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505 of 530 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of delicate observation and insight - short but almost perfectly formed
"The Sense of an Ending" is almost more of a novella - it's a slim volume but exquisitely written, as you might expect from Julian Barnes. It starts off describing the relationships between four friends at school, narrated by one of the friends, Tony Webster, but quickly it becomes clear that this is written many years later. Barnes has long been a terrific observer of...
Published on 9 Aug 2011 by Ripple

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Antiseptic
Another Booker winner that I am afraid I just baulk at. A slender volume of intellectualisms dressed up as a story about how different life looks from the position of late middle-age, I found Barnes' usual antiseptic style irritating and dull. The unknown quantity to be guessed at matched this and the big reveal towards the end was uninspired.

I never had...
Published 20 months ago by jimidimi


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505 of 530 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of delicate observation and insight - short but almost perfectly formed, 9 Aug 2011
By 
Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Sense of an Ending (Hardcover)
"The Sense of an Ending" is almost more of a novella - it's a slim volume but exquisitely written, as you might expect from Julian Barnes. It starts off describing the relationships between four friends at school, narrated by one of the friends, Tony Webster, but quickly it becomes clear that this is written many years later. Barnes has long been a terrific observer of the English middle classes and his style invariably contains satire and dry humour. And this being Barnes, this school clique is intellectual in interest, as the narrator recalls English and History teachers and student philosophising.

Tony is a middle class everyman. He's unexceptional and his subsequent life has been so conventional as to border on the dull, unlike the catalyst for the story Adrian Finn who is intellectually gifted and a natural philosopher of the human condition. However the friendship falls apart after the friends leave to go to university and Adrian enters into a relationship with Tony's ex-girlfriend. And that would have been that, except that many years later a mysterious letter opens up the past causing Tony to reconsider the actions of his youth.

It's a book about history and how we recall events. Tony has his memories but without evidence or corroboration, how sure can he be? Do the lessons learnt in the History classroom apply to the individual? What starts off in the manner of Alan Bennett's "History Boys" soon turns into a darker mystery as Tony is forced to face up to the actions of his younger self.

It's a joy to read. Thought provoking, beautifully observed with just enough mystery to keep you turning the pages to find out what happened. Books that involve the narrator examining their own actions can get too easily bogged down, but by keeping it brief, this never happens with Barnes. There's insight into the human condition and gentle philosophy without it becoming too introspective. It's very readable literary fiction.

Older readers in particular will relate to Tony's struggle with the modernities of the current day.

It's a terrific little book and is highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Antiseptic, 1 April 2013
This review is from: The Sense of an Ending (Paperback)
Another Booker winner that I am afraid I just baulk at. A slender volume of intellectualisms dressed up as a story about how different life looks from the position of late middle-age, I found Barnes' usual antiseptic style irritating and dull. The unknown quantity to be guessed at matched this and the big reveal towards the end was uninspired.

I never had friends at school who quoted great philosophers (apart from those lyrics from that Shamen song) and don't recall anyone else so bloated with their own potential that this was what their one-upmanship contained. Diaries filled with coded messages written in algebra, more young suicides than you can shake a stick at.. and this book is so middle-class maybe it's this reader that doesn't fit it.
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266 of 289 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cerebration, 24 Aug 2011
By 
Mr. D. James "nonsuch" (london, uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Sense of an Ending (Hardcover)
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

This first person narrative is a study in obsessive guilt. Tony Webster looks back to his first encounter with Adrian Finn, the new boy at school. Adrian is obviously a cut above the rest of the lads; he is serious, logical and inquisitive, destined for great things at Cambridge University. Years later Tony hears of his suicide, a carefully arranged affair, with appropriate notes to family, friends and authorities. He had once told Tony that Camus maintained that suicide was the only true philosophical question. The subject arose when a fellow student, Robson, hanged himself after getting his girlfriend pregnant. What possible connection could there be between the fatal decision of the mediocre student Robson, whose last words read simply `Sorry, Mum' and the signing off of the genius Adrian?

