Jennifer (aka EM)'s Reviews > The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
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Dec 15, 11

Read from December 08 to 15, 2011

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-age, and as memories are jogged and regrets bubble to the surface, insight is finally gained. Sort of. It's really a dull spark of understanding nested in about the same amount of egocentric self-pity that it started out disguised by.

I guess it's a clever character study, but I didn't and don't like Tony. I think that *is* the point. I really just wanted to give him a smack upside the head and tell him to stop whining and get over himself, kind of like his ex-wife did.

All life has tragedy - and some lives here have *true* tragedy, which Tony fails to recognize even as he seem to be recognizing it (so I guess that's pretty clever of Barnes, but sheesh ...).

Tony's real insight seems to be the recognition that he's failed to live up to his own pompous and overblown expectations of greatness for himself. He's led an average life. And along the way, through his own obtuseness and arrogance, he's inflicted a not-inconsiderable degree of harm, which seems to be of less consequence to him in the grand scheme of things than the fact that he's lived a life of complacent mediocrity.

But then, Barnes leaves us there, with this fellow sighing into his beer and chips. I feel myself asking - but what's next? What this guy does NEXT will tell the real story of his character. I feel ... short-changed; unfulfilled. Harumph.

Subject: The last chapter

Dear Tony: The cure for your loneliness and sense of ennui is to pull your head out of your ass and go out and do something of value with the time you have left. Turn that insight into action that will do someone some good (and I don't mean just leaving a sizeable tip at the pub, either).

Love, Jen

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Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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message 1: by Koeeoaddi (new) - added it

Koeeoaddi Uh oh. Shall I delete my library hold?


Jennifer (aka EM) goodness me! You're speedy ... I dunno; I think this might have way more resonance for a 60ish British guy experiencing mid-life regret. But try it - it's a quick read, at least. :-)


message 3: by Jennifer (aka EM) (last edited Dec 15, 2011 08:00PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jennifer (aka EM) (I revised from my first 2-star rating up to 3, separating out my dislike for the main character from what I think Barnes actually achieved here. I did really dislike the ending though).


Jason This review is perfect.


Jennifer (aka EM) haha! Thanks ... a brief, gut reaction ... Elizabeth's is the gold standard, I think.

(PS - you are CRACKING ME UP with your votes on my reviews - THANK YOU!)


Jason Welcome!


Jason And yeah, agreed on Elizabeth. She made that one really personal which packs some punch.


Gary  the Bookworm I thought your review was a lot more interesting than the book.


Jennifer (aka EM) hahah - thank you Gary!


message 10: by Pamela (new)

Pamela Stohrer Ugh, I agree completely. He made a mistake, he wrote a nasty letter. Such a small incident, and such brief relationships with the recipients. Move on, move on!


message 11: by Michelle (new) - added it

Michelle Agree totally!!!


message 12: by knig (new) - rated it 3 stars

knig Agreed Tony unlikeable, but the plot in the second half just went surreal: does Barnes take usfor idiots? Why would the mother bequesth Tony the diary? On what basis? why would Veronica play 'cat and mouse' on the phone and all over town? All she had to do was tell him from the start she'd 'accidentally' lost/thrown out the diary. It really felt like a storm in a teacup.


Jennifer (aka EM) Thank you for the likes, everyone! Yeah, K-o-L, that's another thing that you've just reminded me of. The plot twists seemed so implausible and unfounded.


Cecily Pamela, sometimes it's exactly those sort of apparently small incidents that to have blighting echoes down the years.

I didn't like Tony, and was slightly disappointed with the ending, but I loved the beauty and skill of the writing and found the musings on memory, history and truth very thought-provoking.


Dolors I waited to finish the book before reading your review, and although I didn't like Tony neither (who might?, you are right about him) , I thought the story wasn't only about self-pity but mainly about the irrevocable passage of time and the veracity of what we call memories.
And I found that subject engaging, similar to McEwan'sAtonement; in which we are shown how a little nonsense (like a bland lie or in this case a nasty letter) can trigger tragedies in real life. Call it chance, fate or coincidence, but I think it's still worthy to think about.


Jennifer (aka EM) Agreed Cecily and Dolors! For me, the "musings on memory, history and truth" (I like that) are thought provoking at a theoretical level, and Barnes' writing of it was sound, but he just didn't engage my heart. I freely confess that my dislike for the character is muddling my response to the book overall. I'm normally not so shallow, but here ... well, I guess I was! :-D


Dolors Jennifer (aka EM) wrote: "Agreed Cecily and Dolors! For me, the "musings on memory, history and truth" (I like that) are thought provoking at a theoretical level, and Barnes' writing of it was sound, but he just didn't enga..."

completely accepted! It happened the same with Navokov's Humbert Humbert in Lolita, hateful, hateful man who made me loathe the whole story!


Emily I respectfully suggest that many readers, like Tony, just don't get why he receives the inheritance. It is blood money, it is out of guilt. Payback for having used V to get to A


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