Julie's Reviews > The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
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Dec 30, 13

bookshelves: best-of-2012, contemporary-fiction, british-isles-theme-setting, read-2012
Read from April 09 to 13, 2012

I can think of few novels as aptly titled as The Sense Of An Ending. For that's what the ending this particular novel is- just a notion, a nuance, a perception. Or perhaps Barnes had another idea in mind: perhaps he is questioning the sense, logic, purpose to the idea of endings. For indeed there are no endings, only discrete moments in time that exist in our perception; as soon as a moment occurs, it become a memory, shifting in tone, color and meaning according to our unique perspective.

The delicious irony of Barnes's conceit is that the ending isn't the point. It is merely the point at which Barnes put down his pen and declared this story finished on the page. His timing is astute, to be sure. There is a natural climax that leads the central character to a philosophical perigee of universal truths, but it's hardly an end to the story of the characters' lives.

So, don't be in a rush to solve the mystery of the £500 legacy or discover the whereabouts of Adrian's diary or discern the reasons for Veronica's inscrutability. You have only 163 pages to read- you'll get to the ending soon enough. Savor the shrewd in-between, the paragraphs you must reread to understand, the pages you mark with Post-It notes to be reminded that you are not alone in thinking weird thoughts:

I certainly believe we all suffer damage, one way or another. How could we not, except in a world of perfect parents, siblings, neighbors, companions? And then there is the question, on which so much depends, of how we react to the damage: whether we admit it or repress it, and how this affects our dealings with others. Some admit the damage and try to mitigate it; some spend their lives trying to help others who are damaged; and then there are those whose main concern is to avoid further damage to themselves at whatever cost. And those are the ones who are ruthless and the ones to be careful of.

History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation

...when we are young we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others.

Barnes may be the anti-Thich Nhat Hanh; reading this book forces a certain despair for one's present - which is predicated on delusions of the past - and hopelessness for the future - which will be wasted on nostalgia, since the past didn't unfold the way we think.

Acerbic and strange, tight and disturbing, with brilliantly-paced, crisp writing, this is an unforgettable read.

One passage made a particular impression on me: Margaret used to say that women often made the mistake of keeping their hair in the style they adopted when they were at their most attractive. They hung on long after it became inappropriate, all because they were afraid of the big cut..

The day after I finished reading The Sense Of An Ending, I had 8" cut from my hair. At least I think that's what happened. My reflection tells me so. But perhaps that's only my imperfect interpretation...
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Julie Hey, 845th in line at the Seattle Public Library. Plenty of time to get through the rest of my list!


Julie Well now. That was pretty cool.


Suzanne Of Barnes’ books, I’ve only ever read “Flaubert’s Parrot,” but I knew next to nothing about Flaubert, which seemed to be a prerequisite for really understanding that book. So I think most of it was lost on me. But he’s supposed to be quite the postmodernist, and I can’t get enough of that, and I’ve meant to read more of his work. I’ll start with “Sense of an Ending” and probably dip into others as I get time. (Looking at his Wikipedia entry this a.m. – he also wrote a book of essays about France called “Something to Declare.”)


Chris Great review, and 8 inches! Can't wait to see the new do! :-)


Julie Suzanne, I brought "Flaubert's Parrot" home from France- bought at Shakespeare and Co. I just really dug "Sense" He was so wise to keep it short- nothing is wasted- yet there is so much to consider.

Chris! I am so happy. I've gone short before but it's been years. It was time for a new me. Same as the old me ;-)


message 6: by Claire (new)

Claire McAlpine I'm impressed, I wonder if Barnes has had that effect on any other woman?


Julie Claire wrote: "I'm impressed, I wonder if Barnes has had that effect on any other woman?"

:) That was a bit tongue-in-cheek, Claire. Hair appointment made before I started the novel. But it confirmed my conviction that it was time for the big cut. ;-)


message 8: by Claire (new)

Claire McAlpine Love it, I'll stick to the first version, isn't that what they mean when they say a book is 'life-changing'? :-)


Julie This is up for my book club tonight. I read it SOOO long ago, I have to refer to my review for clues!!


Suzanne Your hair cut looks great. Your review was great. The book was too disturbing for my taste. Books may be insightful, honest, and true, but I don't have to like them.


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