Read The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes Online

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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 new novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he has never much thought about--until his closest childhoBy 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 new novel 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.A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single sitting, with stunning psychological and emotional depth and sophistication, The Sense of an Ending is a brilliant new chapter in Julian Barne's oeuvre....

Title : The Sense of an Ending
Author :
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ISBN : 9780099564973
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 150 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Sense of an Ending Reviews

  • Petra X
    2019-07-05 01:19

    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 have misinterpreted, forgotten and ignored them as well. Or did he? Maybe it was just in reflection he could put all the pieces together.This is genius writing. This was two ways of reading a story, one written to be read in the usual way, forwards, and the other backwards, with hindsight. This is why Barnes won the Booker Prize.

  • K.D. Absolutely
    2019-06-25 02:18

    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 have real sex until they are ready. However, when his girlfriend dumps him for Tony Webster’s friend, he writes the bitterest letter that I’ve read coming from a dumped lover. The kind of letter that would put to shame even the vilest and the most manipulating characters of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos in his masterpiece Les Liaisons Dangereuses.But that slow tease makes the reading very interesting and fun. The book is thin and the letters are big. Don’t be deceived though. The brevity does not reflect the jam-packed plot and the intricate thoughts that go on inside the mind of Tony Webster. You see, the story is a book narrated in the first person and Tony Webster is what they call in literature, film or theatre, as unreliable narrator. Barnes deceives the reader into believing that the character of Tony Webster in the first part of the story will be consistent. Until the revelation in the second part but I did not feel disgustingly deceived. I was amused, surprised but definitely bewildered by the brilliancy on how Barnes put everything intricately together. The prose is crisp, clear and concise. Definitely British but it is not stiff and rigid. This is my first Barnes and I used to think before that his prose would be a challenge to enjoy. Definitely not: it is very readable and easy to comprehend even for an Asian like me. The prose, plot, thethe characters, the sequence of the events, the thoughts that run in Tony Webster’s mind, big revelation in the end… They are all part of the big beautiful ensemble that delivers an exceptionally nice written novella. Ah oh, the theme. It is something that I can truly relate to: a middle-age retired man who tried to live a peaceful ordinary British life. With a grown-up daughter and an ex-wife who he still maintains as a friend, he now lives alone with only the memoirs of how he thought his life went through as a young man. I think that this looking back to the what-ifs is one of the favorite pastimes of middle-age people during their spare quite time. And I am beginning to imbibe this hobby as I am approaching retirement ha ha.You will pick this book if: 1. You make sure that you read all the Man Booker winning books; 2. You are a fan of Julian Barnes; or 3. You believe in my rating and you like this review.You will like this book if: 1. You pretend to like or actually like less populist contemporary books; 2. You like all works of Julian Barnes and you hate to have an exception; and 3. You are an old or middle-age man and you are fond of thinking of your what-ifs.Undoubtedly, one of the best books I’ve read this year. May the Good Lord bless you with more years so you can write more beautiful novels, Mr. Barnes.

  • Jim Fonseca
    2019-07-08 23:13

    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 Prize winner, so we expect and we get great writing. “In those days, we imagined ourselves as being kept in some kind of holding pen, waiting to be released into our lives.” There’s not a lot of point in adding an extensive review to book with 12,000 already on GR although it’s interesting to note that its rating, 3.7 is a bit on the low side. Barnes seems to be a writer that you like or you don’t.The basic story is that we have a man of retirement age who is a doofus. He has a couple of adult children he’s never shown much interest in, and an ex- that he meets with for an occasional lunch. The story goes back to his college days and early romances when he broke up with one girl who dumped him for another buddy in his group. He wrote the two of them a nasty, vicious letter and promptly forgot about it. That letter turns up 40 years later in a package from a lawyer and he is shocked to see it. He is incredulous that he could have written it (memory again) --- but there it is in black and white in his handwriting. His buddy died years ago so he now tries to contact his old flame and make amends. (He missed all the self-help books about “never explain…”) He meets with her and they email a bit. Everything is different from what he believes happened and I find the denouement a stretch; it’s implausible that his ex-girlfriend would not reveal the surprise twist at the end but just say things like “you still don’t get it do you?” Well of course he can’t get it because of the plot device.It’s been said that over the course of a great novel that the main character has to experience change. However this guy seems to exemplify the maxim: Once an ass, always an ass.

  • Steve
    2019-06-28 18:15

    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, while it’s all well and good to speculate on your own machine and on your own time about what anatomically improbable position Jeff Bezos’s head may be in, it’s evidently not OK on company machines and on company time. To make matters worse, this was a job I’d encouraged him to pursue. I’d rather not go into the details (the policies and the politics), but you’ll understand that as a matter of principle I need to bid you all a fond farewell. I’ve taken a few weeks to consider my swan song – my final review on this site. The wordplayful part of me was tempted to read the first volume of Proust’s classic just so I could use the name Swann, but that would run a terrible risk. Too many of you have read and fully absorbed the Remembrance series and would no doubt think of me in the end as the poseur that I am were I to feign any insight. Then I looked at a few of the titles I’d read but not yet reviewed. One of them, Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee, had potential given the situation that brought this about, but like I said, it’s best not to talk about that. A Ship of Fools is out for the same reason. Then one jumped out at me – the much-discussed Booker Prize winner of 2011 by Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending. The title certainly fits.While the story may not be fresh in my mind (it’s been three years since I read it), I do recall a heated internal debate concerning the main character, Tony. Did he ring true? Could I imagine myself in his shoes? The book actually fits for another reason, too. It’s all about memories, faulty and biased though they may be. I’m sure in a few years’ time I’ll look back on my GR experience and remember writing thousands of reviews, making millions of comments, and stockpiling near infinite good will from it all.As a glib student, oblivious to his own clichéd thinking, Tony once said that “history is the lies of the winners.” A more nuanced discussion followed, including a quotable line from their brightest, most philosophical friend Adrian: “History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation." Later, the classroom discussion led to a related point: "That’s one of the central problems of history, isn’t it, sir? The question of subjective versus objective interpretation, the fact that we need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us."Barnes was clever, I thought, to apply this theme to Tony’s more mature self-analysis. As a retiree in his sixties, once married, now divorced, father of a daughter he considers close (contrary to most evidence), and one who has led a rather quotidian life, Tony reflects on several key junctures from his youth. It’s clear he’s an unreliable narrator of his own story, but readily cops to it, and to his credit, is disturbed by it. "What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed." I don’t consider it a spoiler to say that one of those memories concerned a girlfriend from his university days, Veronica, who dumped him and ended up with the aforementioned Adrian. Tragedy struck soon after that, and the reason Tony is so keen to revisit those memories is that Veronica’s mother bequeathed him Adrian’s diary. But Veronica was the one in possession of it, and was very reluctant to give it up. That’s all I’ll mention of the conflict, but as you may well have guessed, there’s plenty more beneath the surface.When I first considered this book for my final review, it hadn’t occurred to me that there’d be so many ways to tie it to my own reflections. Please indulge me one last time as I take even more quotes from this book and relate them to my years on Goodreads.The retired and resigned version of Tony near the end of the book had this to say: "… as the witnesses to your life diminish, there is less corroboration, and therefore less certainty, as to what you are or have been. Even if you have assiduously kept records— in words, sound, pictures— you may find that you have attended to the wrong kind of record-keeping." When he mentioned those assiduously kept records, especially the pictures, I thought of Facebook. The right kind of record-keeping, to me, would be the thoughts and reactions on Goodreads. Those reflect something meaningful, and say more about what makes you you. Even so, as the memories of those who participated with you fade, so does your presence. At least I’m keeping my account active so that I don’t disappear altogether.Getting back to the topic of unreliability, older Tony said, “… perhaps it’s that same paradox again: the history that happens underneath our noses ought to be the clearest, and yet it’s the most deliquescent.” Like I said, it was a few years ago that I read this, so my own reliability should be questioned. I guess that means anything I say beyond this point is meta-unreliable. Be that as it may, I think it’s true that subjectivity, the lives we make for ourselves that read more like literature, and even outright lies often make our accounts more interesting.As one last indulgence, I swear, I’m linking past reviews that I feel speak to that last statement rather well. From 2015From 2014From 2013From 2008I had considered giving this book either five stars or one since those are the reviews that often contain the most passionate arguments and attract the most curious readers. But that isn’t my true sentiment. (Let’s assume that the truth is at least slightly important to me). This one is a solid 3.5 rounded to 4. Tony was a little frustrating at times for his unreliable Tony-centric views, but I did like the theme. Besides, that Barnes guy writes really well.Before I sign off, I want to extend a big THANK YOU to you all for making these years on Goodreads so rewarding. I’ve enjoyed the countless insights contained in your reviews, the entertainment value, the recommendations, the overly generous comments, and the nonstop thinking and fun. I can only hope that our collective memories never fool us into thinking that our time together has been anything but great.

