January 28, 2019

The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
2011 Alfred A. Knopf
Finished on January 19, 2019
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

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 bestselling 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.

I don't think I'm sophisticated enough for this cerebral-type of novel. I spotted it on the shelf at the library one day and decided to give it a try since I wanted to read it before watching the dvd that's been in my Netflix queue for ages. Sadly, this introspective, navel-gazing, over-analyzed retrospection of young adulthood did not impress me and had it not been such a quick read, I would have ditched it at the 80 page mark. Since it only took me two days to finish, I read to the bitter end. 

What did I know of life, I who had lived so carefully? Who had neither won nor lost, but just let life happen to him? Who had the usual ambitions and settled all too quickly for them not being realised? Who avoided being hurt and called it a capacity for survival? Who paid his bills, stayed on good terms with everyone as far as possible, for whom ecstasy and despair soon became just words once read in novels? One whose self-rebukes never really inflicted pain? Well, there was all this to reflect upon, while I endured a special kind of remorse: a hurt inflicted at long last on one who always thought he knew how to avoid being hurt--and inflicted for precisely that reason.

Many readers (including those on the Man Booker Award committee) claim The Sense of an Ending is a brilliant novel, but I found the characters unsympathetic and dull, leaving me bored and disappointed. Perhaps those who are drawn to Ian McEwan's novels will appreciate Barnes's philosophical examination of memory and the consequences of choices made in one's youth. I prefer John Boyne's brilliant storytelling of similar themes, as presented in The Heart's Invisible Furies.

And, no. I no longer have any desire or intention of watching the film.

Julian Patrick Barnes is a contemporary English writer of postmodernism in literature. He has been shortlisted three times for the Man Booker Prize--- Flaubert's Parrot (1984), England, England (1998), and Arthur & George (2005), and won the prize for The Sense of an Ending (2011).


  1. Aww, too bad. This was a favorite the year I read it... and I've kept it on my shelf for a reread. I did'n know (or have forgotten) that there's a film. Not sure I'd want to see it.

    1. JoAnn, I remember it was one you really enjoyed. Oh, well.

  2. I read this but didn't remember a thing about it so I checked my review. " It was solid and in many ways it was quiet. I thought it was nice, but nothing earth shattering and I did think the end was somewhat of a disappointment. There was the vague sense of what but not much of the why. Tony wasn’t all that sympathetic of a character, but Veronica (an ex-girlfriend) was frustrating and by the end I was happy to be done with the both of them."
    Haha This doesn't help me remember anything about it so I guess it wasn't all that :)

    1. Stacy, I don't mind quiet books, but this one simply wasn't my cuppa tea. I've already forgotten a lot of the plot!


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