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The Sense of an Ending (2011)

by Julian Barnes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,449505961 (3.8)1 / 730
Follows a middle-aged man as he reflects on a past he thought was behind him, until he is presented with a legacy that forces him to reconsider different decisions, and to revise his place in the world.
  1. 113
    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. 124
    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. 42
    The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (AlexBr)
    AlexBr: If you like unreliable narrators.
  5. 20
    Enduring Love by Ian McEwan (unlucky)
  6. 21
    The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe (freddlerabbit)
  7. 00
    Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata (sweetiegherkin)
    sweetiegherkin: Two short and seemingly simple, quiet novels that both have a lot to unpack & would be good for book club to discuss the deeper meanings.
  8. 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
  9. 01
    The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (yokai)
  10. 24
    The Sea by John Banville (bookmomo)
    bookmomo: Men looking back on their youth, similar issues with memories. Both beautiful reads.
  11. 13
    Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (kara.shamy)
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» See also 730 mentions

English (463)  Dutch (10)  Spanish (8)  Italian (6)  German (5)  French (4)  Norwegian (3)  Danish (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Hebrew (1)  Finnish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (505)
Showing 1-5 of 463 (next | show all)
Audiobook from Audible

Written in the first person by a middle aged Tony Webster who we find out is a rather unreliable narrator. The first part of the book is about his friendship in senior-school with the much more intelligent Adrian, and Tony's relationship with Veronika who ultimately dumps him and hitches up with Adrian. A few years later, with Tony estranged from both Adrian and Veronika and Tony hears that Adrian has committed suicide.

Cut through to middle age, and Tony has married (and divorced) and is on reasonable terms with both his daughter and ex-wife. The other friends from school are not heard of again. A solicitor gets in contact to advise that Tony has been bequeathed £500 and Adrian's diary by Veronika's mother - a women he only met once on a rather disastrous weekend.

This brings Tony back in contact with Veronika who has Adrian's diary - apparently. A series of all the more irritating encounters with Veronika in an attempt to get the diary (which she admits to having burnt part way through the narrative) leaves Tony - and the reader - wondering what's going on. Finally a number of events, and Tony's hanging round certain shops, pubs and people (despite his assertion that he's "not wasting my time") allows him to make a conclusion which Veronika yet again has to point out "you just dont get it".

The narrator reminded me much of Matthew Parris from Radio 4, and was a soothing voice to listen to, even when swear words were required. I listened to this over several weeks and suspect that I may have to listen to again based on the ending I heard the first time round.
  nordie | Apr 18, 2022 |
Amazing book! There is a sense of intrigue throughout the book, and the psychological and philosophical opinions of the author leave one with a lot to ponder over. I loved the book. ( )
  Chandna_Agarwal | Apr 8, 2022 |
I liked his prose style, and I finished the book, but in the end, I was like...."Mheh..." ( )
  invisiblecityzen | Mar 13, 2022 |
I liked his prose style, and I finished the book, but in the end, I was like...."Mheh..." ( )
  invisiblecityzen | Mar 13, 2022 |
Barnes is an amazing crafts person and the writing here is brilliant, the story exceedingly well crafted. Everything about the story is perfectly executed, including the “surprise” ending. However, the genre—the inner life of an ordinary modern person—is not my favorite (I read it as a friend recommendation). This book reinforces why: usually at the end, the character and you end up in the same place, with no useful insights to take away about that ordinary inner life. In a short story it can work great and have real emotional impact. As a novella or novel-meh.

Bottom line: Only read it if you are already a fan of the genre. ( )
  aront | Sep 11, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 463 (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)
 
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 (37 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barnes, Julianprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Basso, SusannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dean, SuzanneDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gombau i Arnau, AlexandreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hörmark, MatsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krueger, GertraudeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morant, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tomlins, PaulPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Follows a middle-aged man as he reflects on a past he thought was behind him, until he is presented with a legacy that forces him to reconsider different decisions, and to revise his place in the world.

No library descriptions found.

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)

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