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The Sense of an Ending [Deckle Edge] [Paperback]

Julian Barnes
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 21 2012
Winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize and #1 international bestseller, The Sense of an Ending is a masterpiece.

The story of a man coming to terms with the mutable past, Julian Barnes's new novel is laced with his trademark precision, dexterity and insight. It is the work of one of the world's most distinguished writers.

Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they navigated the girl drought of gawky adolescence together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they swore to stay friends forever. Until Adrian's life took a turn into tragedy, and all of them, especially Tony, moved on and did their best to forget.

Now Tony is in middle age. He's had a career and a marriage, a calm divorce. He gets along nicely, he thinks, with his one child, a daughter, and even with his ex-wife. He's certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer's letter is about to prove. The unexpected bequest conveyed by that letter leads Tony on a dogged search through a past suddenly turned murky. And how do you carry on, contentedly, when events conspire to upset all your vaunted truths?

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Review

WINNER 2011 - Man Booker Prize
LONGLIST 2013 – IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
A New York Times Notable Book

"The Sense of an Ending has the markings of a classic of English Literature. It is exquisitely written, subtly plotted and reveals new depths with each reading."
—Dame Stella Rimington, Chair of the 2011 Man Booker Prize judges
 
 “Barnes builds a powerful atmosphere of shame and silence. . . . As ever, Barnes excels at colouring everyday reality with his narrator’s unique subjectivity, without sacrificing any of its vivid precision. . . . Novel, fertile and memorable.”
—The Guardian
 
“Compelling. . . . His reputation will surely be enhanced by this book. Do not be misled by its brevity. Its mystery is as deeply embedded as the most archaic of memories.”
—Anita Brookner, The Telegraph
 
“Short and sharp. . . . A true master of his craft, Barnes’s precise and economic prose is often a delight, and he packs in some vivid characterisation, scene-drawing and emotional insight within his brief 150 pages.”
—The List
 
“Barnes has effectively doubled the length of the book by giving us a final revelation that obliges us to reread it. Without overstating his case in the slightest, Barnes’s story is a meditation on the unreliability and falsity of memory. . . . Such a slyly subversive book.”
—London Evening Standard
 
“A dexterously crafted narrative of unlooked-for consequences.”
—The Sunday Times

"A brief but potent work about memory, class, sex and the way we imperfectly bear witness to our own lives.... Each of Barnes's meticulously written sentences bears lingering over, and the novella's impact has a visceral power."
Winnipeg Free Press
 
"Julian Barnes may well have written his best novel--he has certainly told a wonderful story that is all too human and all so real."
The Irish Times

Praise for Julian Barnes:

“Julian Barnes is one of those marvelously inventive authors who writes a very different book each time. He experiments with historical and contemporary fiction, memoir, biography and essays, seamlessly moving from genre to genre. . . . His prose is rich without being showy; he has a precision and economy of language that at times recalls William Trevor.”
—The Oregonian
 
“Barnes is among the most adventurous writers—in style, versatility and narrative structure—of his Amis-McEwan-Hitchens generation.”
Christopher Benfey, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Barnes is a versatile man of letters. From Flaubert’s Parrot to Love, Etc., Barnes’s fiction is rich and entertaining. His prose is as playful as it is supple and rich.”
Thomas F. Staley, Ransom Center Director
 
“The David Cohen Prize is in effect a UK version of the Nobel Prize for Literature, open to writers of fiction and non-fiction, comedy and tragedy. . . . What is remarkable about Julian Barnes is that he has excelled in all these areas. The already extraordinary list of David Cohen Prize–winning authors has been fittingly extended.”
Mark Lawson, David Cohen Prize citation

About the Author

JULIAN BARNES is the author of three books of stories, two collections of essays, eleven novels, including A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters and Arthur & George (finalist for the Man Booker Prize), and a non-fiction book, Nothing to Be Frightened Of. His honours include the Prix Medicis, the Prix Femina, the Somerset Maugham Award and the E. M. Forster Award. He lives in London.


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking Back in Remorse Sept. 10 2011
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Julian Barnes' very short new novel, currently nominated for the Man Booker Prize, is by no means perfect -- but it is very much authentic, and that counts for a lot with me. As its title suggests, it is written by a man approaching 70, like Barnes himself, looking back on his youth and re-evaluating. This may be a limitation for younger readers, but it is what one does around that age, and Barnes handles it with impressive honesty. As an Englishman of very similar background myself, and only a year or two older, I found the book uncannily full of echoes from my own life, and no doubt those of many others: the group of friends in high-school who go their separate ways, the strange limbo of early sixties sex, a friend's suicide, the mystery of a never quite forgotten first girlfriend. I have not felt so much part of a novel since reading Ian McEwan's ON CHESIL BEACH; this may bias my review, but it also speaks to a depth of personal connection in the author's mind too. This makes the book, short though it is, a vast improvement on Barnes' recent set of short stories, PULSE, and almost as good as THE LEMON TABLE, the wonderful collection that preceded it.

