Kinga's Reviews > The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
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Dec 21, 2011

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Let me begin by saying that I don’t mind short, understated books – novellas if you like. I do like them. What I don’t like is paying the same money for a 150 page book, that could have easily been written by a skilled writer in a month, that I have to pay for a 826 page book involving loads of research full of medieval and linguistic references (yes, I am reading Nicola Barker’s Darkmans). I just don’t think that’s fair.

That said, it was a pretty decent book. It follows a very simple formula of an old man revisiting some events from his past. It has this Dead Poets Society/Catcher in the Rye feel to it if you know what I mean.

There is a lot of meditation on how people and situations become warped by our memory. Our memories, especially those that we think about a lot, become simplified, they become symbols, they lose all their nuances. They become a game of Chinese whispers - a message that our brain keeps repeating to itself until it loses all the details and becomes completely distorted.

This is not a terribly creative or original book and to be honest with you the final revelation was, er, rather cheesy. I know it is Julian Barnes, Booker Prize, what not, but that stuff was cheesy, ok?

Julian Barnes and his narrator don't "get" women. It really pisses me off because how can you 'get' men and not 'get' women? We are not some sort mysterious, mystical, half human half something else species. But women in 'The Sense of an Ending' move in very mysterious ways.

Tony's (the narrator's) ex-wife says one sentence to him : "Now you are on your own" and stops speaking to him. His ex-girlfriend comes back like a blast from the past to send him emails saying random things like : "You will never get it so don't even try" or meets up with him and doesn't talk at all but takes him to some place without any explanation. Seriously, WHO does that?
Don't even get me started on the mother of the ex-girlfriend. Every single woman in this book does some seriously outlandish things.

I know it all sounds like I didn't like the book, but I did. Me and that book we spent a nice afternoon together.
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Reading Progress

December 21, 2011 – Started Reading
December 21, 2011 – Shelved
December 29, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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Jafar I've put a hold on this book at the library, but there are 124 people ahead of me. I guess I'll get to it some day in this decade.

Men and women are two different species. This makes Homo sapiens the only "species" that needs inter-species mating for reproduction.

message 2: by Charlie (new)

Charlie If you're interested in distortions of memory, you might try "Asterios Polyp", by David Mazzucchelli. There's a section where it talks about that. It's a graphic novel, but it's thought-provoking and really beautiful.

Denis Victorazo Do you think that we should pay by the numbers of words in a book?

Kinga Totally. Also there should be a premium for the use of three syllable words.

It's only fair.

message 5: by Michelle (new) - added it

Michelle very weirdly Kinga, I also picked up this book and Darkmans on the same trip (Oxfam, secondhand)! Read Barnes first and while I agree he is not a bad writer, the main theme of memory is not exactly new or revelatory, the story somewhat bizarre, and I was left thinking the narrator was narcissistic and self-obsessed, and trying to resist the urge to conflate the narrator with the author. I dislike the narrator's idea that somehow suicide at a young age may be better than an off the shelf life - yawn!!! Do a mindfulness course Julian and get with the joy of the everyday! Also, though a really good start with the privileged ones at school and college, I think the book then descended into nothingness because its central idea was not good enough. And yes indeedy the way the people behave in this novel is just not believable. By the end I did not give a fcuk that the mother was the mother, zzzzz!!! Looking forward to Darkmans...

Kinga I second that.

I am now reading his collection of short stories 'Cross Channel' and while some of them are great, the ones which feature a narcissistic and self-obsessed main character are the most annoying and disappointing ones.

'Darkmans' is on another level. I hope you like it.

message 7: by Nicole (new) - added it

Nicole almost bought till i read your review i was unaware that it was a short story. i agree, no short story should charge over $10.00.

Kinga Yeah, I can think of better ways of spending your $10.

Even buy something else by Barnes, because I don't think this is his strongest work.

Or wait for The Sense of an Ending to cost $0.01 second hand which should happen any minute now.

Birdbath Birdbath You describe the ending as cheesy. I disagree. The ending is haunting. Finding out that you were selfish, vain, ignorant, moronic and wrong is not a happy ending. And because we, the readers, don't know how Tony continues to live his life, we don't know if he ever becomes anything other than selfish, vain, ignorant, moronic and wrong.

Kinga I didn't mean it cheesy-happy. Just cheesy, as in tacky. Too ridiculous to be taken seriously.

Birdbath Birdbath Aha. After I published my comment, I thought about how cheesy might not mean happy, so I should have clarified first. I confess I am very poor at giving specific examples of why I like a book, but this book may have been perfect (so alas I still disagree that the ending was cheesy). I work with people who have been accused of federal crimes, so nothing is "too ridiculous to be taken seriously." Meaning, sometimes it is the MOST ridiculous that is ultimately the most accurate. I think that sums up life well, actually.

Pranay I really liked your view on the book and completely agree that all the women in the book act in a very weird manner. Although i had guessed that the "Mother" would be the mother i was still hopeful that in the end there would be a bit more expression as to why did Adrian kill himself and what was Veronica feeling all this while. For me the ending was abrupt.

Howard I kind of agree with Kinga about it being unfair that short books cost the same as long ones! However, I buy most of my books second-hand in charity shops (thrift stores, for Americans). I paid the same – £3 – for both of them, but at that price, I don’t really mind, and the Barnes book was in perfect condition. I have yet to write my reviews of either of them, but I shall try to do so soon …

Allie Yes - you perfectly put into words my discomfort with the way the author writes women.

Patrick Johns Nice review. Note the local library overdue fines are the same (but less likely) for 180 page novella as for the 800 page epic!

message 16: by Emehbe (new) - added it

Emehbe Truman Capote’s novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of my all time favourite reads, darker than the movie, and I would never think I didn’t get my money’s worth because of fewer words. It’s not the word count, it’s what is conveyed by however number of words the writer needs to use.

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