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A Sense of an Ending

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Katherine Clark I am simply curious about other opinions about this book, particularly the ending of the novel. What do people think? I'm actually a tiny bit confused.


message 2: by Tom (last edited Nov 06, 2011 12:52PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tom SPOILER ALERT
Tony, the narrator, misunderstood what had happened between his former girlfriend Victoria and his friend Adrian 40 years before. He thought that they had an affair. They didn't. Adrian had an affair with Victoria's mother and she gave birth to Victoria's half-brother who, because of their mother's age, was handicapped. Victoria's mother left Tony 500 pounds and Adrian's journal (which Victoria presumably burned) out of guilt. Tony thought it was all about him - a common mistake people make - when he had nothing to do with any of it actually ... except to introduce Adrian to his then girlfriend Victoria, which is how he met her mother.
At least, I think that's what happened.
This book is about recalled memory and being forced to reappraise one's image of oneself when finding out something embarrassing - in this case Tony's realization that his letter of rebuke to Victoria and Adrian was very wide of the mark - and that Tony just wasn't as smart (or as nice) as he always believed himself to be when he found out, as Victoria said, he just didn't get it and never would.


message 3: by Neil (new)

Neil Fletcher What guilt did Victoria's mother feel towards Tony to justify the £500?


Pearl More interesting why did you think the book won the Booker Mann Award for 2011.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Pearl wrote: "More interesting why did you think the book won the Booker Mann Award for 2011."

Because the judges explicitly wanted something "readable". The Stranger's Child by Hollinghurst is a far superior novel that touches on the same themes as Barnes' novel. The difference is that Hollinghurst's novel has a tricky structure and is 3 times the length.


Kristy I was annoyed that Veronica kept telling Tony "that he just didn't get it". Um, well, then explain; don't expect him to read your mind. What I got from this book was that somehow, by means of Tony's letter, Adrian met Veronica's mom and had the affair. That wasn't really Tony's fault, but I guess Veronica blamed him for it. I don't think Tony had an affair with the mom, but it's hard to be sure.


AnnB Neil wrote: "What guilt did Victoria's mother feel towards Tony to justify the £500?"

I think the mother just liked to wreak havoc and this was a posthumous attempt to carry on the tradition.

I don't see how guilt comes into it.


message 8: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy Ann wrote: "Neil wrote: "What guilt did Victoria's mother feel towards Tony to justify the £500?"

I think the mother just liked to wreak havoc and this was a posthumous attempt to carry on the tradition.

I d..."


I never thought about the mother wanting to wreak havoc. That would explain why she "warned" Tony about Veronica.
What I never really understood was Veronica's hostility toward Tony. I mean, I think she resented her mother leaving him the diary, but sheesh. Also, I never knew what she meant by "blood money."


message 9: by AnnB (last edited Dec 15, 2011 03:35AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

AnnB When the mother throws the frying pan in the water, it's described as the small act of someone who enjoys wreaking havoc.

As for Veronica's hostility, that's open to interpretation, but I think she loved Tony and wanted him to see and understand what was going on with her family. She was hostile that he was so oblivious.

Re blood money, again, I believe it is supposed to imply that Tony receives payment for remaining silent. But that one still confounds me somewhat as his silence was due to not knowing as opposed to not telling something that he knew.


message 10: by AnnB (new) - rated it 5 stars

AnnB I'm with you, Brittany, until you get to Tony's damaged past. I don't see any evidence for that. In the end, I think he was just rather unimaginative, more like his mother than he knew.


message 11: by Tam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tam Tom wrote: "SPOILER ALERT
Tony, the narrator, misunderstood what had happened between his former girlfriend Victoria and his friend Adrian 40 years before. He thought that they had an affair. They didn't. Adri..."


That's a really good summary. Well done.


message 12: by Tam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tam macgregor wrote: "Pearl wrote: "More interesting why did you think the book won the Booker Mann Award for 2011."

Because the judges explicitly wanted something "readable". The Stranger's Child by Hollinghurst is a ..."


That's not true but it sounds true which is just as important I suppose. Hollinghurst already won (2004) and Mr. Barnes had been shortlisted 3 times and not won and they like to spread the love. He's not a spring chicken. Poor bugger needed some propping up after his awful divorce - his wife changed teams! Egads - give him the Booker Prize and a pat on the back - 'good job old chum'! And beside that the guy can write - I mean really write. Dang!


