- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Canada (Feb. 21 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307360822
- ISBN-13: 978-0307360823
- Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 1.3 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 181 g
- Average Customer Review: 28 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #51,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Sense of an Ending Paperback – Deckle Edge, Feb 21 2012
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#1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE
LONGLISTED FOR THE IMPAC DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD
A New York Times Notable Book
“Exquisitely concise, The Sense of an Ending...offers a merciless portrait of late-twentieth-century males.... This novel lingers.” The Globe and Mail
“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
“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
About the Author
JULIAN BARNES is the author of over twenty books, for which he received the Man Booker Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the David Cohen Prize for Literature and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; in France, the Prix Médicis and the Prix Femina, and in 2004 he was named Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture; and in Austria, the State Prize for European Literature. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. He lives in London.See all Product description
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Top Customer Reviews
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. While Adrian is indeed achieving academic success at Cambridge, Tony pursues his studies at a provincial university, devoting as much time to a mostly-unconsummated relationship with Veronica Ford, his girlfriend from a rather more upscale family. Then, when Tony is visiting in America, Adrian dies. There seems no mystery about it at the time, but when Tony is forced to reconsider after a gap of forty-some years, his search becomes a moral calculus, weighing the value of that one life against what he's made of his own, settling for an undistinguished career and marriage, calling it comfort but really meaning cowardice.
The opening sections of the novel have strong similarities to Alan Bennett's play THE HISTORY BOYS, and the question of what constitutes history runs all through the book. The teenage Tony quotes Churchill's aphorism that "History is written by the victors," but his teacher counters that "it is also the self-delusion of the defeated." As Tony looks back on his life, different and sometimes surprising versions of the truth will emerge, and the question of winners and losers will by no means be so clear. This is the intellectual mystery of the book, and I found it fascinating. But you cannot write a novel on philosophical and literary reflections alone; there need also be events, shifts of direction, surprise revelations. Here I think Barnes falls short. The disclosures in the last section of the story, pulled like rabbits out of the hat, are in my opinion inadequately prepared in the first half. So while Barnes ties up the mysteries with the neatness of a PD James or Agatha Christie, he leaves Tony's personal calculus disappointingly open-ended.
I guess I'll just have to work out my own past in my own way!
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.
The second half of the novel is set after Tony has retired, his marriage with Margaret lasting much longer but ending in amicable divorce. He is suddenly forced to reassess his past when a letter from a solicitor turns up informing him that he has been bequeathed Adrian's diary by Veronica's mother but also the news that Veronica, whom Tony had edited out of his past in discussions with Margaret, is currently in possession of the diary and looks unlikely to pass it on.
At the heart of the novel is an almost Proustian analysis of memory and history and Tony is much more at home with the historical certainties of the Greeks and Romans than of the mess of uncertainty of the near past. The focus of his reminiscence is a disastrous trip he took with Veronica to spend a weekend in Kent at her home with her family and every nuance and uttering is re-evaluated with each new exchange with Veronica as he tries to prove to her for once and for all that he finally gets it.
This is a short volume coming in at 150 pages but every word packs its power. Only on looking back do you begin to realise the complexity of the story as you begin to wonder whether your memory of earlier events or his is the one which is correct. I haven't had a chance to reread the book but I'm sure it's one that would get even better on a second visit. It more than justifies its inclusion in the Booker long list and unless Alan Hollinghurst has pulled out a gem with 'the Stranger's Child' I believe this one could go all the way and bag the prize.