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The Sense of an Ending

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  154,965 ratings  ·  16,397 reviews
By an acclaimed writer at the height of his powers, The Sense of an Ending extends a streak of extraordinary books that began with the best-selling Arthur & George and continued with Nothing to Be Frightened Of and, most recently, Pulse.

This intense novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he has never much thought about - until his closest childhood fr
Hardcover, 1st edition, 150 pages
Published August 4th 2011 by Jonathan Cape
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  154,965 ratings  ·  16,397 reviews

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Jim Fonseca
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is by Julian Barnes so we know it will focus on memory and its tricks. Some examples: “…but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you witnessed.” And “I need to return briefly to a few incidents that have grown into anecdotes, to some approximate memories which time has deformed into certainty.” And “again, I must stress that this is my reading now of what happened then. Or rather, my memory now of my reading then of what was happening at the time.”

The book is a Booker
Petra-X is getting covered in Soufriere ash
Just brilliant. The book at first appears, right to the end, to be a rather mundane story of the life of an ordinary man who is neither perceptive about the people around him nor does he see himself in a clear light. Only at the end is it apparent that there were two different stories being written at the same time and you can perceive all the clues to the second story only in hindsight although they were so clear, you wonder how you could have missed them. You wonder how the protagonist could h ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Angus Miranda
Shelves: stylish, booker, favorites
When Veronika said, ”You don’t get it. You never did.” I told myself: so, why don’t you tell him? Grrr. If only these people (Barnes’ characters) would sit down and discuss amongst themselves, then there will be no problem. Then Tony Webster will not have to spend all his life trying to grapple the memories he thought to be contained in his whole pathetic life. You see, Tony Webster is a double-sided man: he seems to be this gentle go-with-the-flow nice man who respects his girlfriend not to hav ...more
Paul Bryant
Sep 11, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: novels
Such was the big fat craptastic big-reveal groanworthy lurid pulpy Victorian melodramatic you-got-to-be-kidding ending-with-no-sense that the two stars this novel was hanging on to by its fingernails up to page 130 slipped out of its grasp and it ended up with the ignominious one star, but since that puts it in the same company as many much-loved novels it may well be worn as a Badge Of Honour – I envisage one of those peelable stickers on all future editions A P BRYANT ONE STAR NOVEL!! and Juli ...more
Dec 06, 2011 rated it did not like it
Definitely has a plot, but a pathetic one. Thin characters, cliched ideas. I feel annoyed by having read this book. OK, there was one good quote: “Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however long it takes, that life isn't all it's cracked up to be.”

But ultimately, the plot is a gimmick! I don't understand how this won the Booker Prize.

What the heck did Tony ever do to anyone except send a crappy letter to an ex-girlfrien
This is an exploration of memory, exquisitely written as the thoughts of an old man, looking back on his life - good enough to merit 5*, despite the somewhat contrived ending (ironic, given the title).


It opens with six watery images (an unexpected word in several of them makes them more vivid), each of which form part of the story:

“I remember, in no particular order:
- a shiny inner wrist;
- steam rising from a wet sink as a frying pan is laughingly tossed into it;
- gouts of sperm circling
Emily May
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: philosophy fanatics
Recommended to Emily May by: Melina Marchetta
Shelves: 2012

I think my years as a philosophy student were actually detrimental to my enjoyment of this short novel about life and memory. The stuff that has left other people reeling in amazement reminded me of little more than just another essay on the mind and the way we think, the way we interpret events and the way our memories can let us down. Mr Barnes is clearly a clever man and his writing is a touch complex but always charming. However, is this really that original anymore?

I don't think so. I c
Apr 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Some of my closest GR friends may have noticed that I’ve been less active around here lately. Unfortunately, there’s a reason for that. It’s nothing dire, but it’s still sad for me to have to say. As it turns out, I’m going to have to hang up my spurs, albeit for reasons that have nothing to do with my friends here, and not even much to do with me. It has to do with my niece’s husband who until recently had been a web application developer at Goodreads. The past perfect tense applies because, wh ...more

Update: There is going to be a movie after the book and it is coming out this month! if interested you can see the trailer here:

A story about the unreliability of memory and how we can chose to forget or to reinvent the past in order not to remember disturbing truths.

I discovered this book by Julian Barnes when reading comments about Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan which is a book I also enjoyed. The tone of the story is quite similar in some ways. Barne
Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had never really intended to read this book, and I certainly had no intention of owning it.