  • Cecily
    2019-06-19 00:10

    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).ImageryIt 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 a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house;- a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torch beams;- another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface;- bath water long gone cold behind a locked door.”PlotTony and his three friends were somewhat pretentious teenagers, from moderately privileged backgrounds (“one of those suburbs which has stopped concreting over nature at the very last minute, and ever since, smugly claimed rural status”). They are on the cusp of going to university. As they go their separate ways, they stay in touch to greater or lesser extents, but events of their youth echo across the years, and as he approaches retirement, Tony tries to draw the threads together and make sense of his life. Very self-absorbed (and not especially likeable), but if anything, I think that makes the book more interesting. In particular, there are two rather unbalanced relationships that left their mark: with Adrian (who joined school later than the others) and his first proper girlfriend, Veronica. He suffers “pre-guilt: the expectation that she was going to say something that would make me feel properly guilty”.Despite this, and a couple of shocking incidents, Tony is not unhappy with the course of his life, though he is not entirely happy either. His reference to the “small pleasures and large dullnesses of home” is apt. Although he was at university in the sixties, “Most people didn’t experience the sixties until the seventies”, though he experienced a confusing mix of the two. Nostalgia doesn’t help, “the powerful recollection of strong emotions – and regret that such feelings are no longer present in our lives”. Can you reverse remorse to guilt and forgiveness?Memory, History, TruthThe recurring theme is the accuracy, or inaccuracy, of memory, coupled with the effects of time. Tony is forever musing on memory, history and truth. Revelations prompt further re-evaluation and interpretation. Maybe none of this is true (some elements of the plot and the behaviour of key characters are implausible, or at least, not adequately explained), but does it matter anyway? Surely that is the point Barnes is making. Many books feature unreliable narrators but it's quite refreshing to read one where the narrator is pondering their own unreliability.Tony is honest about his dishonesty as a narrator (except that he constantly says his relationship with his daughter is closer than it appears from what he describes), and constantly ponders on it:* “What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you witnessed.”* “If I can’t be sure of the actual events any more, I can at least be true to the impression those facts left.”* It gets harder with age: “As the witnesses to your life diminish, there is less corroboration, and therefore less certainty, as to what you are or have been”, and “memory becomes a thing of shreds and patches”.* “When we are young we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others.”* “The history that happens underneath our noses ought to be the clearest, and yet it’s the most deliquescent.”* “History is that certainty produce at the point where the imperfection of memory meets the inadequacy of documentation.”* “Mental states can be inferred from actions… Whereas in the private life, I think the converse is true: that you can infer past actions from current mental states.” Similarly, X “thought logically, and then acted on the conclusion of logical thought. Whereas most of us… do the opposite: we make an instinctive decision, then build up an infrastructure of reasoning to justify it”.* “It takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time’s malleability.”MeaningIn the end, the meaning 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”!Some people dislike Tony so much that that it taints their enjoyment of the entire book, but to some extent Tony is everyman and we are all Tony, which leads me to wonder if the dislikers are TOO like Tony for their own comfort!This is a story that reveals far more with each encounter (like the film, The Sixth Sense): because you know the denouement, you spot the significance of trivial signs earlier on - and also notice the gaps where Tony, and probably the reader, has connected dots that shouldn't be. Petra nails this aspect in the final paragraph of her short, but perfectly formed, review here.Related BooksThis is SO much better than another of his multi-decade life stories, dating from 25 years earlier, Staring at the Sun (my review HERE).Another short book in which a grumpy aging man reflects on his life makes an interesting contrast with this - though Yasmina Reza's Desolation (my review HERE) doesn't come out of the comparison favourably (only 2*).And then there is John Banville, all of whose books seem to focus on, and are often narrated by such people. See my reviews HERE.UPDATE re Film of 2017I thought the film, released in April 2017 in the UK, was excellent. There was less about schooldays (fair enough), and Tony was slightly more likeable, which will help some who disliked the book for that reason. The narrative jumped about with Tony's understanding in a similar way to the book. Three of the six watery images that open the book and this review are featured prominently. It has a fabulous cast, including Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Matthew Goode, Emily Mortimer, and James Wilby, and it mostly captured the tone and plot very well. See: imdb page.

  • Auntjenny
    2019-06-30 18:24

    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-girlfriend who was now going out with one of his best friends? Who HASN'T done that?And why the money from "The Mother?" Doesn't make any sense. Nor does younger Adrian's fear of Tony when he mentions being friends with "Mary." And why the heck didn't "The Mother" leave her money to her son who needed the money, rather than sending him off to live in some group home once she died?I've been reading too many books lately. I need to start watching more television.

