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The Sense of an Ending [Deckle Edge]…

The Sense of an Ending [Deckle Edge] (Vintage International) (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Julian Barnes

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5,384412811 (3.82)1 / 654
Title:The Sense of an Ending [Deckle Edge] (Vintage International)
Authors:Julian Barnes
Info:Vintage (2012), Paperback, 176 pages

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.
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    Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (kara.shamy)

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English (375)  Dutch (11)  Spanish (7)  German (5)  French (4)  Norwegian (3)  Italian (3)  Danish (2)  All (1)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All (413)
Showing 1-5 of 375 (next | show all)
"Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life.
Now Tony is retired. He's had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He's certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer's letter is about to prove."

Surprise and sad ( )
  jack2410 | Feb 2, 2017 |
Why Write Average Books? (A Review for Writers)

Why bother writing a book like this? That's what I asked myself that as I read this, thinking not as a reader but as writer. I'd bought it because reviews suggested it dealt with a number of themes I'm trying to manage in the novel I'm writing: an elderly narrator remembers his life imperfectly; the people he has known all say, in one way or another, that he has never understood them; he's shocked into semi-awareness of his state by a letter he'd written years ago and conveniently forgotten; there are meditations on whether life, and people, progress or remain static.

The book is "brilliant," in the loose way that word tends to be used in book reviewing. Barnes is master of English / British public school nuances. The characters are given to subtle counterfactuals, conditionals, the subjunctive, multiple qualifications, evasions, feints, and coynesses, and when they're forthright they immediately doubt themselves and the people to whom they're speaking. Ironies pile on misdirections and misunderstandings. I don't find that sort of thing entertaining -- in order to take pleasure in it, I think you'd have to see yourself in it -- but I do appreciate it. And yet the wrigglings of imperfect understanding seem to be there mostly for the fun of writing them, and only secondarily to support the narrative about the delusions of the main character.

And the book is "brilliant" in its structure: it feels plotted in advance, like Ian McEwan's novels. I felt all the time as if a novel, for the author, is a project: one finds one's theme; one concocts a twisted, imbricated, temporally folded structure; one writes from the first page to the last. Needless to say that may not have been the process of writing, but it feels that way: like a professional job, well done. As if Barnes needs, for his English audience, to display a virtuosity parallel to that of a scientist or an engineer: each to his metier. But what sense does it make to write about a disastrous life, inadequately understood and minimally controlled, lived by a narrator who has to fumble his way to a minimal understanding of his relationships, in a form that presents itself as utterly professionally controlled?

And there's a "brilliant" ending, which makes the book dramatic. But why go in for improbable plot twists (for example, an inherited diary that is only seen in the form of one ripped-put, photocopied page -- how often does that happen?) when the story is about everyone's utterly ordinary, nearly inevitable loss of control over memory and age? Why spice things up with puzzles and oddities? It's as if the story itself wouldn't be of interest if if didn't have Hollywood-style surprises. (There's even a website where someone attempts to figure out some of the book's complexities -- see the review on www.ratracerefuge.com.)

My feeling, as a writer, is that this book is the product of a professional novelist, who feels he needs to produce books at reasonable intervals in order to keep his career going. But these subjects -- the loss of control over our own sense of ourselves, the sense that we invent our own histories, that we don't really know the people we love -- are so interesting and complex that there is little point in dressing them up as brilliant writing.

"The Sense of an Ending" is larded with philosophical prose-poems, aphorisms, Wittgensteinian fragments, Stoic proposals: the author collects them like corals and gemstones. Any one page of this book could be twenty or a hundred pages, or simply another book, in the hands of writers more reflective than Barnes. Some of the ideas in the book are potentially seriously corrosive of sense and meaning: but the novel itself, in its brilliance, insists that they are ornaments to prose.

In terms of the history of the novel, "The Sense of an Ending" adds nothing: not that every book can, and not that every author must try, but that if you aren't trying then you are producing entertainment. Barnes is ten years older than me: time to try to do something other than continue the traditions of the mid-twentieth century English fiction.
  JimElkins | Jan 27, 2017 |
Powerful ending. Now I want to read more of this author. Tony Webster is aging and has a friendly and sometimes dependent relationship with his tolerant ex wife. It's absolutely delicious how finely rendered are the characters in this book. Tony had 4 close friends in college, wasn't very sophisticated with girls, and had a relationship with a woman as a young man that still haunts him. His early love, Veronica, is extremely annoying to this reader, and isn't it just like many people to get stuck on someone like this woman who seems arrogant and unfeeling? Tony stays in touch with his adult daughter but loses touch with his close friends and with Veronica. One of the friends, Adrian, was admired by the other young men for his intellect and thoughtful conversation, both in class and out.

Alone after a career and family, Tony seeks contact with his old friends and with Veronica, who many years before had abandoned Tony early on in their relationship to date Adrian. The story is about remembering, correctly or not, and about our misconceptions about relationships sometimes and how long our erroneous memories, or the way we choose to construct things, can have a false hold on us because we can't seem to see truth.

You won't see the end of this story coming and it will hit you hard. Pay attention as you read. ( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
Very powerful.

I'd read a cook book front to cover if it was written by Barnes. Besides the quality of writing, this is a short, powerful work on the pitfalls of memory and the passage of time. It doesn't just lead to some sort of unpredictable ending; Barnes is better than that. The story is set in the present, with the protagonist frequently attempting to recollect the past, and what is at stake is the entirety of life itself - its value, or lack thereof - and the innacurate and deceptive ways in which we view our own stories.
1 vote bartt95 | Jan 15, 2017 |
Julian Barnes' novel The Sense of an Ending is an intriguing,well written reflection by a man exploring his past relationship with a school chum and an ex girlfriend. "I’m not very interested in my schooldays, and don’t feel any nostalgia for them. But school is where is all began, so I need to return briefly to a few incidents that have grown into anecdotes, to some approximate memories which time has deformed into certainty. If I can’t be sure of the actual events any more, I can at least be true to the impressions those facts left. That's the best I can manage." Tony Webster and his two best mates meet up one day with a new student, Adrian Finn. Adrian is immediately recognized as brighter, more philosophical than most, and no one is surprised when he wins acceptance to Cambridge. Tony, capable enough, goes to Bristol and eventually graduates to a humdrum life of art administration, a failed marriage and a fleeting relationship with his daughter, Susie.
But his peaceful retirement is interrupted when he receives a letter from an old girlfriend's mother. In her will she left him money and Adrian's, diary; the problem is that the old girlfriend, Veronica, who ditched Tony long ago in favor of Adrian, will not give it to him. Thus starts the emails and meetings between the two which provide for the building tension in the novel. I will welcome reading more from this Booker Prize winning author.

Good passages:

"Does character develop over time? In novels, of course it does; otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a story. But in life? I sometimes wonder. Our attitudes and opinions change, we develop new habits and eccentricities; but that’s something different, more like decoration. Perhaps character resembles intelligence, except that character peaks a little later: between twenty and thirty, say. And after that, we’re just stuck with what we’ve got. We’re on our own. If so, that would explain a lot of lives, wouldn’t it? And also-- if this isn’t too grand a word--our tragedy."

"How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but--mainly--to ourselves."

"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...' ( )
  novelcommentary | Jan 12, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 375 (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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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.
"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.
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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.
What is the meaning?
Reflections on how
a life can be changed by a
careless turn of phrase.
Memory can be
tricky, showing not what was,
but how one perceives.

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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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