Tony Webster is a man in his later sixties, divorced, the father of a grown daughter, and comfortably retired. Then a letter arrives that sends him back in memory to his high-school days and his friendship with Adrian Finn, a brilliant student clearly destined for great things.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Man Booker at last? Oct. 6 2011
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Don't be intimidated by its brevity. A little book with big ideas. Barnes, a runner-up for Man Booker prizes will finally get his just reward. Few books are worth reading more than once. This is one of them. History, false history, memory and false memory. A fictionalised memoire of Tony Webster reflecting on his adolescence with three then four friends, the latter, Adrian Finn, destined to greatness. Adrian's philosophical musing about a fellow student's suicide foreshadowing what is to come. "Life is a gift bestowed without anyone asking for it...if [one] decides to renounce the gift no one asks for, it is a moral and human duty to act on the consequences of that decision". Heady stuff this.

Part One is Tony's admittedly selective and possibly faulty memory of his school days and his faltering romance with Veronica. His marriage to Margaret and the birth of a daughter, subsequent divorce and the marriage of his daughter are summarily dismissed in a page or two. Part Two finds Tony in advanced middle age realising that he never accomplished much and just flowed along the river of life going wherever it carried him. A fragment of a diary left to him in Adrian's will starts him on his quest of trying to set things right by reconnecting with Veronica. In the last couple of pages we learn Tony got it all wrong, "you just don't get it" as Veronica had always told him. Barnes has left us with a bit of a cliff hanger or at least makes us reread sections of the book much as Tony has had to re-interpret his own life.

Book reviews in the Guardian and Globe and Mail do the book more justice. A true gem, Julian Barnes will be remembered.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "You don't get it, do you...!?" Oct. 1 2011
By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER
Julian Barnes' new novel, The Sense of an Ending *), is an intimate reflection on memory and its unreliability over time. Writing in the voice of sixty-something-year-old Anthony Webster, a "peaceable man", Barnes explores convincingly how the brain grows selective and untrustworthy with age, reinterpreting how "what you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed... Thus, the reader is put on notice from the beginning that what we read may not be quite what it will turn out to be.

Isolated memory snippets open the novel: a "shiny inner wrist; a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams; another river...; bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door". Initially we don't really know where we are and who is talking. The narrator wonders about "everyday" time - "it holds us and moulds us"; pain or pleasure can give us the illusion of its stretching or contracting... Something has triggered his musings that take his mind back to "a few incidents that have grown into anecdotes, to some approximate memories which time has deformed into certainty."

Those incidents take us without much transition to his adolescent years, when growing up is as daunting as it is exciting: close friendships are an essential component, so are school and teachers, and the mounting physical urge for intimate encounters... Barnes is perceptive and astute in his depiction of Tony and his trio of close friends. Adrian, "a tall, shy boy who initially kept his eyes down and his mind to himself..." stands out in terms of intelligence and his admiration for Camus's existentialist philosophy.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A contemporary scenario
This is an interesting, disturbing, sometimes confusing but compulsively readable book. I enjoyed the experience and plan to re-read it sooner rather than later.
Published 3 months ago by Michal
4.0 out of 5 stars A very powerful book
Short yet thorough, spare yet eloquent, The Sense of an Ending explores the relationship between time and memory, the gap — sometimes the gulf — between the persons we think that... Read more
Published 4 months ago by ronbc
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing
As usual, Barnes fills his tale with well-constructed characters and leaves you wondering how it will end. A fascinating story, well told.
Published 8 months ago by bookworm45
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent one day read.
Very readable novel although I was a bit disappointed with the surprise ending. It left me strangely unsatisfied which is a shame because I thought the rest of the novella was... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Daniel Reicher
4.0 out of 5 stars A Short Novela Packed With A Secret That Will Shock You
The Sense Of An Ending

By Julian Barnes

This intriguing novel begins by painting a curious picture for the reader, setting the stage for all that had fallen... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Jay Gilbertson
4.0 out of 5 stars Astonishingly simple, Barnes' pulls the reader from start to finish...
Julian Barnes’ 2011 Man Booker Prize winning novel ” The Sense of an Ending” follows the life of Tony, an awkward and desperately intelligent soul. Read more
Published 14 months ago by ChristineMarthe
5.0 out of 5 stars Polarizing
I have not read a novel so polarizing as The Sense of an Ending. Just look at some of the other reviews. Read more
Published on July 30 2012 by Capital
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected
I am not sure if I missed something but this certainly wasn't anything to rave about. I am not sure why it is so highly acclaimed. Read more
Published on March 31 2012 by Aggie G
4.0 out of 5 stars `How often do we tell our own life story?'
Tony Webster, a cautious and careful man, aged in his 60s receives an unexpected bequest from a woman he'd met, the mother of his girlfriend Veronica Ford, 40 years earlier. Read more
Published on March 11 2012 by Jennifer Cameron-Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Opportunity to Consider the Limits of Perception, Memory,...
"Surely, in vain the net is spread
In the sight of any bird;" -- Proverbs 1:17 (NKJV)

Unlike today's tendency to overwrite fiction, Julian Barnes looked to write... Read more
Published on Feb. 18 2012 by Donald Mitchell
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