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The Sense of an Ending

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  111,010 Ratings  ·  12,669 Reviews
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 childho
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Hardcover, 163 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (first published August 4th 2011)
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John Addiego I loved this book and am loving the answers posted by readers here. The narrative is so revealing of the confusing sentiments and behaviors concerning…moreI loved this book and am loving the answers posted by readers here. The narrative is so revealing of the confusing sentiments and behaviors concerning love and sex, particularly during the 60s and as one tries to remember them 40 years later. Tony's no monster, but the letter he wrote in a jealous, drunken, youthful rage was so monstrous he couldn't reconcile it with the cautious and reasonable life he's lived. The memory of writing it was buried until Veronica disinterred it, and he decently feels true remorse. I'd say we're meant to believe the letter was pivotal in Adrian's involvement with Veronica's mother, the subsequent affair, the baby, the shame, the suicide that wasn't noble but rather as common as the other boy's, and Veronica's decades of bitterness toward clueless Tony. Class and privilege play a big part, and there's an irony that Tony feels inferior to these more posh people when he ends up living a comfortable family life while they go through a hell he has no awareness of nor interest in until he sees his complicity. It's telling that he loses contact with all the old friends and prefers staying divorced to his one confidante; also that he relishes writing letters to officials and solicitors that cause them discomfort. Though I agree that Veronica's hostility seems a bit over the top, Tony may be just the sort to send her there by his lack of (fear of?) genuine engagement. I thought this a gem of a book.(less)
Martin
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Petra Eggs
Just brilliant. The book at first appears, right to the end, to be a rather mundane story of the life of an ordinary man who is neither perceptive about the people around him nor does he see himself in a clear light. Only at the end is it apparent that there were two different stories being written at the same time and you can perceive all the clues to the second story only in hindsight although they were so clear, you wonder how you could have missed them. You wonder how the protagonist could h ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 17, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: Angus Miranda
Shelves: booker, favorites, stylish
When Veronika said, ”You don’t get it. You never did.” I told myself: so, why don’t you tell him? Grrr. If only these people (Barnes’ characters) would sit down and discuss amongst themselves, then there will be no problem. Then Tony Webster will not have to spend all his life trying to grapple the memories he thought to be contained in his whole pathetic life. You see, Tony Webster is a double-sided man: he seems to be this gentle go-with-the-flow nice man who respects his girlfriend not to hav ...more
Steve
Apr 01, 2016 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of my closest GR friends may have noticed that I’ve been less active around here lately. Unfortunately, there’s a reason for that. It’s nothing dire, but it’s still sad for me to have to say. As it turns out, I’m going to have to hang up my spurs, albeit for reasons that have nothing to do with my friends here, and not even much to do with me. It has to do with my niece’s husband who until recently had been a web application developer at Goodreads. The past perfect tense applies because, wh ...more
Jim Fonseca
Jan 22, 2017 Jim Fonseca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is by Julian Barnes so we know it will focus on memory and its tricks. Some examples: “…but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you witnessed.” And “I need to return briefly to a few incidents that have grown into anecdotes, to some approximate memories which time has deformed into certainty.” And “again, I must stress that this is my reading now of what happened then. Or rather, my memory now of my reading then of what was happening at the time.”

The book is a Booker
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Cecily
This is an exploration of memory, exquisitely written as the thoughts of an old man, looking back on his life - good enough to merit 5*, despite the somewhat contrived ending (ironic, given the title).

Imagery

It opens with six watery images (an unexpected word in several of them makes them more vivid), each of which form part of the story:

“I remember, in no particular order:
- a shiny inner wrist;
- steam rising from a wet sink as a frying pan is laughingly tossed into it;
- gouts of sperm circling
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Auntjenny
Dec 06, 2011 Auntjenny rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely has a plot, but a pathetic one. Thin characters, cliched ideas. I feel annoyed by having read this book. OK, there was one good quote: “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.”

But ultimately, the plot is a gimmick! I don't understand how this won the Booker Prize.

