a letter from Adrian bearing the news that he and Veronica are now a couple. We are told that, deeply angry and hurt, Tony wrote a letter back, expressing his views of how Adrian and Veronica have behaved. We learn that he went on to meet, and subsequently marry Margaret with whom he has a daughter, Susie. Tony and Margaret are now divorced but still on relatively amicable terms.

At this point the first chapter or section of the novel closes. As the second section opens, back in the current day, Tony himself receives a letter, this one from a solicitor, which sets him thinking once again about those long lost days.

It is difficult to classify this novel - there is no fast action but it does have elements of a thriller in the way that Barnes controls how much we learn about Veronica and Adrian, and even Tony. Tautly, but elegantly written, it holds its readers attention through to the very last word. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Apr 8, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 380 (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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