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The Sense of an Ending
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1001 book reviews > The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes

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message 1: by Jamie (last edited Oct 13, 2017 10:48PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) (ravenmount) | 474 comments This book was included in the 2012 version of the 1001 Books list. It is rather short, ~160pgs in the edition I read.
This story reminds me a lot of Looking for Alaska (John Green) and A Separate Peace(John Knowles), at least in the first half of the book. A man recounts his childhood and youth, his days in a boys' prep school and in college and his friendship with a boy named Adrian, who commits suicide. The main character, Tony, accepts Adrian's explanation in his note for why he chose to die, but still fails to fully understand what happened to his friend.
The second half of the story moves forward in time to Tony's late middle-age, when his childhood is returned to his attention by a strange bequest from the recently deceased mother of one of Tony's ex-girlfriends.
For a book of less than 200 pages, this story was quite complex, and well enough written to keep me interested in what might in other writers' hands have been a monotonous, self-important monologue about an ageing man's reminiscences. That is in fact what this book amounts to, but it was engaging and probably worth listing on a 1001 Books list. I still like A Separate Peace better(which is not on a 1001 Books list yet), but I did like The Sense of an Ending, and do recommend it.
And, this book is short, a nice break from tomes like War & Peace and Rousseau's Confessions.

message 2: by Sushicat (new) - added it

Sushicat | 292 comments How did you rate it?

Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) (ravenmount) | 474 comments Sushicat wrote: "How did you rate it?"

4 stars. I'd give it 4.5 stars if we had half-stars on Goodreads, though. :)

message 4: by Sushicat (new) - added it

Sushicat | 292 comments :-)

Diane Zwang | 1247 comments Mod
I really liked this one too.

Hilde (hilded) | 350 comments The Sense of an Ending
Read August 2018 for my Backpack through Europe challenge
Rating: 4.5 stars

GR synopsis:
The Sense of an Ending follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he has never much thought about - until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance, one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony Webster thought he'd left all this behind as he built a life for himself, and by now his marriage and family and career have fallen into an amicable divorce and retirement. But he is then presented with a mysterious legacy that obliges him to reconsider a variety of things he thought he'd understood all along, and to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world.

The book slowly builds up a quietly devastating plot that is not resolved until the ending, and this was done in such an elegant way that I almost wanted to turn the book around and start over again in the hope of getting more of the clues I potentially missed early on. However, I guess I knew that would not give me all the answers anyhow, as the theme of the book deals with the unreliable juncture of memory, time, and history, with aging and remorse thrown in.

I found the novel very compelling, and like the blurbs say, it begs to be read in a single setting. I couldn’t do that, but I found myself walking extra distance to/from work to be able to listen to it a bit more. I initially gave it four stars, but it might be worthy of a five star.

This quote sums it up nicely;

“What did I know of life, I who had lived so carefully? Who had neither won nor lost, but just let life happen to him? Who had the usual ambitions and settled all too quickly for them not being realised? Who avoided being hurt and called it a capacity for survival? Who paid his bills, stayed on good terms with everyone as far as possible, for whom ecstasy and despair soon became just words once read in novels? One whose self-rebukes never really inflicted pain? Well, there was all this to reflect upon, while I endured a special kind of remorse: a hurt inflicted at long last on one who always thought he knew how to avoid being hurt—and inflicted for precisely that reason.”

message 7: by Emu (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emu | 18 comments This book cleverly describes how the main character remembers or has chosen to remember his past. The book is divided into two halves, the first half being a very straightforward memory of the past retold. However, in the other half of the book the truth of the memories slowly, very slowly start to unravel.

I loved the way, I as a reader was first thoroughly convinced of the main character's own version of his memories and the slowly followed him on his path of discovery.

I also love a book that leaves me thinking about it several days later. I finished reading this book two weeks ago, but I had to digest before writing this review.

5 stars from me.

message 8: by Kristel (last edited Jan 26, 2019 04:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kristel (kristelh) | 4113 comments Mod
The book is about Tony Webster who is a divorced, father of one adult daughter and one grandchild who having sought to live in peace is now seeking to make sense of his life. The title The Sense of An Ending is borrowed from Frank Kermode’s book, published in 1967 subtitled Studies in the Theory of Fiction, the stated aim of which is "making sense of the ways we try to make sense of our lives". The book is two parts, in part 1, Tony is reflecting back to 1960s and his four school friends and then they are divided as they head off to college. Tony has his first serious girlfriend, Veronica but things don’t go so well, they break up and that is the end. Later his best friend, dates Veronica. Tony marries Margaret, they have Susie and later divorce. Tony is now retired, divorced and a grandfather. The second part, Tony receives a sum of money in the estate of Mrs Ford. Mrs Ford was Veronica’s mother, this triggers Tony to begin to think about the past. He remembers things he hadn’t remembered for years and there is much he doesn’t know. In fact, Tony “just doesn’t get it”. The short little book is about life, death, aging and it is also how little things that don’t seem so large at the time can have big consequences. The book is also about memory and time. The book won the 2011 Man Booker. The two parts, both narrated by Tony with the first part, the imperfect memory of events as Tony has chosen to remember them and then Part 2 where Tony begins to see what he has chosen to not remember and how badly he has acted. This structure lends originality to the story. There are only Veronica and Tony in which there is much character development and mostly Tony. The other characters are only known as they have interlaced with Tony. None of the characters are particularly likeable. I did not like Veronica. Tony was okay and until he got to know him better. I liked his friend Adrian but we only know a little about him. Reviews have mentioned that this brief story uses languages with impact. There is tension and mystery. The reader is not sure why Veronica behaves in such an angry manner. I like reading books about aging and the aged. I compared this at times to Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout but don’t ask me how or why but maybe its just the inner narrative of older people. Its pretty philosophical and reading it again would be worthwhile. I wasn’t able to read it in one setting but it is a book that is made to be read from start to finish. Read 2012.

Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments 4 stars

Julian Barnes wrote a story about an average person. A person like you and I, who is often bland and who has lived a relatively quiet, boring life. He married and divorced. He raised children. And is quietly surviving middle-age. The book is introspective and reflective, a book about memory and aging. It is a story of responsibility. And most of all, it talks about the consequences of our words and actions. It worked well fo me because I am 56 and I think it is natural at this stage of life to think more about where we have been and where we still want to go.

Our protagonist, Anthony, receives a notice from the mother of his former girlfriend, which causes him to reflect on events in his past including past friendships and past relationships. As he explores his past he realizes that thing are not exactly as he remembered them. He finds that he wasn't quite as innocent as he remembered and I loved that because I think it is often true for all of us. We see things through a myopic view and as time passes we are better able to understand ourselves. I like books that make me think about human emotions and actions and this one was a simple, concise story of exactly that. Excellent, quick read.


“It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others.”

Kristel (kristelh) | 4113 comments Mod
Kelly wrote: "4 stars

Julian Barnes wrote a story about an average person. A person like you and I, who is often bland and who has lived a relatively quiet, boring life. He married and divorced. He raised child..."

Interesting thoughts. And memories are so much more than reality.

Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments Kristel wrote: "Kelly wrote: "4 stars

Julian Barnes wrote a story about an average person. A person like you and I, who is often bland and who has lived a relatively quiet, boring life. He married and divorced. H..."

I agree. And sometimes we all forget that the way we remember something is though our own particular lens.

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

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 455 comments A short, clever story about how we rewrite our own history, and how events were not necessarily how we remember them. The reveals were excellent. I completely agree with Jamie that it was "a monotonous, self-important monologue about an ageing man's reminiscences" made interesting through excellent and complex storytelling.

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