  • Emily May
    2019-07-07 01:05

    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 can point you towards many - even young adult - books with equally unreliable narrators that are much more engaging, gripping and altogether more rewarding - even if they do lack the complexity of the mind-delving going on in The Sense of an Ending. And, though Barnes thoroughly explores the mind of Tony Webster, I found him to be a painfully bland and unexciting protagonist that no amount of philosophical thought could save.This is a book that will suit people who like to think about everything. It is more or less the story of a very average man who pulls apart and analyses his memory of school, first love, first sexual encounters, his marriage... everything about his life. I thought I was the kind of person who likes to question things in an unbelievably anal way. For example, the other night I had the most pointless and stupid discussion with my dad about knowledge, where he said that he knew there were blind people in Spain (don't ask, just don't ask), and I said he couldn't possibly know that for certain unless he'd gone to Spain and met a blind person. He said he could. Then I said he couldn't. As you can tell, it was a very productive evening. But my point is that I enjoy philosophy.Tony Webster, however, philosophises about his whole life, a life that just isn't interesting enough for me to care about the "reasons" behind its events. I like, in theory, the idea that everything isn't always as simple as it seems, that things run deeper, that people have hidden and questionable motivations for the things they do and say, and that memory is not the truth but the story we tell ourselves. The idea of this book, I like. And some people love the simplistic side of it, the analysis of real and everyday life, rather than using philosophy to look at murder or something equally dramatic. But I don't believe that Tony's story was exciting enough to want to question. I actually don't care why Adrian did what he did, or why Veronica's mother behaved in a certain way. Perhaps my biggest problem with this book is that I don't care about Tony.Why would I want to hurt my brain straining to think about something that doesn't interest me? Some people obviously saw something much deeper in this, perhaps a message about society as a whole that says something important about our current world... perhaps not. I personally saw it as a failed attempt to turn the mediocre into something poetic. But it was too nicely written to be one star.

  • Jason
    2019-07-10 18:07

    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 hypocritical to judge him in that context because I might have been a asshole myself at that age. Maybe. But I can assure you I am not an asshole now and if I’m to be judged on the kind of person I am, I’d like for that judgment to consider me only in my current adult state, please. No, the problem with Tony Webster has nothing to do with his high school self—it’s the fact that over the course of forty years, he has not changed one single bit.As Tony divulges the circumstances surrounding a pivotal juncture in his youth, he would have you believe that his best friend was a disloyal SOB, his girlfriend a Cutthroat Bitch, and he perfectly justified in telling them both to fuck off. And perhaps he was. Again, that is not the problem I have with Tony Webster. Even that he holds on so tightly to warped memories as reasons for his past behavior (which are really justifications) is something I do not hold against him—we all do that to a certain extent. It’s called self-preservation. But where I start having issues with Tony is where he begins to dwell on these events and obsess over these people he hasn’t seen in decades in a way that is not normal or healthy. If his reasons were sincere, if he actually felt like he needed to atone for something, then I might understand. But that is not what he’s doing. No, he wants to ingratiate himself into these people’s lives, forty years later, just so they can be left with a positive impression of him! See, Tony might think he has you convinced he’s grown and matured into a considerate human person, but the only one he’s convinced is himself, because Tony is in fact the same self-serving bastard he was when he was fifteen. It does make you reconsider his life details in a new light, though: his failed marriage, the distant relationship he has with his daughter, his pathetic lack of friends. I mean it’s one thing to be an unreliable narrator, but here we have one who’s delusional, too.History is not just the lies of the victors; it is also the self-delusions of the defeated.The final straw for me was when he (view spoiler)[writes Veronica a “yo, my bad but call me if you need me” email. Yes, email. Because he’s a class guy now, right? And he considers this an appropriate form of closure? Seriously, Tony, go fuck yourself (hide spoiler)].This book does present an interesting supposition, though—that past events are easier to understand from the historical perspective, the fact that one can see an event in its entirety, more objectively, and from various angles with the passage of time, which allows for a more accurate account of that event. In other words, it’s hard to maintain a clear perspective on something while in the thick of things. Although the narrator uses this to justify his own shallow behavior, I thought it was a pretty enlightening concept nonetheless.

  • Teresa
    2019-07-08 22:27

    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 into the dream of someone else's life, like the best novels do to the reader, and I stayed there.Though the book at first reminded me greatly of Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier (my guess is that was intentional), somewhere after the middle, it stopped feeling like it altogether and became its own entity. At this point it also started to drag a tiny bit (so maybe my rating is really 4 and 3/4 stars), but that time was brief. While I didn't completely see the ending that arrived, I did have a clue, as I was reading very carefully, with a lot of attention, as if it were "The Good Soldier." (That's not to say that plot is essential to this story, because it's not at all, except in the ways the narrator has to adjust his thinking.) Still, there were surprises, as there is in all great fiction.

  • Adina
    2019-07-12 21:16

    4.5* 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: https://www.facebook.com/vintagebooks...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. Barnes, McEwan and Coetzee have a way with words that I find brilliant. They use simple prose but with such a punch. I am not fully satisfied about how the author finished the book and left some of the events unexplained. Maybe that was the intention but I would have liked to understand a little bit better the reason behind some of Veronica's behavior.

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-07-08 22:11

    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 Julian Barnes can swank around with Zadie Smith, Richard Ford and Don DeLillo and read each other their own one star reviews. It’s one thing to realise that as a person with a fiction addiction you must tread a lonely path because in Real Life as you may know not that many people are as hopelessly addicted as we here on Goodreads. But then it’s another thing to have to admit that within that already small (but intense, intense) community of readers you are now part of a minority since the majority appear to be besotted with YA/adult romance/fantasy etc. So, mainstream literature is now a minority sport like lacrosse or curling, and should be rebranded. But then, even stranger, to find oneself as the minority of the minority of the minority…. Which happens when the majority of the minority are all raving about a novel that turns out to be The Sense of an Ending.In Flaubert’s Parrot by JB a guy moons around in France on his own and has thoughts about his life and about Flaubert and you gradually realise that he’s suppressing some horrible thing he doesn’t want to think about. The atmosphere in that novel is transfixing, it’s maximum understated comedy horror. Top novel. This one, 150 pages of picking over an old friendship and a first romance the banal entanglements of which come to a vague watery light when the deceased mother of the ancient girlfriend (it was all 40 years ago) bequeaths to our boring narrator a diary. Like a bolt from the blue. This was a novel where all the detail of the guy’s current mildly depressed defeated mouldering away English life were exactly and toe-curlingly right, and all the actual incidents in the plot (of which there are five, I think, maybe five and a half) are completely wrong, simply ridiculous – no one would do that. The girlfriend would not (redacted), the mother would totally not (redacted) and if the friend really did (redacted) then the narrator (redacted). This is why a novel can be both intelligent (he drops in a sprinkling of Readers Digest Improve Your Conversation by Quoting Philosophy snippets and he’s forever going on about Time, what is Time, can we control Time or does Time control Us, can Time go backwards or sidewards, can Time flow up one nostril and down the Other?) and also stupid (people don’t behave like this). This was a Booker prize winner but it was one of the Bad Bookers like Vernon God Little. There are Good Bookers, like Wolf Hall and The White Tiger. Read the good Bookers, avoid the Bad. Keep on the sunny side of life.