What the heck did Tony ever do to anyone except send a crappy letter to an ex-girlfrien
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Emily May
Jul 16, 2012 Emily May rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: philosophy fanatics
Recommended to Emily May by: Melina Marchetta
Shelves: 2012

I think my years as a philosophy student were actually detrimental to my enjoyment of this short novel about life and memory. The stuff that has left other people reeling in amazement reminded me of little more than just another essay on the mind and the way we think, the way we interpret events and the way our memories can let us down. Mr Barnes is clearly a clever man and his writing is a touch complex but always charming. However, is this really that original anymore?

I don't think so. I can
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Jason
Nov 10, 2011 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-kindle, 2012, reviewed
Tony Webster is a shallow douchebag.

First of all, let’s get something straight. I don’t believe people should be judged too harshly for behavior they exhibited in adolescence. That’s not to say that people are not responsible for actions they committed in their youth; it just means that their actions as teenagers do not necessarily reflect the kind of people they will become as adults. So my problem with Tony Webster isn’t that he was an asshole in high school. In fact, I’d probably be a bit hyp
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Teresa
Feb 04, 2012 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book got under my skin. Not in the negative way, like what Tony, the narrator, may be doing, or trying to do, to Veronica, who 40 years ago was his first serious girlfriend, but in the way he describes how his ex-wife would dress a chicken -- slipping butter and herbs under the skin, with a delicate hand, never breaking the outer layer. I was hooked from the first page and even when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it, even in my sleep, or, more likely, semi-sleep. I was pulled int ...more
Nataliya
Mar 02, 2013 Nataliya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kris, Jim, Ian Graye
Recommended to Nataliya by: Iffletoe

Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending has a lot packed in the short 150 or so pages.

Memory and history, responsibility and blame, deceit, misunderstandings, aging, guilt, remorse - and, of course, a safely passive coasting on the smooth sailing surface of life, occasionally interrupted by the tidal waves of unexpected upheavals and disturbances, just like Severn Bore, seen once by Tony Webster and Veronica.

"We live with such easy assumptions, don’t we? For instance, that memory equals events p
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Marita
Is it because the main protagonist and I are of an age that I enjoyed his ruminations on memory and time so much? Yes, that is part of it, but Julian Barnes has a wonderful turn of phrase and he is a keen observer who knows how to articulate those observations.

I loved the elasticity of time and the relationship of memory to time:
*how time slows down or speeds up
*how time binds us and yet, as the narrator Tony Webster argues, time is a solvent rather than a fixative
*how time affects memory so t
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Lizzy
Again, I must stress that this is my reading now of what happened then. Or rather, my memory now of my reading then of what was happening at the time.
From the first page, I was carried away by Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending and its wonderful story. For such a short novel it seems to waste no words, and only speeds between breaths to tell us about the capriciousness of our memories. I think it cannot be truer that memory is a fickle friend. More than a story, this was a lyrical lesson w
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Paul Bryant
Sep 11, 2015 Paul Bryant rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Such was the big fat craptastic big-reveal groanworthy lurid pulpy Victorian melodramatic you-got-to-be-kidding ending-with-no-sense that the two stars this novel was hanging on to by its fingernails up to page 130 slipped out of its grasp and it ended up with the ignominious one star, but since that puts it in the same company as many much-loved novels it may well be worn as a Badge Of Honour – I envisage one of those peelable stickers on all future editions A P BRYANT ONE STAR NOVEL!! and Juli ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 10, 2011 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it
I had never really intended to read this book, and I certainly had no intention of owning it.

Photobucket

I was browsing in a B&N sitting out a winter storm in Lincoln, Nebraska and ran across of stack of The Sense of an Ending with BOOKER PRIZE WINNER blazoned across the front of the book. I dug through the stack of third printings and there near the bottom was one book with BOOKER PRIZE NOMINEE on the cover. Well it is sort of cosmic for a collector such as I to find one first American edition in the
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Adina
4.5*

Update: There is going to be a movie after the book and it is coming out this month! if interested you can see the trailer here: https://www.facebook.com/vintagebooks...

