Briynne's Reviews > The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
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's review
May 06, 2012

really liked it
Read from May 06 to 22, 2012

My goodness, was this ever well-written. I love and adore Man Booker Prize winners and contenders because they typically are very me, and it’s just terribly convenient that people get together every year to vote and save me the trouble of having to sort them out of the heap myself. This was no exception. The writing is sharp and slick and very, very smart.

The novel seamlessly travels between the narrators late adolescence/early twenties and his late middle age, and both are completely on pitch. I found the bit about his college year fascinating, because I think I’m just starting to get old enough to put some perspective on my own experiences as a 18-21 year old. Barnes says something in the book about how sheer intelligence might reach its peak at about this age - not wisdom or even understanding, mind you, just pure quickness of mind and inspiration. I’m not sure if I think that’s true, but I absolutely agree that at that age it felt true. It probably goes along with that feeling of invincibility which comes from a not-quite-buttoned-up frontal cortex. Barnes captures the wonderful sense of self-deluded clarity and grandeur that inevitably dulls as you realize how little you actually know a bit later on. The boys in the story are silly and pretentious and very much like every other person their age with a decent education, but they feel so strongly that they are exceptional. However, like most of us, they simply aren’t. Even Adrian, who they so idolize and see as being above the corrupting influences of life, is actually rather mundanely human himself in the end.

The part of the book told from the narrator’s sixties or so is also excellent. He feels that he has compromised his ideals and has basically taken the easy route through life, in contrast to the high philosophical ideals he feels that Adrian lived and died by. I felt a bit sorry for him having to see the past and his friend for what they were instead of what he’d convinced himself they’d been. I liked the unexpected ending - I didn’t think I’d ever understand what they were hinting around, but there it finally was on the page.

Great book, very well written.

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