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The Sense of an Ending Paperback – Deckle Edge, Feb 21 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada (Feb. 21 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307360822
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307360823
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13 x 1.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #28,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate on 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 By Peter Neumann on 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 By Friederike Knabe TOP 50 REVIEWER on Oct. 1 2011
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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