THE ’s review of The Sense of an Ending > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Dagný (new)

Dagný Excellent review! As I indicated in the context of another of your reviews, I was not moved by the book, yet its reception made me question my own judgement. I could see how it was competently written, how it contained elegiac existential questions, but it did not grip me. Your insights about the lack of character development and the reliance of plot contrivance instead of profundity explains a lot to me.
I wondered if the novel's skittishness was in turn supposed to convey a reflection on the main character? But felt that such a standpoint would have to be provided within the novel, or else one would/ could say that about any piece of art; it is superficial but that's the point. Such a "standpoint" can be legitimate within the context of art at large, as when a convention is deliberately broken, but else the work of art needs to stand on its own; seduce, convince, give and take, but this did not happen in this novel for me.
Thank you for articulating everything so well in your wonderfully balanced review!


message 2: by THE (last edited Dec 20, 2011 02:11PM) (new)

THE Thanks for the kind words Dagny...I kept wanting to say more about the book, suggesting that the theme reminded me to an extent of other works, especially one or two by Anita Brookner (who actually reviewed this one and found it "masterful" to my surprise). Clearly, Barnes is in command of language and judiciously delivers his punch lines within his well-ordered plot, but there is something almost (or at least, opaquely) manipulative within his structure and character delineation. Barnes expertise as a novelist reminded me of what Thornton Wilder suggested after reading a series of fine plays to which he "graded" each with an A, but nonetheless, was not "being overwhemed by an artistic creation." As you suggest, this novel fails that artistic test.


message 3: by Judith (new)

Judith I enjoyed your book review and I learned 2 new words: counterfactuals and Hegelian. You are always teaching me something new. But since I am about #99 on the list at the library for this book, I will have to remember to refer back to your review when I finally get the book.


message 4: by THE (new)

THE Thanks Judith. As you can see, this book promotes some ambivalent perspectives so we look forward to your comments on plot, characters, and themes.


message 5: by Scott (new)

Scott Hey I have a question. Is this book explicit? Moreover, does it have sexually explicit scenes? Thanks!


message 6: by THE (new)

THE No, although there is a single image within the extended first sentence that some have found distasteful as far as being explicit. Otherwise, nothing that I am aware of within the pages.


message 7: by Rosa (new)

Rosa Really enjoyed reading your review, and completely agree about how well-crafted the sentences are, and how woefully undeveloped two of the key players are, right up to the "nonsensical" ending - doesn't it almost feel like he was trying to dodge the issue of making any sense of Veronica? Almost as if Barnes had expended so much effort enshrouding her character and Adrian's in mystery, he couldn't find his way back out...


message 8: by THE (new)

THE Thanks Rosa...a very perceptive comment about Veronica. I think that you have put your finger on a key failing. The author seemed exhausted and unwilling to expand the novel and offer a richer layer of character development. In a sense, Barnes was indeed baffled by his own tale and squandered an opportunity to make sense of the ending.


message 9: by Pearl (new)

Pearl Tony appears to be incapable of coming to any real insights. He finally unravels the mystery of his bequest and, in so doing, he gets some closure, some Sense of an ending." But what does he
really learn? I didn't know if he was lacking or if Barnes was.


message 10: by THE (new)

THE I agree Pearl, there is an ambivalence. In interviews, Barnes has been reluctant to speak at all about the conclusion. Of course, we might, suggest that the ambiguity of being human is reflected in Tony's misapprehensions and inadequate understanding, which once again suggests Frank Kermode's ideas on the enigma of existence.


message 11: by Remittance (new)

Remittance Girl THE wrote: "the emphasis by the author on its 'surprise ending' seems more of a contrived invention than a revelation based on philosophical insight or profound reflection".

You make a very good point here. And my guess is that this is why so many people have found the ending unsatisfactory. And 'surprises' go, it isn't much of one (considering Mrs. Ford's blithe disposal of the broken egg and her enigmatic hand gestures). I wonder if Barnes decided he had to have a 'surprise' ending to plump up the plot because, as you have said, the characterization leaves so much to be desired.


message 12: by Daniel (new)

Daniel I was expecting a book full of insights, half essay half narrative, and what I come up with in the end is a mediocre ending of a detectivesque tale. It is a shame because it seemed promising. Is Flaubert's Parrot any different?


message 13: by THE (new)

THE You are quite right Daniel, the French word detectivesque is a perfect description for a most imperfect and disappointing novel. I think that you may find FLAUBERT'S PARROT both more entertaining and intellectually satisfying since in spite of his present miscue, Barnes is a talented and provocative author, who is quite capable of offering a satisfying narrative and some powerful insights.


message 14: by Edward (new)

Edward Elegantly stated, especially your "... I believe diminishes the volume's more serious intent and sends the reader back not to relish the serious commentary or elegant writing, but to search for clues like a postmodern detective." The novel is really moving in two directions; I read it twice, the first time I was moved by its "serious" intent in examining the "ownership of our past", but the second time around, nearly a year later, in spite of myself, I turned into a "postmodern detective" and became obsessed by the ending. I don't think a novel can have it both ways, and your comments perceptively explain why.(less)
0 minutes ago ·


message 15: by THE (new)

THE Thanks for the kind words Edward. This novel almost demands a second reading, which is what the author has stated, but you have expressed the reaction that many of us have had: in spite of its intent and fine writing, "things fall apart, the centre cannot hold" (to steal a line from Yeats).


message 16: by Pearl (new)

Pearl @THE, "and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned." Poor Tony % friends.


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