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.
The Sense of an Ending
I remember, in no particular order:
- a shiny inner wrist;
- steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it;
- gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house;
- a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams;
- another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface;
- bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door. This last isn't something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed.
We live in time - it holds us and moulds us - but I've never felt I understood it very well. And I'm not referring to theories about how it bends and doubles back, or may exist elsewhere in parallel versions. No, I mean ordinary, everyday time, which clocks and watches assure us passes regularly: tick-tock, click-clock. Is there anything ...
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).
Full Review (1114 words).
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 ...
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