I was browsing in a B&N sitting out a winter storm in Lincoln, Nebraska and ran across of stack of The Sense of an Ending with BOOKER PRIZE WINNER blazoned across the front of the book. I dug through the stack of third printings and there near the bottom was one book with BOOKER PRIZE NOMINEE on the cover. Well it is sort of cosmic for a collector such as I to find one first American edition in the
JV (semi-hiatus)
Stupefy (according to Cambridge Online Dictionary)
verb UK /ˈstjuː.pɪ.faɪ/ | US /ˈstuː.pə.faɪ/

(1) to make someone unable to think clearly
(2) to surprise or shock someone very much

Good day, curious reader! You might be flummoxed as to why I have decided to define the word "stupefy" first. Fortunately, it has something to do with this narrative as it left me gobsmacked or stupefied after reading this short novel. Apparently, the two aforementioned definitions did work their magic through me
Nov 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, reviewed, for-kindle
Tony Webster is a shallow douchebag.

First of all, let’s get something straight. I don’t believe people should be judged too harshly for behavior they exhibited in adolescence. That’s not to say that people are not responsible for actions they committed in their youth; it just means that their actions as teenagers do not necessarily reflect the kind of people they will become as adults. So my problem with Tony Webster isn’t that he was an asshole in high school. In fact, I’d probably be a bit hyp
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book got under my skin. Not in the negative way, like what Tony, the narrator, may be doing, or trying to do, to Veronica, who 40 years ago was his first serious girlfriend, but in the way he describes how his ex-wife would dress a chicken -- slipping butter and herbs under the skin, with a delicate hand, never breaking the outer layer. I was hooked from the first page and even when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it, even in my sleep, or, more likely, semi-sleep. I was pulled int ...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ by: Petra-X is getting covered in Soufriere ash
This enigmatic literary fiction novel does a great job of playing with perceptions. I pulled out this short Booker Prize novel one night, thinking I'd just read a bit to get a feel for it, to know what to tell my book club about it, since I needed to suggest a choice of 4 or 5 books to my book club the next day for their vote. A few hours later I finished the book, moved but a little bewildered.

In the first fifty pages the narrator, Tony, tells of some events in his high school and college days
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kris, Jim, Ian Graye
Recommended to Nataliya by: Iffletoe

Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending has a lot packed in the short 150 or so pages.

Memory and history, responsibility and blame, deceit, misunderstandings, aging, guilt, remorse - and, of course, a safely passive coasting on the smooth sailing surface of life, occasionally interrupted by the tidal waves of unexpected upheavals and disturbances, just like Severn Bore, seen once by Tony Webster and Veronica.

"We live with such easy assumptions, don’t we? For instance, that memory equals events
Again, I must stress that this is my reading now of what happened then. Or rather, my memory now of my reading then of what was happening at the time.
From the first page, I was carried away by Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending and its wonderful story. For such a short novel it seems to waste no words, and only speeds between breaths to tell us about the capriciousness of our memories. I think it cannot be truer that memory is a fickle friend. More than a story, this was a lyrical lesson
Jennifer (aka EM)
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
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-a
Violet wells
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
It seems inevitable that virtually every writer will at some point write a meditation on ageing and the role of engineered memory in defining identity. This is Julien Barnes contribution to a somewhat oversubscribed theme, one which is very popular with Booker judges, perhaps because they're generally of an an age when this theme is especially pertinent to them.

I'm not a great fan of minimalist prose so Barnes is never going to become one of my favourite novelists. I like my writers to be more
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Julian Barnes’ writing in this short novel speaks loudly in an often quiet reflective allegory of memory and loss. Overtly philosophical, Tony Webster, tells of his youth as a schoolboy, with two old friends Alex and Colin, and the new kid, Adrian Finn. How their ideological sense of the world met with affectations as they sought to impress each other and teachers on various subjects, although always acceding to Adrian’s intelligent and apparent self-awareness. Nearing the end of scho
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-clubs
This book literally grabbed me from the first page. I found myself highlighting phrase after phrase. The narrator starts the book looking back at his school days. He's got the presence of mind to understand exactly what he and the other lads were like in those days. He also has the understanding of how memory truly works. “...what you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed.” Or this “ I need to return briefly to a few incidents that have grown into anecdotes.”