The clue - to that part of the novel at least - lies in the relationship both Tony and Adrian have with a rather classy and prickly girl known as Veronica (later Mary) Ford, whose parents Tony visits for a disastrous week-end in Chislehurst, where he is treated rudely both by Veronica's father and her brother Jack, but kindly by Mrs Ford, Veronica's mother. Only in his later years, which absorb most of the second part of this slim novel, does Tony - and possibly the reader - begin to `get it' as Veronica continually puts it about her family situation. By then we have learned of an insulting letter Tony had written to the unhappy pair, Veronica and Adrian, which may or may not have been the trigger that caused his demise. The reader will need to read the novel a second time to pick up on the clues Barnes plants regarding the abortive love affair with the hostile Veronica. In fact the whole book is about unravelling mistaken notions, discovering hidden meanings in past conversations, finding new clues to understanding the self, its delusions and unintended slights with their unforeseen consequences.

I found the book both fascinating and frustrating, as was no doubt the author's intention. It is undoubtedly a clever book, but to me, as with the same author's Flaubert's Parrot, rather too cerebral, lacking the warmth of real human relationships. There are so many things the narrator and reader do not `get'. Why, for instance, should Tony continually pursue a girl, then the girl as woman, who was only using him as a plaything? It makes no sense to him or the reader. Is it sufficient to say that it is the donnée on which the whole book rests, just as other obsessives, like for instance Kemal in The Museum of Innocence or Charles Arrowby in The Sea, The Sea, expend vast energies in pursuit hopeless causes? The difference is that both Pamuk's and Murdoch's novels delve deep into the psyches of their narrators. We understand, sympathise and forgive them, even when they are boring us. At least Barnes's novel is too short to be boring. It is indeed, extremely readable and. in its own way, strangely haunting,
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well-crafted novella about impaired and fragmentary recollections, 19 Sep 2014
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Sense of an Ending (Paperback)
This novella, the winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize, centres on three rather pretentious friends, Colin, Alex and Tony Webster, the narrator, who are joined by Adrian Finn, a new arrival at their school. Adrian is more intelligent and heads for Cambridge to read Moral Sciences whilst Tony studies History at Bristol. The friends then lose contact with one another.

Webster, introspective and socially hesitant, marries, has a daughter and divorces. In retirement he finds himself thinking back to the time he spent with fellow undergraduate, Veronica, his first girlfriend. In particular, he remembers the weekend visit to her home In Chislehurst and the awkward time that he spent with Veronica, her parents and brother. Later he learns that Veronica married Adrian, who subsequently killed himself. Webster is surprised when he learns, 40 years after last meeting her, that Veronica’s mother has left him a small legacy and Adrian’s diary, but Veronica refuses to pass it on.

Memory pervades this book, fragmentary, shifting and inconclusive [‘When you are young, you think you can predict the likely pains and bleaknesses that age might bring…What you fail to do is look ahead, and then imagining yourself looking back from that future point. Learning new emotions that time brings. Discovering, for example, that as the witnesses to your life diminish, there is less corroboration, and therefore less certainty, as to what you are or have been. Even if you have assiduously kept records - in words, sound, pictures - you may find that you have attended to the wrong kind of record keeping.’]

Gradually Webster reconsiders the period of his life with Veronica and begins to see that there are alternative ways of interpreting what happened, ‘It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others.’

Barnes buries significant detail within the mundane and imperceptibly builds a psychologically gripping narrative. His language suggests that each word has been weighed carefully before being included and memorable lines abound [‘Some Englishman once said that marriage is a long dull meal with pudding served first.’ ‘Why should we expect age to mellow us? If it isn’t life’s business to reward merit, why should it be life’s business to give us warm, comfortable feelings towards its end? What possible evolutionary purpose could nostalgia serve?’]

Having lost contact with Veronica four decades ago, Webster re-establishes contact through e-mail and, eventually, by meeting her. This only causes him to doubt his recollection of events that he had long hidden through self-protection – it took him some two years to admit her very existence to his wife. Webster’s difficulties in remembering, or interpreting what he remembers, call into question his veracity as a narrator.

In a fragment of the diary that Veronica photocopied and sent to him, Webster reads of Adrian’s musings as he attempts to express human relationships in a mathematical or logical formula. Webster concludes that it reflects his friend’s ‘rational arguing towards his own suicide – the writer was using light in an attempt to reach greater light. Does that make sense?’ This is the very core of the book but I felt that it, and Webster’s response, was also the weakest part of the book.

