Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending is a Booker Prize-winning 2011 novel by Julian Barnes. I love this book. It's beautifully written and won't let you put it down.

favorite quotes:
I survived. "He survived to tell the tale" -that's what people say, don't they? History isn't the lies of the victors, as I once glibly assured Old Joe Hunt; I know that now. It's more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious or defeated.
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.
from the inside of the cover:
A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single sitting, The Sense of an Ending has the psychological and emotional depth and sophistication of Henry James at his best, and is a stunning new chapter in Julian Barnes's oeuvre.

This intense novel follows Tony Webster, a middle-aged man, as he contends with a past he never thought much about —until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance: one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony thought he left this all behind as he built a life for himself, and his career has provided him with a secure retirement and an amicable relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, who now has a family of her own. But when he is presented with a mysterious legacy, he is forced to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world.
There is a reading group guide with discussion questions here. Kirkus Reviews describes it as "subtly devastating". The Huffington Post reviewer "wanted to like it more than I actually did." NPR calls it his "most emotionally forthcoming book to date". Forbes closes with this:
Once all the questions are answered, the reader is left in the same state that Tony is in the book’s final pages—floored at life’s essential mysteries, and frustrated that they cannot be relived. Fortunately for us, we can just read the book again.


  1. I like your review and will definitely look for the book. I am always eager to find a new (to me) author.


    1. i like this author, and i think this book would be a good place to start with him. i hope you like it :)