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The Sense of an Ending

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  98,487 Ratings  ·  11,457 Reviews
Winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize

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 tho
Kindle Edition, 177 pages
Published October 5th 2011 by Vintage (first published August 4th 2011)
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K.D. Absolutely
Dec 22, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Petra X
This book is writing of the superlative kind. 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 wond ...more
Dec 05, 2011 Caris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
The opening scene, which struck me as an overly-pretentious Dead Poets Society, left me with a faint taste of vomit in my mouth. Here we have these boys, and boys they very much are, debating philosophy in such an off-handed way. When they're faced with a true life experience, something that is held out to them, they intellectualize it and forget- proving that all of their books and grand ideas are nothing but a half-assed show. Their words have as much meaning as the foam on a gas station cappu ...more
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
May 29, 2012 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
Nov 13, 2014 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
Feb 21, 2012 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
Emily May
Aug 11, 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
Mar 15, 2013 Nataliya rated it really liked it
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
Rakhi Dalal
Feb 06, 2014 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
Paul Bryant
Sep 12, 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
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
Jeffrey Keeten
May 05, 2012 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had never really intended to read this book, and I certainly had no intention of owning it.


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
Riku Sayuj
Nov 16, 2015 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
Oct 10, 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
Jan 21, 2015 Cecily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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).

It opens with six 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 a plugh
Oct 24, 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.
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
Jan 07, 2012 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
Jan 27, 2015 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
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
Andrew Smith
Nov 08, 2015 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
Apr 20, 2012 B0nnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 03, 2011 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 17, 2015 Seemita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was sitting on the lower berth; ambivalent yet observant. The view from my window seat was appealing. On the parallel track, a train had just pulled on. The neighboring compartment was a dynamic collage of people, suitcases, trolleys, food and jubilant chatter. There were two stocky boys, fighting for the window seat. And there was a mamma who would rather put her baby to sleep. The grouchy father stooped onto his newspaper and the two girls in the adjacent berth were…....BLUR. The train gave ...more
In those days we imagined ourselves as being kept in some holding pen, waiting to be released into our lives … How were we to know that our lives had in any case begun … and that our release would only be into a larger holding pen, whose boundaries would be at first indiscernible.

4 1/2 stars

Thus Tony Webster remembers how he and his friends viewed their lives during their latter school days. And as their expectations of the future were both incomplete and amiss, so too are Tony’s reflections on
Parthiban Sekar
In the end, it is the anticipated result which guides our actions. The very word "End" instills a kind of amused confusion in us. Sometimes, we are happy that something ended and some other times, sad that something ended. The end might not be as anticipated as always. Nevertheless the sense of an ending always keeps us prepared for the final hour, helps us evaluate ourselves, reminds us of the long-forgotten and unmentioned things, and rarely makes us wonder whether we have lived right or even ...more
Mar 31, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carol by: Chris and Cynthia
How a book of 163 pages can pack so much in its pages is beyond me. Some reviewers felt frustration at the brevity of Barnes’s novel but I was impressed.

Sense of an Ending has me thinking and will probably do so for some time to come. It may be where I am in life, not that I’m old but I am at the point where I have lots to look back on. A book like this makes me examine choices I’ve made, people I’ve known, and secrets I’ve kept. Perhaps it’s best not to dwell too much but certainly even at a l
Araz Goran
الاشتباك بين الماضي والحاضر في عقل العجوز (توني وبستر) الذي ما أنفك أن تحول إلى صراع نفسي حاول العجوز فيه أماطة اللثام عن ماضيه في مسعى للوصول الى حالة من التصالح مع الذات وملء الفراغ الذي أستوطن حياته في السنوات الاخيرة من عمره..

الرواية منقسمة الى جزئين.. الأول هو فترة الشباب التي عاشها (وبستر) في جو ودي مع اصدقائه وبحثه عن الحب ومسالة أختيار طريقه في الحياة..

القسم الثاني وبعد تقدم سريع للأحداث نرى (وبستر) العجوز وبدء الصراعات النفسية لديه مع الماضي وفك شيفرة الاحداث التي تعاقبت في حياته..

Jan 28, 2012 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read "Flaubert's Parrot" and "Arthur and George" by Barnes and liked "The Sense of an Ending" best. The book is short so you might be tempted to read quickly (or won't be able to help yourself from doing so) but it's best to slow down and enjoy his sense of language though it's deceptively simple.

"The Sense of an Ending" is the story of a retired aged man looking at childhood friendships and a significant college girlfriend against the back drop of his middle aged divorce. At each turn he f
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Eclectic Readers: Episode 15: The Sense of an Ending 2 6 May 17, 2016 08:48AM  
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What do people think of the ending? (SPOILER ALERT) 43 3331 Feb 22, 2016 11:56PM  
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Pages Podcast: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes 1 16 Feb 27, 2015 06:47PM  
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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
More about Julian Barnes...

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“This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn't turn out to be like Literature.” 2755 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.” 528 likes
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