A story about the unreliability of memory and how we can chose to forget or to reinvent the past in order not to remember disturbing truths.

I discovered this book by Julian Barnes when reading comments about Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan which is a book I also enjoyed. The tone of the story is quite similar in some ways. Barne
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Rakhi Dalal
Apr 14, 2012 Rakhi Dalal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Rakhi by: Norman
Shelves: favorites
Has it ever occurred to you that while you are complacently sitting, basking in the self acquired glory of wisdom, you chance upon something, like an incident, a person or a written word, which forces you to revisit your understanding and knowledge of the life as you know it? And then you gasp with a sudden disbelief at the ignorance which might have silently crept in and stayed along while you felt contented with your version of perceptions? I felt the same while reading this book. To say that ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Maybe, like Tony, I just don't get it, but this was a whole lot of Man Booker-winning to-do about very little.

Pretentious, upper middle-class schoolboys behave badly, and -- through too much ego and too little self-knowledge and empathy, too many book smarts and not enough life experience -- inflict cruelty on ex-girlfriends and others as they cavalierly grow out of their coddled adolescence into a ho-hum average life. It then comes back to haunt them - or one of them, anyway - in late middle-a
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Fionnuala
Jan 17, 2012 Fionnuala rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reviewed in January, 2012

One of the things I admire about Barnes is the pared down nature of his writing. Every word counts.
The division of this novella into two parts also counts. The reader could start with Part Two and the book wouldn't be any less clear. In fact, possible answers to most of the questions raised at the end of the book can be found on rereading Part One. More enlightenment comes while rereading Part Two.

(The following paragraph may contain spoilers)
As to the possible answer
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Fabian
Oct 21, 2014 Fabian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Sense of an Ending is the type of British novel ALL OTHER AMERICAN NOVELS TREMBLE IN THE PRESENCE OF. It is blessed with an aura of flawless, impeccable English perfection; the prose is exquisitely clean & concise, GODLY by most-- especially my own-- standards.

It is an uncommon, unpolluted work that should be embedded in psychology books everywhere: the gears of life are described in their rare light, in degrees that, you must agree, can only possibly come from another world, or another
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Aldrin
Sep 28, 2011 Aldrin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Aldrin by: Man Booker Prize 2011 Shortlist
In the last sentence of the first paragraph of the new, Booker-shortlisted novella “The Sense of an Ending,” the narrator states that “what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.” Preceding it is a short list of what he remembers: “a shiny inner wrist,” “steam rising from a wet sink,” “gouts of sperm circling a plughole,” “a river rushing nonsensically upstream,” “another river,” and “bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door.” Following it is a hundred-plus ...more
Riku Sayuj
Dec 01, 2011 Riku Sayuj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tanuj Solanki, Vikram Johari, Mohit Parikh, Arnab, Shafi
What a wonderful wonderful novel. No, not a novel, or a novella; it was a poem, with rhythm, repetition, and cadence, looping back on itself. Yes, it can only be called a poem - a poem about time, about forgotten time, long gone cold.

Having laid off from new Booker winners after a traumatic experience with Adiga, I started on this book with a lot of trepidation. But I was drawn in from the first paragraph and the amazing childhood anecdotes seemed to be promising a night of unbroken reading! I
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Kinga
Dec 21, 2011 Kinga rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let me begin by saying that I don’t mind short, understated books – novellas if you like. I do like them. What I don’t like is paying the same money for a 150 page book, that could have easily been written by a skilled writer in a month, that I have to pay for a 826 page book involving loads of research full of medieval and linguistic references (yes, I am reading Nicola Barker’s Darkmans). I just don’t think that’s fair.

That said, it was a pretty decent book. It follows a very simple formula of
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Michael Finocchiaro
Umm. I mean this book was written ok and I get it, the whole unreliable narrator thing, but the protagonist is like a psychopath or what? I mean how could he have forgotten? And if what I think happened happened, WTF would Veronique still be talking to him? Why would the mom send him 500 pounds? WTF was that mathematical formula about? Maybe I a just too dense for English post-modernism and I gotta still to American post-modernist,. Hmpf. Disappointed :(
Gerald
Oct 22, 2011 Gerald rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Melki
We seem to have little control over our memories. The smallest things - an image, a smell, a color - can trigger scenes from our pasts, with such intensity, that it can cause physical pain.

