David's Reviews > The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
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Nov 03, 11

Read in August, 2011

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 "blows him off" in a mysterious manner. When he discovers she is dating Adrian, in a drunken rage he sends them both a nasty letter hoping to put both out of his mind. A few years later Adrian, following after the existential philosopher Camus, kills himself in a dramatic function believing "that we had no choice being born, but we have the choice to end it".

The novella is divided in two parts: his youth and old age. What ties the two periods is when Tony, now a senior and retired, gets some inheritance money and reference to Adrian's diary from Veronica's mother who recently passed away. No spoiler here as the plot unwinds in Barnes' simple and evocative style.

What I find fascinating in all of Barnes' work is how he builds the ordinary person as just that - ordinary like all of us. Tony goes through life as Veronica says " you just don't get it" and only through his persistence, does he find out what it is he is missing. As an aging male and a very ordinary person, I can empathize with Tony. Of course, Barnes' wit follows through the story surprizing us at various points. It's never heavy-handed and always ready to break the mood, which begins in a rather fun mode and changes as the story develops.

I am a big fan of Barnes and really enjoyed his collection of short stories, "Pulse" just published a few months ago. It left me wanting more and Barnes delivers in this story. Favorable reviews in the Globe and Mail and The Guardian. As noted, it is a short story but one ponders so many points raised after the story was done. This makes it even more worthwhile to read.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Sarah I loved this book so I am really looking forward to reading his others - I'm glad to learn that this story is a good example of Barnes' style.


David Yes a great book from a great writer. I have read most of his books. His claim to fame is Flaubert's Parrot (30 years ago). He also wrotes great short stories and I would suggest Pulse, written just before this book.


Yvette Agreed!


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