  • Nataliya
    2019-07-11 20:28

    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 plus time. But it’s all much odder than this. Who was it said that memory is what we thought we’d forgotten? And it ought to be obvious to us that time doesn’t act as a fixative, rather as a solvent. But it’s not convenient — it’s not useful — to believe this; it doesn’t help us get on with our lives; so we ignore it."It is the story of fickleness and subjectivity of memory that creates the unreliable histories we tell ourselves; the dissonance between what happened and what stories we choose to tell ourselves - because such unconscious lies are often what we just happen to need to feel alright about ourselves. And so we construct our own memories and write our life stories the way it suits us."How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but — mainly — to ourselves."It's the story that touches on allotting responsibility and blame - be it for the Great War or a breakup or a divorce or a suicide - and learn that the answers may not always be there. We can come up with a catchy and cheeky answers ('History is the lies of the winners', pretentiously and predictably states teenage Tony Webster with all the world-weariness of a sixteen-year-old) - but ultimately, the answers are never clear-cut, and everything is in the grey zone, and the realization is that of a sixty-year-old Tony:"History isn’t the lies of the victors, as I once glibly assured Old Joe Hunt; I know that now. It’s more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated."It's a melancholic reflection of the reality of aging and the little differences between 'settling for it' and 'accepting reality'. And, what's pathetically and sadly true, we fail to really grow and change at the end of our life stories - after all, Life is not really Literature. Yeah, it's not a book to read when you're feeling a bit down on yourself. Because at the end "what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.""That’s one of the central problems of history, isn’t it, sir? The question of subjective versus objective interpretation, the fact that we need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us."With this introduction, we take a dive into the mind of Tony Webster - a self-centered average guy who, like the rest of us, uses the subjectivity of memory to be the hero in his story, to be who he needs himself to be, to unconsciously tinker with the events until they seem just right. 'Yes, I remember exactly what happened!' is not that reliable, and Tony comes to learn that. Whether he actually takes something important from this experience - well, that's debatable"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."We meet Tony at sixteen, through the recollection of his almost five decades older self. The older Tony constantly interrupts his own narration to remind us of the subjectivity of his memory, setting himself up as the ultimate unreliable narrator. This story resembles a coming-of-age book at the beginning (with all those pseudo- and not-so-pseudo-intellectual teenagers in the British prep school in the 1960s waxing on and on about philosophical matters with the smugness inherent to the adolescence) - but it turns out to be anything but."Discovering, for example, that as the witnesses to your life diminish, there is less corroboration, and therefore less certainty, as to what you are or have been. Even if you have assiduously kept records— in words, sound, pictures— you may find that you have attended to the wrong kind of record-keeping."Tony Webster is pathetic, self-centered and self-righteous. His life did not turn out the way he thought it'd be ("This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn’t turn out to be like Literature.")- and he has been coasting through it, just an average guy leading an average life, far from the inspirations he may have had when back in his teens he was friends with a bright young philosopher (yes, a bit full of himself - but who isn't at that age?) Adrian Finn, who produces such pompous little gems as this one: "History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation."And then, a few years later, Tony's university girlfriend Veronica Ford(the one he views through the prism of his memories as a supreme bitch) dumped him and dated Adrian, and then Adrian committed suicide, and then there were four unexciting mediocre decades, and now the above ex-girlfriend's mother left Adrian's diary to Tony - but the ex-girlfriend is not willing to part with what Tony comes to view as his rightful legacy. And along the path to reclaim that diary Tony embarks on a quest to turn remorse into guilt and guilt into forgiveness - in the most self-centered way possible. Along the way he also toys with shouldering responsibility for what happened in the lives of Veronica and Adrian - but, as I see it, this over-estimation of his own importance is yet another one of his memory delusions and instead he may be on the sidelines of this story, regardless of what his unreliable memory tells him his life story should be."Perhaps I just feel safer with the history that’s been more or less agreed upon. Or perhaps it’s that same paradox again: the history that happens underneath our noses ought to be the clearest, and yet it’s the most deliquescent. We live in time, it bounds us and defines us, and time is supposed to measure history, isn’t it? But if we can’t understand time, can’t grasp its mysteries of pace and progress, what chance do we have with history— even our own small, personal, largely undocumented piece of it?"But maybe, just maybe, the aging Tony Webster will learn something from the trip to the past he takes on his quest to recover Adrian's journal. But ultimately it's not about Tony at all; Tony is just a slate on which to project the final thoughts, the final lines of this novel that harbor a bit of hope for the majority of us, floaters on the safe waters of life, who may or may not meet their Severn Bore."There is accumulation. There is responsibility. And beyond these, there is unrest. There is great unrest."This story is written with enough irony and melancholy to sustain a book of a much larger size. It's insanely quotable, to the point where you begin to suspect that certain lines were thrown in by the author with expectations of their future quotability factor. The language is smart and exquisite, sometimes a bit sardonic, sometimes a bit pedantic, and sometimes painfully genuine. Love this book or hate it - but you cannot deny that the writing is quite excellent............And to close off, I want to go back to the image of the Severn Bore, the natural phenomenon that unsettled Tony back in his youth and still may be the disturbance that we all need from time to time. Great unrest, so to speak."I don't think I can properly convey the effect that moment had on me. It wasn't like a tornado or an earthquake (not that I'd witnessed either) – nature being violent and destructive, putting us in our place. It was more unsettling because it looked and felt quietly wrong, as if some small lever of the universe had been pressed, and here, just for these minutes, nature was reversed, and time with it."

  • Marita
    2019-07-19 02:08

    Is it because the main protagonist and I are of an age that I enjoyed his ruminations on memory and time so much? Yes, that is part of it, but Julian Barnes has a wonderful turn of phrase and he is a keen observer who knows how to articulate those observations.I loved the elasticity of time and the relationship of memory to time:*how time slows down or speeds up *how time binds us and yet, as the narrator Tony Webster argues, time is a solvent rather than a fixative *how time affects memory so that what we now remember happened may not be an accurate account of an event*how we embellish what we remember*how for Tony there is an objective time and a subjective time*how Tony would like to place time in reverse like a river running upstreamThe final paragraph of the novel takes the story right back to the beginning and completes the circle.###Some favourite quotes:"‘I don’t know, sir.’ 'What don’t you know?’ 'Well, in one sense, I can’t know what it is that I don’t know. That’s philosophically self-evident.’""‘History is a raw onion sandwich, sir.’ 'For what reason?’ 'It just repeats, sir. It burps. We’ve seen it again and again this year. Same old story, same old oscillation between tyranny and rebellion, war and peace, prosperity and impoverishment.’""And then life took over, and time speeded up.""It was more unsettling because it looked and felt quietly wrong, as if some small lever of the universe had been pressed, and here, just for these minutes, nature was reversed, and time with it.""But you find yourself repeating, ‘They grow up so quickly, don’t they?’ when all you really mean is: time goes faster for me nowadays.""History isn’t the lies of the victors, as I once glibly assured Old Joe Hunt; I know that now. It’s more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated.""We live in time, it bounds us and defines us, and time is supposed to measure history, isn’t it? But if we can’t understand time, can’t grasp its mysteries of pace and progress, what chance do we have with history – even our own small, personal, largely undocumented piece of it?""Who was it said that memory is what we thought we’d forgotten? And it ought to be obvious to us that time doesn’t act as a fixative, rather as a solvent.""How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but – mainly – to ourselves.""My younger self had come back to shock my older self with what that self had been, or was, or was sometimes capable of being.""Because just as all political and historical change sooner or later disappoints, so does adulthood. So does life. 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.""The time-deniers say: forty’s nothing, at fifty you’re in your prime, sixty’s the new forty, and so on. I know this much: that there is objective time, but also subjective time, the kind you wear on the inside of your wrist, next to where the pulse lies. And this personal time, which is the true time, is measured in your relationship to memory. So when this strange thing happened – when these new memories suddenly came upon me – it was as if, for that moment, time had been placed in reverse. As if, for that moment, the river ran upstream."

