9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Unassuming and brilliant., 4 Feb 2012
Well, it may have taken me a little while, but I eventually got around to reading the 2011 Man Booker Prize-winning novel 'The Sense of an Ending'. Yes, a staggering eleven novels into his career, not to mention his short story collections and journalistic writing, Julian Barnes has finally won the UK's most prestigious literary prize. While the 2011 longlist and shortlist may have been especially strong, with names such as Alan Hollinghurst in attendance, it was Barnes' latest 150-page offering that took the coveted prize at the ceremony last October. And after reading the book in less than twenty-four hours, a great deal less than twenty-four hours in actual fact, I would have to say that the judges made a sound decision. Barnes may have deemed the Booker Prize 'posh lottery' a few years back, but fortunately these mildly disparaging comments were not enough to prevent The Sense of an Ending from winning the jackpot. Pardon my abysmal humour.
'The Sense of an Ending 'is narrated by Tony Webster, a retired sixty-something-year-old who has lived a quiet and hitherto unremarkable life consisting of one career, one marriage, and one rather amicable divorce. But when a mysterious lawyer's letter unexpectedly tumbles through his door Tony is thrown into a dimly recollected past and its devastating truths are slowly revealed to him, one by one. I do not wish to say too much about the plot, for in the latter half of the novel there are several crucial plot twists, but it is important to know that Tony is not the protagonist in the strictest sense, rather he is the raconteur of a particularly tragic tale. The closest parallel I can draw is with Nick Carraway in F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby'. In a way, Adrian Finn is Barnes' very own Jay Gatsby. However, I wouldn't take these comparisons too literally - The Sense of an Ending is a great novel in its own right.
What I like most about this book is that it is so very unassuming in its brilliance. Unlike some previous Booker winners, and I'm only speaking generally here, The Sense of an Ending 'wouldn't make much of a door stop or draught excluder, and throwing it at somebody would likely not result in serious injury. Facetious observations about size and weight aside, the prose itself is also quiet in its brilliance. It is clear, accessible, and precise, never weighty or overbearingly pretentious. Furthermore, The Sense of an Ending 'actually benefits from its brevity; you may well read it in a single sitting, but chances are Julian Barnes' tale of the subjective nature of memory and the mutability of the past will stay with you for a long time after turning that final page.