Felicity's Reviews > The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
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's review
Oct 08, 2011

really liked it

This is the third book from the 2011 Man Booker Prize Shortlist I've read. Patrick DeWitt's "The Sisters Brothers" remains far-and-away my favorite, but I can't say whether it's the best (or the most deserving winner). Both books are far superior to A. D. Miller's "Snowdrops," in my view. So that's my rankings so far.

Barnes' novel (or novella) is very short--only 160 pages. You will easily be able to read it in one sitting. The book has generated much discussion on blogs--and apparently, in book clubs--largely because of its ambivalent ending. I confess to getting immediately online after I finished to see if what I thought had happened concurred with what others thought...others do think the same as me, so it seems, but that's no guarantee we are "right." Barnes keeps you guessing right up until the last minute (the very last page), so don't assume that what becomes clear is actually clear. As Veronica keeps telling Tony: you just don't get it!

What's the book about? In his old age--divorced, contentedly retired--Tony receives an entirely unexpected bequest from the estate of an ex-girlfriend's (as in a before he got married girlfriend) mother. The bequest: five hundred pounds and a diary that belonged to an old, now deceased, schoolfriend, Adrian. The "action" (such as it is) of the book focuses on Tony's quest to recover the diary from Veronica, the ex-girlfriend. And before you assume this is some saucy, sexy reunion...think again. That's not the real nature of the quest for either Veronica or Tony.

Saying any more would reveal too much, although I admit this short description has hardly done justice to the many issues that the book addresses. As an historian, I marveled at the way Barnes so accurately captured the spirit of 1960s Britain--yes, it was the sixties, but no, we weren't all running around having sex on every street corner. He captured perfectly the tension between the promise of that decade (and the misinformation), and the desire (yes, we all wanted to be running around having sex all the time or, at least, we thought we should be...) There are many other things I enjoyed about this book, including its ambivalent ending, but my ultimate recommendation is that you should read it for yourself. As much as I loved "The Sisters Brothers" I can think of many reasons why "The Sense of An Ending" would be a worthy winner of this year's Booker.
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October 8, 2011 – Shelved
October 8, 2011 – Finished Reading

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