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The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
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The Sense of an Ending (2011)

by Julian Barnes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,9444441,000 (3.81)1 / 679
  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. 71
    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. 20
    Enduring Love by Ian McEwan (unlucky)
  5. 32
    The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (AlexBr)
    AlexBr: If you like unreliable narrators.
  6. 21
    The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe (freddlerabbit)
  7. 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
  8. 01
    The Marriage Plot: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides (yokai)
  9. 24
    The Sea by John Banville (bookmomo)
    bookmomo: Men looking back on their youth, similar issues with memories. Both beautiful reads.
  10. 03
    Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (kara.shamy)
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English (403)  Dutch (10)  Spanish (8)  German (5)  Italian (5)  French (4)  Norwegian (3)  Danish (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Hebrew (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (443)
Showing 1-5 of 403 (next | show all)
An interesting read, yet somehow it left me feeling unfulfilled. Much ado about an unreliable narrator and his attempt to deconstruct, reconstruct and construct again his past. Through it all, it shows the importance of vulnerability in relationships. ( )
  allriledup | Aug 11, 2018 |
Short but lovely. I really like Julian Barnes, and this little book didn't let me down.
One of the things I liked is that you really go along with the main character. You follow his 'discoveries' throughout the novel and find yourself drawing the same conclusions, and then having to adjust those conclusions as the character finds out he's wrong.
It gave me a feeling of being close to the character, of really being there with him.
Well-written, an interesting twist at the end and a story that draws you in effortlessly. Just a good, solid piece of work from a great author. ( )
  Britt84 | Aug 4, 2018 |
Tinha grandes expectativas para um livro que comprei apenas pela capa e pelo título.
Talvez o ter sido vencedor do Man Booker Prize em 2011 fosse a razão pela qual eu me tinha convencido que um livro pequeno mas deslumbrante me aguardava.
Pequeno sim mas longe de deslumbrante. O fim dá sentido às reacções de outras personagens e aos acontecimentos mas, a revelação fica tão aquém do surpreendente que pergunto-me o porquê de ter sido o vencedor de um prémio tão prestigiado.
Fez-me reflectir sobre o quanto desejamos que os outros nos compreendam sem grandes explicações. ( )
  Telma_tx | Jul 30, 2018 |
I picked this book up tonight because it was one of the thinner books on my bookshelf. I wanted a quick read and not to get mired down or involved in something I could not finish, with big doings tomorrow. It was indeed a short book, but, man, Julian Barnes packs a huge punch in a small package.

How accurately do we recall the things that happen to us in life? As time goes on, do we rewrite or recast events so that they are more palatable? How much responsibility do we have in regard to the actions of others, in choices that they clearly make themselves but in which we have had an influence that even we, ourselves, are oblivious to?

Echoes of other great novels presented themselves at times. Atonement, A Separate Peace, and Remains of the Day, all came and went through my mind while I was reading. However, Barnes’ story is uniquely his own and his voice is clearly his own as well.

History isn’t the lies of the victors, as I once glibly assured Old Joe Hunt; I know that now. It’s more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated.

The problem with memories is that they are not always accurate or complete. They morph over time, and we are all guilty of retaining those that show us in a good light and discarding those that damage us to ourselves or in the eyes of others.

Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however long it takes, that life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Perhaps. I dare say that if you live long enough, you will find there are things in life that have broken you, things you are not proud of, things that you would like to erase or change, and people to whom you owe debts that you never recognized and that you cannot ever pay. If you compare that to the exuberance, hopes and arrogance of your youth, it might well seem that “life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

Barnes won the Man Booker prize for The Sense of an Ending, and I could easily see why. I love a novel that tells me something about what it is to be human and reminds me that, in so many ways, we are all as alike as we are different.
( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
Obviously beautifully written--as is everything Barnes turns out. An elegiac reflection on time and life and getting older. And this very slim book (less than 150 pages) could be a master class in telling a long story in a few words. The problem is that I don't think Barnes has anything enormously insightful to say here--certainly not much he hasn't said in previous books. It's worth reading, but it's not among Barnes's best. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 403 (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 (40 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barnes, Julianprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gombau i Arnau, AlexandreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hörmark, MatsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krueger, GertraudeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morant, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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