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Tam wrote: "That's not true but it sounds true which is just as important I suppose."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/...

'The chair of judges, former MI5 director Stella Rimington, said: "We want people to buy these books and read them, not buy them and admire them."'

I'm not sure how my statement could in any way be "not true" when the head of the judges claimed as much as I did.

Good for Barnes being shortlisted 3 times. That's prestigious. However, this might then be a case in which the author is awarded the prize, rather than the text (cf. Kingsley Amis and V S Naipaul for their winning novels).

I don't think this should have won the Booker, but like all rational people, I understand the Booker is fairly meaningless especially in light of their head-scratching choices over the years (Ian McEwan's Amsterdam? Really?).

Philip Hensher's The King of the Badgers was not even longlisted when it was also a masterpiece and far more politically relevant than Barnes' novel. The Booker Prize tends to favor novels of "the other" so it was a bit of a shock this tediously English novel of Englishness won.


message 14: by Tam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tam Well you feel stronger than I do about it. I don't know what about Stella's comment makes you feel that Hollinghurst's book was slighted for 'readability' issues. I love that there are people that bother to read all these books and even create a shortlist let along nominate a prize - it must be terribly difficult to choose in the end - because they are all so very good. But a choice must be made and isn't for us humble readers to cast aspersions on their process - it might just be a draw out of a hat - who knows?. I remember people complained about White Tiger but I read it and loved it even though I could see it wasn't your standard Booker Prize fair but it was a great book and the next one he wrote Last Man in Tower was equally dazzling. Use the list to meet new authors and read great books but try not to abuse the people who perform the task of preparing the list - that's rather unkind wouldn't you agree.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

No, I completely disagree. It is for the "humble" reader to cast aspersions on the process for determining one of the most prestigious prizes in the commonwealth. The system of literary awarding is somewhat flawed and overly political. The Nobel Prize for Literature has become overly politicized and has lost a lot of its artistic impact. The same fate might be in store for the Booker Prize, but in reverse. Instead of choosing strong literary fiction such as Hensher or Hollinghurst, the judges may start awarding such authors similar to Dan Brown, who we can all agree is not deserving of any literary prize beyond "worst syntax".

The Booker Prize is attempting to be all things to all people, but still excluding genre fiction. This year's longlist involved a few genre books, but ultimately, they went with the most typically English book about Englishness. It's not an exciting choice: it's a boring choice that was done on the basis of its brevity and its ease of reading.

Also, White Tiger, in the macrocosm, is definitely a typical Booker Prize winner in that it's about the colonial other, something the Prize tends to return to over and over thanks to the omnipresence of "cultural studies" and postcolonialism in academia.

I am not abusing the people themselves. I know nothing about them. I am abusing the system itself. How we prioritize authors for winning a "readability" prize at the neglect of other superior authors.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Questioning why a book is a "classic" or "critically acclaimed" is a healthy process. Simply accepting something as classic is dangerous. I choose to question everything and figure it out for myself rather than accept the opinion of a stranger.


message 17: by Tam (last edited Feb 08, 2012 07:11AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tam macgregor wrote: "Questioning why a book is a "classic" or "critically acclaimed" is a healthy process. Simply accepting something as classic is dangerous. I choose to question everything and figure it out for mysel..."

I have two good resources for you to participate in that forum - you can participate in the actual MBP debate here where there are plenty of 'after the fact' reviews of the selection etc: http://www.themanbookerprize.com/foru... AND then you may enjoy listening to the discussion of the preeminant book review blogger KFC who explains the selection process and is himself part of the "shadow" group who reads the longlist in advance and selects: .
http://www.cbc.ca/thenextchapter/epis...
Above all enjoy the goodreads!


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Tam wrote: "macgregor wrote: "Questioning why a book is a "classic" or "critically acclaimed" is a healthy process. Simply accepting something as classic is dangerous. I choose to question everything and figur..."