  • Lizzy
    2019-06-24 21:06

    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 with a very precise rhythm of life and time. What time? The forgotten, that that has long passed and that we not always know how to remember. Yes, memory often enough plays tricks on us, but we go on living.We live in time -- it holds us and moulds us -- but I've never felt I understood it very well. And I’m not referring to theories about how it bends and doubles back, or may exist elsewhere in parallel versions. No, I mean ordinary, everyday time, which clocks and watches assure us passes regularly: tick-tock, click-clock. Is there anything more plausible than a second hand? And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time's malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down occasionally, it seems to go missing – until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return.If you are old enough to wonder why you forgot those long ago times, you will enjoy this book. No, I do not mean old in years, but in memories. ‘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.’ Did you ever wonder about your first remembrances or the memory of your first love? I do it all the time, and how we try or not to remember and how we choose to recollect those long past times. So we live in a make believe scenery where we create unreliable histories that when we less expect come back to surprise us. "How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but - mainly - to ourselves."While I ran through the pages of The Sense of an Ending, I could recognize myself often in Tony’s feelings and wonders. Not that our lives have that much in common, besides a failed marriage. I could sympathize with him when he relived his life through older eyes that imagined saw more but often forgot or mislead him. ‘Perhaps I just feel safer with the history that's been more or less agreed upon. Or perhaps it's that same paradox again: the history that happens underneath our noses ought to be the clearest, and yet it's the most deliquescent.’ But his losses I felt as my own, I think when I read his recollections I imagined my own instead. Or they were simply mixed up in Barnes’s words.Your winnings accumulate. But do your losses? Not at the racetrack - there, you just lose your original stake. But in life? Perhaps here different rules apply. You bet a relationship, it fails; you go on to the next relationship, it fails too: and maybe what you lose is not two simple minus sums... Life isn't just addition and subtraction. There's also accumulation, the multiplication, of loss, of failure.Thus, do we really build our own memories and write our life stories the way it better suits us? I wonder. Perhaps, or better yet, probably, we do as a protection from useless sufferings. But do you ever ponder what we would imagine if we were in fact in control of our past? Certainly not disillusionment or a lack of sense regarding what we aimed to accomplish. We have to believe our lives were worth living, so we may yes lie to ourselves. What else can a human being do?Who has it said that memory is what we thought we'd forgotten? And it ought to be obvious to us that time doesn't act as a fixative, rather as a solvent. But it's not convenient - it's not useful - to believe this; it doesn't help us get on with our lives; so we ignore it.Tony Webster’s memory might come through as a melancholic reflection on the reality of aging, but can aging be felt differently? I wonder as I feel myself getting older every day and as I feel the elapse of time more accurately. Is Barnes being too melodramatic? It depends on your memories and how you remember then, I answer myself. And I know that there are times when it’s best not to go back into the past, not try to recollect what went wrong or the missteps we took, but to reinvent what how we existed and live what life has still to offer us so as not to live in eternal gloom.I had been tempted, somehow, by the notion that we could excise most of our separate existences, could cut and splice the magnetic tape on which our lives are recorded, go back to that fork in the path and take the road less travelled, or rather not travelled at all. Instead, I had just left common sense behind. Old fool, I said to myself. And there's not fool like an old fool:...And, is it not pathetic and sad when we fail to grow up and change at the end of our life stories, after all, ‘life is not really literature’. But if you pay attention, you can feel time pass by and make the best of it.I know this much: that there is objective time, but also subjective time, the kind you wear on the inside of your wrist, next to where the pulse lies. And this personal time, which is the true time, is measured in your relationship to memory. So when this strange thing happened - when these new memories suddenly came upon me - it was as if, for that moment, time had been placed in reverse. As if, for that moment, the river run upstream.What I realized as I closed the last page is that The Sense of an Ending is a book to be read in a sunny afternoon and not when you're feeling down. I am glad I have been feeling cheerful lately, because at the end what you end up reminiscing is not always what you wanted to remember or what you taught you witnessed. Highly recommended!____

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2019-07-02 01:13

    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 pile. Small chance of the book ever being a collectible, but it is almost impossible (mental hindrances) for me to buy a later printing of a book. Being 20% off helped me throw it on my pile for the check out counter. Well about 20 pages in I was shaking my head and muttering to myself about the $20 bill I lit on fire to buy this book. What Barnes wrote about English Prep school was stale, as stale as a saltine cracker I found in the glove box of my pickup. (The mystery is I don't remember ever eating saltines in my pickup.)Luckily Barnes moved on to more interesting material. Tony Webster is a guy of average intelligence who was arguably the least interesting member of a group of rather bright friends. In particular, one friend, Adrian was head and shoulders above the rest with a true philosopher's mind that earned him a spot at Cambridge. Tom was always trying to understand Adrian and always felt as if he was not seeing the picture the same way as his friend. "Adrian had a better mind and a more rigorous temperament than me: he thought logically, and then acted on the conclusion of logical thought. Whereas most of us, I suspect, do the opposite: we make an instinctive decision, then build up an infrastructure of reasoning to justify it. And call the result common sense."At prep school Adrian was the star impressing his teachers with lines like this. "History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation." No big surprise that Tony spends the rest of his life seeking Adrian's approval. Their relationship becomes rocky when Tony's ex-girlfriend, Veronica, starts dating Adrian. Veronica's favorite line to Tony is "you didn't get it then, you don't get it now and you will never get it". She is one of those people that think everyone is supposed to understand what is in her head and refuses to give even the most minuscule bit of information to help Tony know what is motivating her decisions. Even though she is incessantly disrespectful to Tony he sees her as more intelligent, more hip than he is, and is always attempting to better himself in her eyes. Reading a fragment of Adrian's diary 40 years after he killed himself, Tony, now in his sixties still finds himself in need of validation. "Had my life increased, or merely added to itself? This was the question that Adrian's fragment set off in me. There had been addition--and subtraction--in my life, but how much was multiplication? and this gave me a sense of unease, of unrest."I won't discuss the hook of the story, the SHAZAM moment where everything becomes clear, but I must say my estimation of the book changed as the story moved forward. At only 163 pages I felt that the early pages spent at the prep school could have been skipped and made the story closer to flawless. A few flash backs would have sufficed to give the reader the background necessary to follow the plot. I will close with one more bit of introspection from Tony. "Someone once said that his favorite times in history were when things were collapsing, because that meant something new was being born. Does this make any sense if we apply it to our individual lives? To die when something new is being born--even if that something new is our very own self? Because just as all political and historical change sooner or later disappoints, so does adulthood. So does life. 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."

