The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2011

From my library hold list.  Winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize.

Tony Webster has reached retirement.  His marriage ended in an amicable divorce and he is ready to enjoy his later years when, out of nowhere, his past comes to meet him.

Before reading The Sense of an Ending I had only read one novel by Julian Barnes, Arthur & George.

This new one it is very different, one that I wanted to read in one sitting and, when finished, knew I wanted to read again.  It is elegant, sometimes funny and always disturbing, offering insights into youthful mistakes, loss and memory.  It is a mystery, deeply emotional and psychological.  It feels true.

I certainly believe we all suffer damage, one way or another.  How could we not, except in a world of perfect parents, siblings, neighbors, companions?  And then there is the question, on which so much depends, of how we react to the damage: whether we admit it or repress it, and how this affects our dealings with others.  Some admit the damage and try to mitigate it; some spend their lives trying to help others who are damaged; and then there are those whose main concern is to avoid further damage to themselves at whatever cost. And those are the ones who are ruthless and the ones to be careful of.  From page 48.

What Barnes tell us is that what may save us is telling each other what we think is the truth, what we think we know.  This is a beautiful, devastating novel.  I do want to read it again.

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.  From page 88.


Filed under Booker, British, LiteraryFiction, TBR Double Dare, Thoughts

25 responses to “The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

  1. For me I was glad I read this book, but at the same time it was no big deal for me…

  2. This is on my list to read. I’ve heard a mixture of things about this book but I’m glad I read your review. “a beautiful, devastating novel” sounds pretty good to me!

  3. Hearing so much about it. You make a compelling argument to pick it up!

  4. BTW, just picked up Szymborska because of you. Ordered the book from the library ages ago and am just starting it, to find out that she has since died!

  5. Ti

    My book club will be reading this one but I have been dying to read it. I may read it early.

  6. I’ve heard very good things about this one.

  7. Julian Barnes’s writing always impresses me, but of the three books I’ve read of his, none of them have been very emotional reads. I mean that the pleasure of reading them is more intellectual than emotional — which is fine, but not awesome the way it is when a book really tugs at your heartstrings. But maybe this one will be different! It sounds lovely.

    • The Sense of an Ending has me wanting to read more Barnes. The emotional content is not on the surface but it’s in there, deeply buried.

  8. I feel like the the only one who hasn’t read this…but I see Jenners hasn’t, either. I’d suggest a readalong, but we’ve banned ourselves from doing readalongs with each other. It’s pretty much a sure bet I’ll hate any book I read with Jenners!

    • No more readalongs with Jenners! I see that Zinn had become a struggle. It is dense and repetitive, maybe best for history geeks. You could read The Sense of an Ending one month and Jenners could read it the next…..

  9. I’m intrigued in the fact that many readers seem to want to re-read this when they’ve finished for the first time and, quite often, you hear someone say that they’ve done just that. It’s one that I have been meaning to pick up anyway, but then I saw that it made it through to the next round of the Tournament of Books, too, which just made me that much more curious. Well, with massive TBR plans, you know how mysterious the process can be, in terms of which book actually makes it into your hands and gets read, right? But your thoughts on it have given the prospect yet another nudge in that direction!

    • Thanks! You are so right about those TBR plans, and then something comes up like the Orange list or a newly published book that a friend raves about and it all goes out the window.

      The Sense of an Ending has me wanting to read more Julian Barnes..just more books to add to the TBR list.

  10. I read this but have yet to review it not his best book so was shame it was this one that may be remembered for the booker win opposed for others ,all the best stu

    • I need to read more Julian Barnes to get a fuller feel for his writing but now that the BTBA longlist is out it has total messed up my TBR plans!

  11. Pingback: Sunday Caught My Interest « Reflections from the Hinterland

  12. This is the fourth blog that has mentioned this book today. Maybe the universe is telling me something? I love that first quote. I’m going to see if my library has this. Hope you’re having a great weekend.

    • I hope your library has The Sense of an Ending. It just grabbed me, like a good mystery, and the more I think about it the more I know I will have to read it again at some point.

  13. Thanks for a beautifully written review. This is one of the best books I’ve read for some time. I’ve appreciated Barnes’s brevity in descriptions, the characters and their stories in so few pages.

  14. I really liked Flaubert’s Parrot and hope to read this very soon as well. I’ve saw a few poeple comment on other’s blogs that this wasn’t his best book. I’m curious to see what you will think of his other works.

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