Are you saying that this forum for books isn't a good place to discuss books? Are you saying that arguing whether or not something is deserving a literary prize is not welcome on a literary site? Either way, this is going down a rabbit hole attempting to discuss this with you. I stand by my opinion. Just because an author went through a divorce doesn't make him any more deserving of a literary prize than any other author. To imply such a thing is absurd.


message 19: by Tam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tam You were wondering how they chose this book over Hollinghursts book and I gave you two resources that would a/ explain just how the selection process works and b/ give you an opportunity to voice your issues directly to the booker prize folks. Why are you arguing w/ me? I don't care - but you do and you should participate in the forum of people who care and where it matters. I was trying to add levity by saying perhaps they felt sorry for him, or maybe they drew it from a hat - but if you really want to know why they chose it - go to the two sites I sent you and all will be revealed.


Ahmad Qassab Bashi why no one is talking about "Marry", I did not like how Tony did not know that she is not Veronica but she is actually her daughter, did I miss something there ?? because based on what I remember she was the one meeting with him in the end and he did not meet with Veronica right?


message 21: by Tom (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tom macgregor wrote: "No, I completely disagree. It is for the "humble" reader to cast aspersions on the process for determining one of the most prestigious prizes in the commonwealth. The system of literary awarding is..."

I recently read that because of the heated debate regarding this year's Booker award, an alternative prize is being established in the UK.

I say GOOD. The more competitions the better because they are all great resources to help me find good books to read.

I don't read every nominee or every award winner, but they have helped me find some excellent novels.

Too many books, too little time, if someone else can vet books for me, GREAT!


message 22: by Tam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tam Tom wrote: "macgregor wrote: "No, I completely disagree. It is for the "humble" reader to cast aspersions on the process for determining one of the most prestigious prizes in the commonwealth. The system of li..."

Exactly!


message 23: by Matt (new) - added it

Matt Hello,
I have a question.

I very much enjoy Julian Barnes' style and hopping, delightful prose; however, the question I have regarding "The Sense of an Ending" is this: is it a raunchy, sex-filled novel with the rank of Three-Steps-Down-Lolita? The reason I ask is that, though I understand that writers (I am one myself - I know) serve and (sometimes) thrive on saying that which is seldom said, I do not particularly desire to sit down with a novel in which the proverbial "F" word is thrown around from said to side and fellatio in bathtubs is declaimed to the world. Therefore, all I really want to know is if this book is laced with risque scenes and perverse language or, if lying around the house on a balmy summer day, I can take notes on a critically acclaimed work of literature without taking breaks to wash pornographic mental-pictures from my mind.
I would be grateful to anyone who can answer.

Thank you very much!

-One of YoursThe Sense of an Ending


Casceil I have replies to several posts. Message 2 provides a very good summary, but I disagree on one point. I think Adrian dated Veronica before he dated her mother. Remember he asked Tony if it would bother Tony? My assumption was that Veronica took Adrian home much the way she took Tony home, and Adrian and Veronica's mother clicked in a way Adrian and Veronica had not. I think Veronica felt completely betrayed, because her mother went behind her back and slept with her boyfriend, resulting in Veronica having a handicapped brother who was much younger that she was. Message 21 expresses confusion about Mary and Veronica. They are the same person. My guess is that young Adrian could not pronounce "Veronica" when he was little, and so called her Mary instead.
In response to Message 24, don't worry, the book is not pornographic. I don't remember any explicit sex scenes. There is some bad language, but most of it is in one letter where it is used for effect. (Also, if anyone wrote a book about schoolboys who did not use bad words, there would be a serious lack of verisimilitude.)


message 25: by Matt (new) - added it

Matt Casceil wrote: "I have replies to several posts. Message 2 provides a very good summary, but I disagree on one point. I think Adrian dated Veronica before he dated her mother. Remember he asked Tony if it would..."

Thanks, mate! Looking forward to the book.


message 26: by Jay (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jay Matt wrote: "Hello,
I have a question.

I very much enjoy Julian Barnes' style and hopping, delightful prose; however, the question I have regarding "The Sense of an Ending" is this: is it a raunchy, sex-fill..."


You ask if you "can take notes on a critically acclaimed work of literature without taking breaks to wash pornographic mental-pictures from my mind." I suppose that by now you have been assured that you can do exactly that. I found the novel's controlling theme not "sex" but the aging memory and its reliability or unreliability. By the end of the work, in regard to the several mysteries, you will only have a sense of an ending with little focus on "raunchy" sex.


message 27: by Matt (new) - added it

Matt Jay wrote: "Matt wrote: "Hello,
I have a question.