The wr
Rakhi Dalal
Apr 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Rakhi by: Norman
Shelves: favorites
Has it ever occurred to you that while you are complacently sitting, basking in the self acquired glory of wisdom, you chance upon something, like an incident, a person or a written word, which forces you to revisit your understanding and knowledge of the life as you know it? And then you gasp with a sudden disbelief at the ignorance which might have silently crept in and stayed along while you felt contented with your version of perceptions? I felt the same while reading this book. To say that ...more
Oct 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Sense of an Ending is the type of British novel ALL OTHER AMERICAN NOVELS TREMBLE IN THE PRESENCE OF. It is blessed with an aura of flawless, impeccable English perfection; the prose is exquisitely clean & concise, GODLY by most-- especially my own-- standards.

It is an uncommon, unpolluted work that should be embedded in psychology books everywhere: the gears of life are described in their rare light, in degrees that, you must agree, can only possibly come from another world, or another dim
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, man-booker
I find it appropriate that my last review of 2017 is titled The Sense of an Ending. Recently I read In the Noise of Time by Julian Barnes. Upon returning it to the library, two of my branch librarians asked me if I had ever read any of Barnes other works, and I answered, unfortunately, no. While reading about Shostakovich, I immediately fell in love with Barnes' flawless prose. My librarians know their patrons and reserved me The Sense of an Ending. A Man Booker winner, Barnes has wowed his read ...more
Jan 17, 2012 added it
Shelves: julianbarnes
Reviewed in January, 2012

One of the things I admire about Barnes is the pared down nature of his writing. Every word counts.
The division of this novella into two parts also counts. The reader could start with Part Two and the book wouldn't be any less clear. In fact, possible answers to most of the questions raised at the end of the book can be found on rereading Part One. More enlightenment comes while rereading Part Two.

(The following paragraph may contain spoilers)
As to the possible answer
Andrew Smith
May 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book at Paddington railway station, to read on the way home. It's not my normal type of book but I knew it had won the man Booker Prize and I'd seen some positive comment in the press. It's a short book (one of the reasons I bought it) and it quickly confirmed itself to me as a wise purchase; I was laughing out loud after a few pages, totally hooked. Barnes is obviously a clever guy and I found I had to look up a few words along the way (I was home by then). But as a former lexicog ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
Umm. I mean this book was written ok and I get it, the whole unreliable narrator thing, but the protagonist is like a psychopath or what? I mean how could he have forgotten? And if what I think happened happened, WTF would Veronique still be talking to him? Why would the mom send him 500 pounds? WTF was that mathematical formula about? Maybe I a just too dense for English post-modernism and I gotta still to American post-modernist,. Hmpf. Disappointed :(
Riku Sayuj
Dec 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tanuj Solanki, Vikram Johari, Mohit Parikh, Arnab, Shafi
What a wonderful wonderful novel. No, not a novel, or a novella; it was a poem, with rhythm, repetition, and cadence, looping back on itself. Yes, it can only be called a poem - a poem about time, about forgotten time, long gone cold.

Having laid off from new Booker winners after a traumatic experience with Adiga, I started on this book with a lot of trepidation. But I was drawn in from the first paragraph and the amazing childhood anecdotes seemed to be promising a night of unbroken reading! I
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"He left one of those slight pauses in which we again wondered if he was engaged in subtle mockery or a high seriousness beyond the rest of us."

This is exactly how it felt when reading the initial pages of this book - Could this be something beyond the understanding!? And, then it hits... Of course, this was supposed to be philosophically self-evident.

Julian Barnes`s The Sense of an Ending is deep, profound and beautifully written. This book is about making sense of the ways we all try to make s
I feel like I've got an angel and devil on either shoulder, when it comes to this book.

The being on one shoulder has an unnaturally soprano voice, eyes to the heavens, saying things like: "Oh merciful holiness, what IS this wonderful prose, this succinct precision, o lord, the slow burn of mystery juxtaposed with the deep meditation on memory, our affect on the course of history, and our inability to fix things in the past, god bless and exalt this clever Julian Barnes for a story that I relish
Iris P

The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

It's probably safe to say that most of us have, at some point in our lives, done or said things we have come to regret. That phone call you made when you were extremely upset. That bitter email you shouldn't have written. That text message you were too prompt to send.

If you had the opportunity of visiting a younger version of yourself and review what that other you said, felt, discovered, did or didn't do, how do you think it would measure up against the older you? Wou
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Julian Patrick Barnes is a contemporary English writer of postmodernism in literature. He has been shortlisted three times for the Man Booker Prize - Flaubert's Parrot (1984), England, England (1998), and Arthur & George (2005), and won the prize for The Sense of an Ending (2011). He has written crime fiction under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh.

Following an education at the City of London School and

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