True, the author caught this reader with a clever twist at the very end of the book [that was signaled by Veronica telling Webster, and the reader, ‘You just don’t get it at all, do you? You never did’] but I was left feeling that Webster was too self-obsessed and indecisive about how much he truly wanted to find out about the lives of Veronica and Adrian. This made it difficult to empathise with Webster’s undoubted psychological distress.

The first part of the book describes the emotional pain and sexual frustration of growing up in the 1960s, but as the narrator explains it was only the Sixties ‘for some people, only in certain parts of the country.’ Not a novel topic but Barnes handles it with great wit and insight.

In summary: a very good book but not a great one.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting, 6 May 2012
This review is from: The Sense of an Ending (Hardcover)
The Sense of an Ending is a tiny book - merely 150 pages - and I think most of the people will regard it as a quick read, but that is where they are wrong. I don't think that this book is meant to be read in one go or over few days. It is more of a book that is better to be read in bite sizes to get the most of it. It feels like this book is offering a mirror to each reader and it is up to every one of us whether we decide to reflect upon our lives when reading the book or just take it at a face value and read just the story as it is.

The story itself is a reminiscence of a childhood and adulthood of a retired man, who is forced through some current events to see his past and its consequences in completely different light. For me, the story itself would have been interesting enough to read, but what I found more intriguing was that the book was literally littered by provoking thoughts. When I read a book, I always mark any interesting parts that I would like to either quote or go back to when I finish the book. With this book I marked 39 of them! Some of them are sentences, some are paragraphs. I don't think I can say that I was reading this book. I think it is more accurate to say that I was working through the book. I read few pages (sometimes just few paragraphs), I paused, I reflected, I let the book work on me and I continued when I was ready to continue. This book took me on an incredible journey and when I finished it, I was lost for words. And believe me, that doesn't happen often. And then, out of nowhere, great sadness washed over me because of the though, that we all have great and highly treasured memories, that we are fond off and no one can guarantee us, that what we remember is actually what happened and how it happened. And I got this urging wish to take back time and to be able to re-live the moments again.

Most of the time, especially when we are young, we don't even think how much our actions impact on other people and how much damage words can do. I think that one of the wisdoms I took away from the book is that we all need to try to make peace with our past because it has much more influence on our future than we can ever imagine. But then as the book says `You still don't get it. You never did, and you never will. So stop even trying.'

I would recommend to have a go at this book as it is beautifully written and there is something essentially human delivered through the story and some more is left to be found when you read between the lines. Let me know what you think.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time and memory, 9 Sep 2011
By 
Mondoro (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A masterpiece of story-telling by one of our finest novelists, rich in period atmosphere and revealing some totally unexpected and disturbing twists towards the end. For readers in the same (or slightly earliuer) age category as the narrator Tony, much of the first part will have powerful resonances - the earnest bookishness of Tony and his friends, the constant search for the meaning of life, and relationships with girls that hovered around the boundaries, but (at that stage) did not 'go all the way' - as Tony himself remarks in retrospect, the spirit of the repressed 1950s still lingered, despite the image of the swinging 60s. Brilliantly caught in this narrative is the fraught ritual of the young man staying at the home of his girl friend's parents, with a reciprocal visit following.

Barnes works in the theme of time passing, and of sudden change - not always in expected directions, as conveyed in the important symbol of the Severn Bore reversing the natural flow of water in the Bristol Channel. But the most important agent of change is Tony himself, who is guilty of that common phenomenon, 'the insenstivity of the sensitive'. The consequences of his actions only became apparent in their true awfulness much later: they explode like a bombshell just over half-way through the book. The rest of the story explores the themes of remorse and forgiveness as Tony tries to come to terms with his past. This process inevitably involves memory, the other main theme of the book, and the way the human mind summons up forgotten incidents while erasing others. Tony's attempts to dredge up the past have the added effect of shaking up his rather smug and comfortable existence since graduation, a life which he now dismisses as 'average': in short he has played safe and shied away from any real commitments.

