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 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 Barnes's oeuvre.
This is heavy business, but Barnes lays it flat out, no stylistic wand-waving, no tricks. He writes in an everyman's lingo with such unapologetic, razor-edged insight, that somehow his prose amounts to a kind of alchemy, putting, as if by magic, words to all those questions simmering away at the back of our minds. (Reviewed by Morgan Macgregor).
The New York Times
Dense with philosophical ideas... it manages to create genuine suspense as a sort of psychological detective story... Unpeeling the onion layers of the hero's life while showing how [he] has sliced and diced his past in order to create a self he can live with.
San Francisco Chronicle
A page turner, and when you finish you will return immediately to the beginning... Who are you? How can you be sure? What if you're not who you think you are? What if you never were?... [P]repare yourself for rereading. You wont regret it.
An elegantly composed, quietly devastating tale about memory, aging, time and remorse... Offers somber insights into life's losses, mistakes and disappointments in a piercing, thought provoking narrative. Bleak as this may sound, the key word here - the note of encouragement - is 'insights.' And this beautiful book is full of them.
Los Angeles Times
[A] jewel of conciseness and precision... The Sense of an Ending packs into so few pages so much that the reader finishes it with a sense of satisfaction more often derived from novels several times its length.
The Wall Street Journal
Ominous and disturbing... This outwardly tidy and conventional story is one of Barnes's most indelible [and] looms oppressively in our minds.
The Boston Globe
Brief, beautiful... That fundamentally chilling question - Am I the person I think I am? - turns out to be a surprisingly suspenseful one... As Barnes so elegantly and poignantly revels, we are all unreliable narrators, redeemed not by the accuracy of our memories but by our willingness to question them.
Starred Review. A knockout. What at first seems like a polite meditation on childhood and memory leaves the reader asking difficult questions about how often we strive to paint ourselves in the best possible light.
Starred Review. From the haunting images of its first pages to the surprising and wrenching finale, the novel carries readers with sensitivity and wisdom through the agony of lost time.
The New York Times Book Review The Sense of an Ending is a short book, but not a slight one. In it Julian Barnes reveals crystalline truths that have taken a lifetime to harden. He has honed their edges, and polished them to a high gleam.
The Guardian (UK)
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 Telegraph (UK)
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.
The List (UK)
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.
Evening Standard (UK)
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.
The Times (UK)
A dexterously crafted narrative of unlooked-for consequences.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by lieselotte the sense of an ending 'The sense of an ending' really pleased me. I liked the philosophical approximation of the subject. Barnes shows a reality with this beautiful story. It surprised me till the end. The author has the skills to pull you into the story. The book was... Read More
Rated of 5
by Cloggie Downunder a powerful read The Sense of an Ending is the 11th novel by Julian Barnes. In his sixties, retired, Tony Webster sees his life as pretty ordinary: career, marriage, amicable divorce, one child, two grandchildren. So the letter from a lawyer, informing him of an... Read More
Rated of 5
by gandyb A Sense of the Ending Well worth your time.
Rated of 5
by chetyarbrough.com MEMORY AND REALITY Julian Barnes writes about life in “The Sense of an Ending”. Barnes reveals the loss of truth in memory’s recollection of the past. This is a memoir of a man’s life; after retirement, after marriage and divorce, and after children’s growth to... Read More
Rated of 5
by Kim What is the meaning of life, really? I devoured this book in a day. Like another reviewer, I find it difficult to describe this story. Much of it consists of the narrator ruminating over what memory is (or isn't), which I sometimes found a bit annoying---and yet, his ruminations are... Read More
In Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending, Tony Webster admits that he may not be a reliable narrator. He acknowledges that it's probably impossible to tell, objectively, the story of your own life, and that it's therefore up to the reader to question or validate his authority.
The idea of the unreliable narrator has long been an issue in fiction, dating back to medieval times. The term, as a formal literary device, comes from critic Wayne C. Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961).
There are many reasons why a narrator might be deemed unreliable. The most obvious one is insanity, as in Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, or Stephan Benatar's Wish Her Safe At Home. In the case of the latter, the narrator's illness inclines along with the narrative: as the novel and Rachel's mental illness progress, everything is called...
Brilliant and utterly enthralling in its depiction of childhood, love and war, England and class. At its center this is a profoundand profoundly movingexploration of shame, forgiveness and the difficulty of absolution.
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