  • Rakhi Dalal
    2019-07-11 18:33

    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 I liked what I read would be an understatement. What I experienced was a sense of delight, in not just understanding through the memory of the narrator, but in understanding that as human beings, we, sometimes fabricate part of our memory to make up for a more suitable version of things for ourselves. And that while we do understand this, it is possible to be more cautious while recalling such memories and making a judgment.

  • Liz
    2019-06-20 23:31

    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 writing here is delicious. I want to offer up example after example just to show you. He continually returns to the concept of time and memory and his thoughts are spot on. It's a short book, but there's a lot packed in the pages. I'm wondering how much of my enjoyment is because Barnes is thinking about the same things I find myself pondering more frequently as I age. How much of what I remember is accurate? How can people at the same event have such different memories of it? Tony is dense and a bit of a lughead, thinking he can go back and change history. But Veronica was an enigma to both Tony and me. She expects him to understand without being told. He wasn't the only one who was clueless until the end. A deep book and one I highly recommend.

  • Brina
    2019-06-27 00:23

    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 readers with The Sense of an Ending, a book that ties up loose ends of an contemplative, older man's life, and, quite possibly, the ends of my reading year as well.Tony Webster is amicably divorced, still meeting his ex-wife Margaret for lunch once a week or so. He has a loving relationship with his daughter Susie and her two children, is retired from his job, and finds ample activities to keep him busy with his life. He refers to himself as an average adult with average interests, which Barnes depicts so eloquently. Recently, he has reminisced about his time in both preparatory school and university, which is depicted in part one of this book. In preparatory school, Tony forged close friendships with his gang in Alex, Colin, and newcomer Adrian, Adrian being the product of divorce and a brilliant mind who all of his classmates new had a bright future ahead. As expected, Adrian received a scholarship to Cambridge, Tony to Bristol, Colin to military service, and Alex working for his father. The four attempted to stay close throughout their college years, but in the 1960s before the internet, Tony admits that it was a strained effort to communicate with even his closest friends. Perhaps, if email had been around during Tony's university days, he and has friends would have been alerted to the emotional problems boiling under the surface of their lives.Upon entering Bristol, Tony is still unschooled in the ways of women. He is admittedly shy and has almost no experience in this arena. On a chance meeting looking for the Severn Boar, he meets Veronica Mary Elizabeth Ford, who is from a middle class family, snobby, and has more expertise in relationships than does Tony. The two have almost nothing in common down to the music they listen to and their academic interests. During a school vacation, Tony visits Veronica's family, and they proceed to humiliate him, everyone except the mother who apologizes for her family's rude behavior toward him. Unbeknownst to the dense Tony is that Veronica became smitten with the more academically refined Adrian on a visit to London. Following this visit home, the couple officially breaks up, Adrian writes to Tony for permission to see Veronica, and the ex-couple does not hear or see of each other for the next forty years.As Barnes quickly forwards his readers through time, he fills in the gaps in Tony's life. While still in college, Adrian unexpectedly commits suicide. The three remaining friends have no idea why a brilliant mind would tragically take his life at such a young age, and remain in the dark as to his motive. Forty years later, Margaret is still Tony's rock despite their breakup and the person he first calls upon when he receives an inheritance following the passing of Veronica's mother. The episode and letter accompanying the behest are puzzling at best, and Barnes through his expert prose does his best to fill in the gaps of the protagonists' lives without giving away any crucial details. He is an author who makes his readers think both about what happened and how the consequences of actions could spiral to create results even forty years in the future. The ending sections brought to mind another British master, Agatha Christie, who leaves her readers contemplating whodunit until the book's closing paragraphs. This is the mastery that Barnes has painted here, one that attempts to give his readers a sense of an ending and merited a Man Booker Award.Julian Barnes is a living masterful author whose work is constantly being nominated for international awards. I thank my goodreads friends for including his work in their year end reviews, piquing my own interest to read his work. I also give credit to my branch librarians who know my reading interests and reserved this book for me so that I could read it before the end of the year. Julian Barnes creates The Sense of an Ending indeed, both for Tony Webster and for my reading year. I will most definitely be reading more of his special work in the years to come.4+ stars

  • Fabian
    2019-06-22 20:09

    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 dimension. Barnes, like my other major European discovery of the year Michel Houellebecq, is a purveyor of human behavior, adding and utilizing British conventions of Modern English Literature in his own book. The occasion which hooks the reader, like in another perennial favorite by the sublime Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" in which a little girl dances, a school teacher has a breakdown, is present in a similar, indeed also masterful scene, when a teacher actually tells his student he possesses the knowledge to teach the entire class. The reader won't let this one go from page 6. The knowledge, the expounding of it in our naïve brains, is terrifyingly constant: it radiates from the book like an individual's life force.The small details present in literature-- from Desdemona's handkerchief, to Aurora's spindle's needle, to, in this instance, a hateful childhood curse, a simple adolescent note (think, obviously "Atonement")-- those small and almost invisible details always seem to carry an immense heft, a terrible burden of the psychological kind. This conceit, this must, is also found in our gorgeous mini novel."Sense" is at the apex of literary brilliance, my astute friends. & the gushing, for me, shall simply, without a doubt, not end here...

  • Jennifer (aka EM)
    2019-07-09 20:13

    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-age, and as memories are jogged and regrets bubble to the surface, insight is finally gained. Sort of. It's really a dull spark of understanding nested in about the same amount of egocentric self-pity that it started out disguised by.I guess it's a clever character study, but I didn't and don't like Tony. I think that *is* the point. I really just wanted to give him a smack upside the head and tell him to stop whining and get over himself, kind of like his ex-wife did. All life has tragedy - and some lives here have *true* tragedy, which Tony fails to recognize even as he seem to be recognizing it (so I guess that's pretty clever of Barnes, but sheesh ...). Tony's real insight seems to be the recognition that he's failed to live up to his own pompous and overblown expectations of greatness for himself. He's led an average life. And along the way, through his own obtuseness and arrogance, he's inflicted a not-inconsiderable degree of harm, which seems to be of less consequence to him in the grand scheme of things than the fact that he's lived a life of complacent mediocrity.But then, Barnes leaves us there, with this fellow sighing into his beer and chips. I feel myself asking - but what's next? What this guy does NEXT will tell the real story of his character. I feel ... short-changed; unfulfilled. Harumph.Subject: The last chapterDear Tony: The cure for your loneliness and sense of ennui is to pull your head out of your ass and go out and do something of value with the time you have left. Turn that insight into action that will do someone some good (and I don't mean just leaving a sizeable tip at the pub, either).Love, Jen