The audiobook is an ideal medium for what is a short novel, providing an evening of compelling listening and presented by an excellent reader. Highly recommended.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A joyless, celebral read, 17 April 2012
This review is from: The Sense of an Ending (Hardcover)
Although I admired the writer's craft I found this a rather joyless read. No doubt this was due to the subject matter of two suicides, central to the book, but I found the characters to be lacking in wamth and empathy. Maybe this is the writer's take on the English middle class but there seems little to admire in any of the people described in the book. It is however a compelling read due to the fluency of the prose and the ending was neatly written.
As someone else remarked it seemed a little too celebral, which worked well in Flaubert's Parrot, but in this portrayal of human relationships and the pain of past actions was a little too cold and clinical.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars POSSIBLE SPOILER READ BOOK FIRST, 8 April 2012
By 
Steven Pierce "stevep1969" (Bath UK) - See all my reviews
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I want to give this two or three stars,,,, but I like the vignette of the male psyche and the banality of life. I sort of liked Tony too, and the atmosphere of the book... and I've been thinking about it alot since I shut the book.... the following is my synopsis of the conclusion (the big secret unravelled),,, and its really what I didn't like,,, I wonder if I got it? I might be completely wrong,,, Comments please????

-Well I am not sure I get it,,,, but this is what I got,,,,, SPOILER ALERT,, the story I think is this, Tone told Ade to chat to Vrons mum,, Veronika's mum was a bit of a goer and shagged Adrian, she then got pregnant with Adrians child,,, which obviously upset V'ron who then finished with Ade,,,, Ade then killed himself for the shame of shagging his girlfriends mum,,, dressing it up as some existential philosophical choice thing,,, the child grew up with some deficiency (neglect, was Vrons mum a drinker???),,, then the Mum (the goer) decided to inexplicably leave Ade £500 and Ade's diary,,, which V'ron nicked in order to cover up what she finally sort of tell's Tone in a round about way anyway,,, she blames Tone for his frankly bitter little letter,,, relieving herself, her vamp mum and Ade of all responsibility. If I was Tony I'd have told them all to bog off and take some responsibility for their own actions and stop guilt tripping him..... jeez louise........ intellectual story,,, nope, Eastender's script,,, maybe.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A FINE SUBTLE READ, 24 Aug 2012
By 
Alexander Bryce (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
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There can be no doubt that Julian Barnes is a fine writer--Arthur and George, Pulse etc. etc. Here with this 2011 Man Booker Prize winner he proves it once again. This is a fairly short novel, but long on pure enjoyment.
It begins with Tony and his close circle of friends at school joined by a new boy Adrian who shines academically, but is a little removed from the rest and a bit of a mystery. Enter Veronica, during their student days, Tony's first serious girlfriend. He has genuine feelings for her although he senses a holding back on her part and not just sexual.However like any healthy male Tony diligently tries to persuade her to "go all the way". How quaint that phrase now sounds. You see although it is the early swinging 60's it did not swing for everyone and moral values and attitudes were for the most part still stuck back in the austere 50's. An uncomfortable weekend with her family causes him to re-asses their relationship. They split and to Tony's hurt and anger Adrian moves in on her. To reveal more detail would be unfair, suffice to say that Tony's rather uneventful life moves on loosing touch with his school and university mates, until in his contented if rather lonely 60's out of nowhere comes a reason to contact Veronica once more. A strained correspondence and even more strained meetings take place when she tells him:
"You just don't get it, you never did" What does he just not get? This fills the second part of the book and I had to resist the strong temptation to turn to the last few pages for the solution. Of course I didn't, but the suspense kept me frantically reading the last 60 or so pages non stop until it all fell into place.
Great insight to the class structure, moral and physical restraints, education and family life at a time not so long ago when they were so very different. Over and above the intriguing main story there are interesting side issues and Tony's inward philosophising and general rambling observations are both humorous and fascinating.
Best read in a long time
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'life isn't just addition and subtraction. There's also the accumulation, the multiplication, of loss and failure', 3 April 2012
By 
sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Sense of an Ending (Hardcover)
This is a novel which takes a totally different path to what you expect in the first few pages. A group of lads at school, one of them notably intelligent. Life at uni, getting a girlfriend...As the elderly narrator looks back at his youth, it feels like a Kingsley Amis 'Lucky Jim' kind of storyline.
But events pull us up sharp. Twice. And as narrator Tony looks back, he is forced to confront memories that he had obliterated: 'when you're young- when I was young-you want your emotions to...create and define a new reality. Later I think you want them to do something milder, something more practical: you want them to support your life as it is and has become.'
Intelligent and readable work that makes you stop and contemplate what you've read.
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The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (Paperback - 1 Mar 2012)
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