Karolyn Sherwood's Reviews > The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
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's review
Jun 15, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: audiobooks
Read on May 16, 2012

Considering reading this book? Just do it. But if you think it's going to be about a man who receives an enigmatic bequest from the mother of an old girlfriend, and so the man goes back through life to figure out why... Well, it is and it isn't. This is a novel about Time and Memory.

The Sense of an Ending is a gorgeous novella, precious, poignant, and (ooh, I so want to say "perfect") honest. Julian Barnes, thrice shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and finally winner with this work, sees people, sees their minds and hearts and souls, and can articulate it all so well that the rest of us are better for it—an amazing talent. His strength lies as much in what he doesn't say as what he does say. He has mastered "showing not telling," except for the little blurb (chapter?) (I listened to this as an audiobook, so I'm not sure how it was separated out in print) in the middle where he says, and I paraphrase, "I got married, had a kid, got a job, got a better job..." Only a master can break the rules so masterfully.

As I said, I listened to this on audible.com (huge shout out to audible!). It was read by the talented Richard Morant, a British man, appropriate because Barnes is British, as is his protagonist. Tony, the protagonist, receives 500 pounds and the promise of his deceased school mate's diary, but Tony has no idea why he's receiving either. The story starts back in their prep school days and he tries to remember it as clearly as he can, now some 40 years later. Tony talks at length about how memory, history, and perception are clearly inaccurate, but that's the best we have to go on. And so he walks us through all he can remember about his deceased friend to figure out why he has now inherited his diary, a soul-searching journey, to be sure.

Many other reviews of this book say, "I didn't get it." And by that they mean the ending. Well, sorry, but if you don't get it, just read the last part again. It's obvious and it's brilliant. Tom Perrotta (The Leftovers) once said about literary fiction, "... you should be more interested toward the end of a book than you are at the beginning." Well this is that. The Sense of an Ending is literary fiction with a gripping story. And the ending is fantastic in a sad, quiet way. I love the fact that at the end of this book, the reader really only has a "sense of the ending." I think most readers had to give this some serious thought after they finished it... and if that's not brilliant, I don't know what is.

It's not that I didn't have a few minor quibbles along the way with this book, but that's only because I'm a writer. (We always think we could have done it just a little bit better!) (Yeah, no.)

As you have guessed by now, I give The Sense of an Ending Five Stars.
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05/16/2012 page 132

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