  • Orsodimondo
    2019-06-28 22:09

    LA BESTIA NELLA GIUNGLAÈ un libro breve, solo 145 pagine di testo - ma, io ne avrei volute di più. È un libro piccolo, ma grande di pensieri-elaborazioni-riflessioni, suggerite e generate. È libro che ha vinto un premio importante (Booker Prize 2011), con pieno merito mi pare. È, credo si sia capito, un libro che mi è piaciuto molto, che mi ha lasciato pieno di stupore, di domande con risposte che fatico a trovare. Un libro che mi ha commosso.Jimmy Broadbent-Tony Webster, protagonista dell’adattamento cinematografico diretto da Ritesh Batra. Una bella conferma.Nel primo terzo racconta l’adolescenza e la maturità, per poi dedicarsi nel tempo che resta a quella zona grigia dell’esistenza nella quale la scadenza si avvicina. Come tutte le vite, è ovviamente un tutt’uno inscindibile. Che mi ha imposto e proposto un confronto con elementi imprescindibili dell’esistenza: il tempo e, appunto, il senso della fine.L’io narrante è Anthony Webster, più spesso chiamato Tony. In un libro del genere, con questo argomento, un protagonista omodiegetico comporta il rischio di manipolazione del lettore (peraltro, rischio sempre connesso all’uso della prima persona narratrice): in queste pagine non succede, Barnes-Tony mi offrono quella giusta distanza che mi consente di vedere il protagonista e la sua vicenda con quella che apparentemente potrei definire obiettività. A dimostrazione che Barnes è uno scrittore con almeno una marcia in più.Charlotte Rampling, protagonista femminile. Ogni giorno che passa diventa più brava.Tony è la mediocrità fatta narratore, un uomo qualunque, senza qualità (e senza nessun riferimento all’Ulrich di Musil) – lo dice lui stesso, lo dice forse fin troppo, mette le mani avanti, e, forse, come tutti quelli che lo fanno, sta anche insinuando il contrario di quello che sostiene. Può esserlo un uomo che porta l’orologio girato all’interno del polso, dove il tempo scandito dalle lancette batte più vicino al pulsare del cuore?È, sicuramente, un uomo come tanti, come ne è pieno il mondo, come ne conosciamo, come ne vediamo riflessi allo specchio, come ne incrociamo e frequentiamo tanti nel corso di ogni giornata. Barnes bisbiglia a me lettore che Tony mi riguarda, è come me, fatto della stessa materia, la sua vita da ragazzo e poi quella da adulto potrebbero essere la mia.Harriet Walter, una bella scoperta, interpreta la moglie di Tony.L’adolescenza e la gioventù sono una sala d’attesa della vita che verrà. La vita che Tony sceglie, o, semplicemente, la vita che vive è una vita basata sulla calma, sulla quiete, sull’autoprotezione: una vita che si protegge dalla vita stessa, che si consuma in attesa della vita stessa, di ciò che accade mentre sei impegnato a ricordare tutt’altro. La calma e la quiete sono solo apparenza: dentro, Tony è dominato dal “tempo inquieto”, dal rimorso del tempo mancato, sfuggito – dall’intuizione che non c’è senso alla fine, e se un senso esiste è più probabilmente nel mentre, nel durante, nel frattempo. Michelle Dockerey è la figlia incinta di Tony.Quando sembra che sia arrivata l’età di tirare i remi in barca, Tony invece rimette tutto in discussione: ciò che è stato, che sono stati gli altri che ha conosciuto, ciò che ha pensato e creduto, ciò che ha accettato di diventare, e mostra la complessità e il dolore che ogni normalità nasconde.Questo libro è un thriller dell’anima, è un’apocalisse, ma senza tuoni né fulmini né mondi che crollano, piuttosto in sordina, soffocata dalla presunta inettitudine del personaggio. Ha ragione Goffredo Fofi, che bel film potrebbe essere, se Pinter e Losey fossero ancora tra noi. Invece la regia è stata affidata a Ritesh Batra, lo stesso di 'Le nostre anime di notte', e il fallimento è assicurato in partenza.Anche in arrivo.Emily ‘Newsroom’ Mortimer, altra interprete del film intitolato come il romanzo.

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
    2019-06-27 23:07

    $1.99 Kindle sale, Feb. 10, 2018, for this literary fiction novel that 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: a group of rather pretentious friends (who, for the most part, play at being intellectuals), a relationship with a girl, Veronica, that didn't work out, a friend's suicide, marriage, divorce, retirement ... it sounds pretty pedestrian when he tells about it, though Julian Barnes has a wonderful way with words.Then the next hundred pages happen: a bequest in a will. A short, enigmatic note from the woman who died. A renewed acquaintance with Veronica. More surprises. (view spoiler)[And everything that Tony--and I as the reader--thought got upended. (hide spoiler)]How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.Some readers dislike Tony enough that it dampens or ruins their enjoyment of the book, but I had a great deal of sympathy for him.I had wanted life not to bother me too much, and had succeeded -- and how pitiful that was.But time...how time first grounds us and then confounds us. We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe. We imagined we were being responsible but we were only being cowardly. I've felt those feelings.This blog has one writer's explanation of what was really happening, and an extremely long but intensely interesting comment section where various readers chip in with their theories and insights, which gave me a lot of food for thought. (view spoiler)[How unreliable of a narrator is Tony? Can we even trust what he says in the end? I tend to think so, at the very end, but I think it's clear that, at the least, he's still oblivious about some things, like how Veronica felt about him when they were dating. The comments that gave me the most food for thought were the ones that suggested he, too, had a fling with Veronica's mother, and was the actual father of her child. I don't think I buy it, ultimately, but ...(hide spoiler)]I think I need to read this again.Content advisory: Scattered F-bombs and some sexual content.

  • Fionnuala
    2019-07-08 18:19

    Reviewed in January, 2012One 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 answers to the questions raised in Part Two: the mathematical solution referred to on page 14, he, (Robson) being about to cause an increase of one in the human population, had decided it was his ethical duty to keep the planet's numbers constant may supply a reason for Adrian's later suicide in addition to his own stated belief that since we don't ask to be born, we ought at least to be allowed to choose when to die. Suicide, and Robson's suicide in particular, preoccupied Adrian from early in the book. His use of the details of Robson's death as an example of the unreliability of history sums up Barnes entire theme, i.e., the dependance of history on the imperfections of memory and the inadequacies of documentation, as well as the personal baggage of the historian. The reliability of Tony Webster's account, and of the entire story, are beset by these difficulties. Tony frequently acknowledges his imperfect memory, he possesses only a fragment of Adrian's diary, and Barnes ensures that we are well aware of Tony's personal baggage. So there can only be the sense of an ending, and great unrest in the mind of the reader because of the accumulation of responsibility.We are left with the unanswerable question: is Tony the equivalent of the Serbian gunman mentioned in the early pages? Is Tony the trigger for all the tragedy?