And then, there is that small grain of doubt. Are we remembering things the way they were, or the way we wished they had been? In our recollections, we surely appear kinder, smarter, younger, thinner and better looking. And we never did anything deliberately cruel... did we?

This is a lovely, lovely book, pack
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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Jan 26, 2017 Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ by: Petra Eggs
I pulled out this short Booker Prize novel last night, thinking I'd just read a bit to get a feel for it, to know what to tell my book club about it (I need to suggest a choice of books to the book club tomorrow for their vote). A few hours later I finished the book, moved but a little bewildered.

In the first fifty pages the narrator, Tony, tells of some events in his high school and college days: a group of rather pretentious friends (who, for the most part, play at being intellectuals), a rel
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David
Aug 14, 2011 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english-lit
WOW What a book. From beginning to end I was hooked by the story, by the intelligence of the words and the mystery that Julian Barnes subtly unravels before us. This is a novella or short novel (150 pages) but there was not a word lacking nor superfluous. I read it in a day and the ending wallops you.

This is the story of memory and how we use it. It centers on Tony, a sixty-year old who forty years ago was intertwined with two friends Adrian and Veronica, who he dated for a year before she "blow
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sweet jane
Dec 13, 2015 sweet jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ενα κάποιο τέλος είναι ο τίτλος του βιβλίου του Julian Barnes. Ένας τίτλος που είναι σχεδόν από μόνος του αόριστος και ενιγματικός, όπως οι υποθέσεις που κάνουμε για τις ζωές των άλλων.

Φιλοσοφικό, βαθυστόχαστο και σίγουρα απορροφητικό είναι οι πρώτες σκέψεις για αυτό το βιβλίο. Το Ενα κάποιο τέλος είναι ένα βιβλίο απολογισμού επιλογών ζωής, λανθασμένων και μη, ασφαλών και μη, από έναν άνθρωπο μεγάλης ηλικίας. Η νεανική του ζωή περνάει και βλέπει, καθυστερημένα ομολογουμένως, πλέον τις συνιστώσες
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Abubakar Mehdi
May 15, 2016 Abubakar Mehdi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I think about my childhood, these are the images that flash before my eyes.

-standing in the dark alley that led to my grandparents' home....
-riding on my fathers shoulders, passing by a petrol station ...
-eating the parathas my mother packed in my lunch box for school...

These memory snippets are quite vivid and I am sure they are all genuine. They are the clippings, the photo album of days long gone and In a way, they are all I have from the past. Everything else has changed.

The Sense of A
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Andrew Smith
May 01, 2012 Andrew Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book at Paddington railway station, to read on the way home. It's not my normal type of book but I knew it had won the man Booker Prize and I'd seen some positive comment in the press. It's a short book (one of the reasons I bought it) and it quickly confirmed itself to me as a wise purchase; I was laughing out loud after a few pages, totally hooked. Barnes is obviously a clever guy and I found I had to look up a few words along the way (I was home by then). But as a former lexicog ...more
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What do people think of the ending? (SPOILER ALERT) 46 5255 May 27, 2017 07:24AM  
Play Book Tag: A Sense of An Ending - Barnes - 3 Stars 5 23 Feb 08, 2017 05:16AM  
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Eclectic Readers: The Sense of an Ending 1 12 May 16, 2016 03:30PM  
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Julian Patrick Barnes is a contemporary English writer of postmodernism in literature. He has been shortlisted three times for the Man Booker Prize--- Flaubert's Parrot (1984), England, England (1998), and Arthur & George (2005), and won the prize for The Sense of an Ending (2011). He has written crime fiction under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh.

Following an education at the City of London School
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More about Julian Barnes...

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“This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn't turn out to be like Literature.” 2834 likes
“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.” 614 likes
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