I very much enjoy Julian Barnes' style and hopping, delightful prose; however, the question I have regarding "The Sense of an Ending" is this: is it a raun..."


Well, that is all I am after. I sometimes feel that I am being eyed with a certain amount of contempt and criticism because of my lack of desire for risque novels. But, you see, it is not that I disapprove of readers of racy books, or that I despise reading such books myself. It is that I am looking to read novels with a deeper meaning, not with simply a compelling story-line or thrilling tale of "forbidden love", illicit lovers, et cetera. I understand the importance of sex in literature and the ultimately beautiful or terrible meaning it can convey in those stories, but I am uninterested in this when it begins to detract from the clearer picture of said novels, or when it becomes increasingly difficult to remember that the story has some higher/other meaning besides beds and those hopping in them. I am not uncomfortable with it; conversely, I look for it in the highest regard of a meaningful work of art.

I feel compelled, at this point, to thank you for your reply and also to apologize for that terribly long bit of text containing information that probably does not interest you in the slightest.

Here I say, thank you once more.

-One of Yours


message 28: by Val (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val Matt, Julian Barnes is more concerned with his characters' heads than their bodies, so they might think about sex, perhaps trying to make sense of a sexual encounter in the past, but they are unlikely to be shown actually doing it in the book.


Casey Kristy wrote: "I was annoyed that Veronica kept telling Tony "that he just didn't get it". Um, well, then explain; don't expect him to read your mind. What I got from this book was that somehow, by means of Tony'..."

I agree. It bugged me that Veronica refused to tell Tony anything. It did force Tony to investigate the half brother more and figure things out for himself.


message 30: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Riley Expanded thoughts on The Sense of an Ending:
http://thenobbyworks.blogspot.com/201...


Susan McNally I thought the ending was a let down and contrived in a way that meant, for me, it undermined the story. I was underwhelmed... why did this win the booker?


Nancy Davis As I was reading this book, which took a bit to warm up to with the initial plot line, I became more and more impressed with the skill of the author to weave a tale that was poignant and compelling. The ending left me with the shivers! Being in the baby boomer generation, I related to the life and times that the characters lived ~ and teh ending just left me going 'wow'. I have since read another book by Julian Barnes, "Before She Knew Me" and although not as good as Sense, it, too, left the reader with a feeling of melancholy, wonder, and awe. I am reading more of this man!


message 33: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Johnson Neil wrote: "What guilt did Victoria's mother feel towards Tony to justify the £500?"


message 34: by Amo (last edited Oct 16, 2014 03:16PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amo Berwari Can anyone explain this passage from the first page:

"bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door
This last isn’t something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed."


Is there more to it, was it significant, or does it have no bearing on the rest of the book?


message 35: by Trent (last edited Oct 17, 2014 01:15PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Trent Latta Katherine wrote: "I am simply curious about other opinions about this book, particularly the ending of the novel. What do people think? I'm actually a tiny bit confused."

Many others have provided helpful comments. I will add, however, that you should really read Barnes' memoir "Nothing to be Frightened of," his collection of short stories, "Pulse," and "Sense of an Ending," as a kind of trilogy. They all make better sense when read together.

Trent


Ahmad Qassab Bashi Trent wrote: "Katherine wrote: "I am simply curious about other opinions about this book, particularly the ending of the novel. What do people think? I'm actually a tiny bit confused."

Many others have provided..."

thanks this is also helpful for the others


message 37: by Neil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Neil Amo wrote: "Can anyone explain this passage from the first page:

"bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door
This last isn’t something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same ..."


Adrian committed suicide in the bath.


Sarah Very disturbing and psychologically explosive. The sexuality was tight and tense throughout the narrator's young adulthood, and in some ways reminded me of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. Loss of innocence is a major theme. What did you think of the writing style? Sometimes it was too vague to understand for me.


message 39: by Brad (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brad Lyerla Tom wrote: "SPOILER ALERT
Tony, the narrator, misunderstood what had happened between his former girlfriend Victoria and his friend Adrian 40 years before. He thought that they had an affair. They didn't. Adri..."


This is correct. It is also about age, memory and self.


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