Reader reviews and comments on The Sense of an Ending, plus links to write your own review.

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The Sense of an Ending

A Novel

by Julian Barnes

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2011, 176 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2012, 144 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Morgan Macgregor

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There are currently 7 reader reviews for The Sense of an Ending
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Novelcommentary (01/23/17)

Remembrance of things past
Julian Barnes' novel The Sense of an Ending is an intriguing,well written reflection by a man exploring his past relationship with a school chum and an ex girlfriend. "I’m not very interested in my schooldays, and don’t feel any nostalgia for them. But school is where is all began, so I need to return briefly to a few incidents that have grown into anecdotes, to some approximate memories which time has deformed into certainty. If I can’t be sure of the actual events any more, I can at least be true to the impressions those facts left. That's the best I can manage." Tony Webster and his two best mates meet up one day with a new student, Adrian Finn. Adrian is immediately recognized as brighter, more philosophical than most, and no one is surprised when he wins acceptance to Cambridge. Tony, capable enough, goes to Bristol and eventually graduates to a humdrum life of art administration, a failed marriage and a fleeting relationship with his daughter, Susie.
But his peaceful retirement is interrupted when he receives a letter from an old girlfriend's mother. In her will she left him money and Adrian's, diary; the problem is that the old girlfriend, Veronica, who ditched Tony long ago in favor of Adrian, will not give it to him. Thus starts the emails and meetings between the two which provide for the building tension in the novel. I will welcome reading more from this Booker Prize winning author.

Good passages:

"Does character develop over time? In novels, of course it does; otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a story. But in life? I sometimes wonder. Our attitudes and opinions change, we develop new habits and eccentricities; but that’s something different, more like decoration. Perhaps character resembles intelligence, except that character peaks a little later: between twenty and thirty, say. And after that, we’re just stuck with what we’ve got. We’re on our own. If so, that would explain a lot of lives, wouldn’t it? And also-- if this isn’t too grand a word--our tragedy."

"How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but--mainly--to ourselves."

"We could start perhaps with the seemingly simple question. What is History? Any thoughts, Webster?
'History is the lies of the victors,' I replied a little too quickly.'
Yes, I was rather afraid you'd say that. Well as long as you remember that it is also the self-delusions of the defeated...'
JD Butler (05/07/16)

Forgettable
The book was recommended by a friend, I read it a year ago, see that Barnes had a new book out. I can't remember this book at all except that I thought the protagonist was shallow and boring.
lieselotte (05/19/13)

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 finished in three days. The end is the perfect clincher. I love his writing style. Some sentences are perfection. There were a few words that I didn't understand but of course the internet is the solution. I also think it is important that you don't use the most easy words, like that the reader can learn a lot from it. I really enjoyed learning new words.
In a word, stunning!
Power Reviewer Cloggie Downunder (05/21/12)

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 unexpected bequest of money and some documents, is surprising and intriguing. A blast from the past, it has him thinking back to high school friends, Adrian Finn in particular, and his first girlfriend at college, Veronica Ford. As Tony examines his memories of 40 years ago, present day events have him wondering just how true his memories are, and how justified his actions really were. Quotes from his sixth form History class come to mind: “Is history the lies of the victors? Or the self-delusions of the defeated?” Tony decides it’s the memories of the survivors, who are neither victorious nor defeated. Barnes has given the reader a clever plot and realistic characters. I found the suicide philosophy (life is an unsolicited gift you can refuse to accept) thought-provoking and the twist at the end left me gasping. I found it very reminiscent of Ian McEwan’s writing. This is a short but very powerful read.
gandyb (04/21/12)

A Sense of the Ending
Well worth your time.
chetyarbrough.com (03/23/12)

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 adulthood. It is an indictment of all who write about the past from memory. It is a mystery with unexpected twists.

The cognitive dissonance that exists when recalling what one thinks they know about what they did in the past is sharply defined by Julian Barnes’ story of reflection.

Remembering best friends, family, and loves is a natural habit as you grow older but memory of one’s past is distorted by contrived and prejudiced interpretation. Barnes observes that it is impossible to understand one’s past from memories without concrete documentation. Memory is not enough; i.e. it is unlikely that one accurately remembers their past.

“The Sense of Ending” is more of a novelette than a novel but it is an entertaining audio book and a cautionary tale about how one should live their life and how human actions have unintended consequences. ”The Sense of Ending” shows how memory and history are often misrepresentations of truth when not independently documented.
Kim (01/21/12)

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 the heart and soul of the story. He is searching for what we all search for: truth and meaning in our lives. As he is drawn back in time by by an old letter, he is forced to reconsider his views on memory and the passage of time, history, and happiness. Why did I like this book? It's a short, compelling read; it is well-written; the characters are powerfully drawn; there is a mystery involved; the end result is rather shocking. The concept, as well as the title of the book, are brilliant. Most of all, I liked it for its honesty in presenting life and our memory of the past as a messy, uncertain business. As the narrator sums it up in the last sentences, "There is accumulation. There is responsibility. And...... there is unrest. There is great unrest."
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