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The Sense of an Ending

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  82,168 ratings  ·  10,037 reviews
Winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize

One of The Atlantic's Best Books I Read This Year

A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single setting, The Sense of an Ending has the psychological and emotional depth and sophistication of Henry James at his best, and is a stunning new chapter in Julian Barnes's oeuvre.

This intense novel follows Tony Webster, a middle-aged
Paperback, 163 pages
Published May 29th 2012 by Vintage (first published August 4th 2011)
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Martin Adrian slept with Veronica's mother and then produced Adrian Jr. Anthony's letter to Adrian/Veronica pushed him into the mother's arms and led to the…moreAdrian slept with Veronica's mother and then produced Adrian Jr. Anthony's letter to Adrian/Veronica pushed him into the mother's arms and led to the pregancy and the cowardly suicide. That's the links... That's also why the mother had the diary, said his last months were happy (he was with her) and why the child was born with birth defects.(less)
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K.D. Absolutely
Dec 22, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
Petra X smokin' hot
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
Mar 15, 2013 Nataliya rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
Rakhi Dalal
Feb 06, 2014 Rakhi Dalal rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Oct 10, 2011 Aldrin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Riku Sayuj
Feb 13, 2012 Riku Sayuj rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Jeffrey Keeten
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
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
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
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
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
For any reader that looks back on memories, fond or otherwise, with an increasing skepticism to their veracity, "The Sense of an Ending" will be a welcome addition to the have-read column.

Barnes is a master at character development, dialogue and use of language. I love the fact that as the book progresses the first person narrator's recollection of personal history, and the shortcomings therewith, cause the reader to have a continually growing sense of an unreliable narrator - and the best part
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jan 26, 2013 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of suspenseful navel-gazing
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Man Booker 2011
It’s typically British, beautifully written, and it’s dark… we’re tackling the human condition here... It’s about the imperfections of memory, unforeseen consequences, rejection, yes even remorse. More a study in human nature, not a lot actually happens but it’s definitely not a slog! You will be entertained; any bleakness is balanced by the injection of clever and biting humour, mixed in with all the angst threads a mystery. Add to that a few very twisted relationships, love interests play a bi ...more
Mar 31, 2012 Carol rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
The Sense of an Ending: Julian Barne's novel of Time, Memory, and Lost Opportunity

"My life didn't turn out as I expected."--Roy Hobbs, from The Natural by Bernard Malamud

Julian Barnes was up against some stiff competition when the finalists were selected for the 2011 Booker Award.


But when the winner was announced, Julian Barnes's slim little page turner The Sense of an Ending took the prize.


Caricature of Julian Barnes by Joe Ciardello

In approximately 150 pages we sweep through the life of Tony
Jo Anne B
It was hard for me to like this book. I didn't like the main character Tony Webster, a sixty something lonely divorced man filled with nostalgia and regret about the past. The author had several great philosophical insights that made the book worthwhile. I just wish he could have left the rest out.

I did not care for the retelling of Tony's past relationships, including his friends in high school and college, lovers, marriages, and divorce. I suppose it was all necessary for the author in order t
Linda Robinson
Rare for a book to make me angry. But I am. I got angry halfway through this book and I stayed angry. It's a coming of age book in which no one comes of age, regardless of how old time makes them. Discontented, I started noticing em dashes (lots) and questions asked me (more.) If Barnes/character could not answer, by damn, his editor needed to make him. And now he's got me talking like my grandfather. I began bookmarking the self-aggrandizing, unconscious statements about the main character's be ...more
A wonderful book. Tony, an older man, recently retired, reflects on his callow teenage years and the relationships he had with his best friends, and with his first girlfriend. More recent events make him think again about the nature of memory, and about the rolling changes of history. Their history teacher many years ago had asked them to consider, 'What is history?'. One of Tony's friends Adrian said that "History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet th ...more
This is the third book from the 2011 Man Booker Prize Shortlist I've read. Patrick DeWitt's "The Sisters Brothers" remains far-and-away my favorite, but I can't say whether it's the best (or the most deserving winner). Both books are far superior to A. D. Miller's "Snowdrops," in my view. So that's my rankings so far.

Barnes' novel (or novella) is very short--only 160 pages. You will easily be able to read it in one sitting. The book has generated much discussion on blogs--and apparently, in book
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What do people think of the ending? (SPOILER ALERT) 40 2434 Nov 07, 2014 04:53PM  
A Sense of an Ending 39 609 Oct 28, 2014 01:23PM  
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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...
Arthur & George A History of the World in 10½  Chapters Flaubert's Parrot Talking It Over Levels of Life

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“This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn't turn out to be like Literature.” 2640 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.” 411 likes
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