  • Riku Sayuj
    2019-06-24 00:34

    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 went through it loving every line and anguishing over how I could never write like this - A patchy memory of life laid out in scattered pieces, excruciating in what is left unsaid and what is perhaps falsely remembered.I finished the book in a day and promised this - 'Full review to follow.' I am thinking about this again today but maybe I'll fulfill this promise tomorrow? The book touched me on many personal levels and I want to do justice to it, maybe even read it once again before attempting an extensive review.

  • Andrew Smith
    2019-07-18 18:04

    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 lexicographer (yes, I had to look that up too) what else would you expect. Rounded off by a decent twist at the end this is a brilliant read. It's a book I'll read - again, a rarity for me - if only to look up a few more of those words I didn't recognise!

  • Aldrin
    2019-06-20 00:13

    In the last sentence of the first paragraph of the new, Booker-shortlisted novella “The Sense of an Ending,” the narrator states that “what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.” Preceding it is a short list of what he remembers: “a shiny inner wrist,” “steam rising from a wet sink,” “gouts of sperm circling a plughole,” “a river rushing nonsensically upstream,” “another river,” and “bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door.” Following it is a hundred-plus-page expansion of these remembrances, which, like any number of memories drawn from different points in time and space, are only vaguely, if at all, congruous. Coming from a self-confessed unreliable narrator, it serves as both an advance apology and a fair warning. The narrator is one Tony Webster. Comfortably retired and amicably divorced in his sixties, he otherwise seems like the flying arrow in one of Zeno’s famous paradoxes of motion: no more capable of moving to where he is not than of moving to where he already is. In such a predicament his only possibility of motion is of the nature of an illusion, but it’s motion nevertheless, and he’s willing to take it. Troubled by the death of an erstwhile close friend and confronted by the imminence of his own, he looks back on his life and splices a great many recollections, resolving his instantaneous immobilities into a continuous movement. In a further development worthy of Borges, where he is not and where he is are one and the same, and that point—that sense—is the slight perception beautifully articulated in the book’s title. It’s what he’s struggling to clamber toward even as it’s already on the ground beneath his feet.Tony, in his endeavor to make sense of things past and present, ascends into a Prufrockian analysis of time and mortality, making “The Sense of an Ending,” structurally, a memoir filled with confessions, digressions, and assertions. What more potent way of knowing, of remembering, than writing for and in spite of oneself? He begins in his youth, specifically on the fateful school day he and his two bosom buddies befriend Adrian Finn. Adrian proves to be a very intellectual person, not unlike his newfound friends, but his mind is of a particularly astute slant. A debate on whether one person is culpable for starting the First World War is brought to an end when he answers, “That’s one of the central problems of history, isn’t it, sir? The question of subjective versus objective interpretation, the fact that we need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us.” Then, upon learning that one of their schoolmates hanged himself after getting his girlfriend pregnant, Adrian invokes Camus, saying that “suicide is the only true philosophical question.” So, when Adrian himself does commit suicide years later, at which point he and Tony have long had a falling-out over another key character (a woman, natch), Tony is understandably quick to construe the act as a rejection of freedom, per Adrian’s preferred philosopher. But a letter appears in Tony’s mailbox suggesting otherwise, and Tony turns into something of a historian, one who must seek verifiable corroboration lest his only source be his fallible memory, sperm and all. Hence the mea culpa cum caveat in the beginning of “The Sense of an Ending.” That statement is in agreement with the belief of the book’s real author, Julian Barnes, who is practically the same age as Tony Webster. (Whom else would Tony be a stand-in for, with his frequent dives into quotability short of ostentation?) Barnes writes in his previous book, “For the older writer, memory and the imagination begin to seem less and less distinguishable. This is not because the imagined world is really much closer to the writer’s world than he or she cares to admit (a common error among those who anatomize fiction) but for exactly the opposite reason: that memory itself comes to seem much closer to an act of imagination than ever before.” That book of nonfiction is Barnes’s meditation on memory and death, and its title, “Nothing to Be Frightened Of,” sounds like an optimistic description of the title of Tony’s own meditation on memory and death, itself borrowing from Frank Kermode’s “The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction.” “Nothing to Be Frightened Of” may also be a phrase of consolation for Tony as he goes about his quest for closure since it may well be that the historian himself is the culprit unknowing.

  • Iris P
    2019-06-20 20:16

    The Sense of an EndingIt'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? Would you be ashamed, impressed, bewildered or perhaps just merely entertained by his or her behavior? Tony Webster, the protagonist of The Sense of an Ending, finds himself in his middle age, confronted with some things he did as a young man and the unexpected but horrific consequences that came as a result. I love the themes Barnes explores in this compact but very intense novel. Is it at all possible to reconcile our version of past events with reality? Or are we basically storytellers, conveniently editing those parts of our past that we wish had never happened? Can we trust our own memories or do we need others to validate the idea of who we think we are/were? Is remorse a worthy emotion or, because of its sense of inevitably, almost always a fruitless exercise?Julian Barnes is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. His introspective style of writing seems to jolt my brain in the best possible way. The Sense Of An Ending is an intriguing story that makes you consider how perception can significantly affect our sense of reality and the way we view ourselves and others. A fantastic read!

  • Michael Finocchiaro
    2019-06-29 02:09

    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 :(

  • Kinga
    2019-06-18 21:15

    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.

  • Gerald
    2019-07-18 19:27

    QUADRUPLE SPOILER ALERT!In terms of overt clues and Adrian's equation, Adrian had an affair (perhaps not so brief, near the end of his life) with Veronica's mother Sarah, who bore the child, also named Adrian, who was later sent (after Sarah's death?) to a caregiver facility.I think what nags at Tony at the end is that there are other possibilities that could fit the evidence better. Unless Veronica spills it, or Adrian's diary is not burnt after all, Tony can never know for sure. In all scenarios he's guilty, in some achingly more than in others.The child could have been Veronica's by Adrian or by Tony. The memory of the trip to the river seems to imply a night of unprotected, romantic sex. Sarah might have cared for the baby when Veronica couldn't, or wouldn't. Veronica's pregnancy would have been when she and Adrian were newlyweds. He might have died thinking the baby was his. Or sure that it wasn't. Or not sure at all and tormented by it.Tony says the child (seen now as a young man) looks like the presumed father, his old friend Adrian. But did Tony look like Adrian? Is Tony looking into a mirror and denying the familiarity he sees? Is Tony's remarking on the resemblance a clue to throw us off the track?The child could have been Sarah's by Tony. This strange possibility best explains: 1) Sarah's bequest, 2) Veronica's rage, and 3) Sarah's enigmatic parting gesture to Tony, implying a secret they shared (that she'd seduced him during the visit). The fact that Adrian has repressed the memory of the sex act (but not the washing up after) would seem totally implausible, except in the context of this book which is all about how our minds rewrite history to suit our opinion of ourselves.It's a mind twister, and credit Barnes for giving plenty of clues but being brave enough to perplex his readers by providing only the sense of an ending.Cross-posted on www.boychiklit.com