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Description - The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life. Now Tony is in middle age. He s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer s letter is about to prove. A Sense of an Ending is the story of one man coming to terms with the mutable past. Laced with trademark precision, dexterity and insight, it is the work of one of the world s most distinguished writers.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780224094153
ISBN-10: 0224094157
Format: Hardback
(205mm x 133mm x 19mm)
Pages: 160
Imprint: Jonathan Cape Ltd
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 1-Aug-2011
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

YouTube Videos - The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes on his win of the Man Booker Prize 2011 for The Sense of an Ending

Author Julian Barnes speaks after winning the 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for his novella 'The Sense of an Ending' at the Guildhall in London.

Book Reviews - The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

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Book Review: Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes - Reviewed by (24 Jan 2012)

This book is an intriguing as it is brief. Even if you don't like it (which I did), it's all over too soon.

It is the musings and reflections of a man who was a father, who was a youth, who was a boy as he approaches and waits for death.

The characters who move in and out of his life play some part in it and yet he is alone.

Life's mysteries and what if's are investigated and observed by the protagonist and some unexpected revelations are made....but even though at the end of the book there is a sense of an ending there are still unanswered questions.

Book Review: Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes - Reviewed by (21 Dec 2011)

Narrated by Tony as he reflects on his life (we don’t know the retiree’s age, only that he feels old) the story follows an encounter with a girlfriend from his past which leads to the biographical introspection and a return to his youthful ways.

The story is divided into two sections. The first is Tony’s recollections of his school days, the tale of his first relationship with a girl named Veronica and a summary of his adult life to present.

Part Two brings the long-forgotten Veronica back into the picture in a surprising manner. Veronica holds the same mystery Tony found so intriguing forty years earlier and had sworn off, and leads him on a chase to obtain not only an item that has been bequeathed to him in her mother’s will but also information about her former lover that she seems intent on hiding from Tony.

As he spends more and more time with Veronica Tony finds himself questioning his own recollection of their shared history and behaving more like the immature adolescent he had been when dating her. He begins reflecting on whose version of events can be considered correct - the person who lived through it or the person who holds the written documentation recorded at the time.

This book, the 2011 Man Booker Prize winner, was well written and easy to read. I devoured it in record time, though it was only a short read.

Book Review: Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes - Reviewed by (27 Nov 2011)

"some approximate memories, which time has deformed into certainties", that's how Barnes's narrator, Tony Webster, describes this exploration of his past. He begins with schooldays, because, "that's where it all began". And in his memory he re-creates the friendships, the teenage ambitions and uncertainties, a youthful love affair, a marriage and an amicable divorce, all culminating in a comfortable, reasonably active retirement. It is an ordinary story of an ordinary man, until a lawyer's letter arrives to disturb his complacency.

Barnes is very good at capturing what it is like to be a bright boy at school testing a growing awareness of the world in interactions with friends and school masters. Tony and his good friends, Colin and Alex, share this experience. The inclusion of Adrian, clever and more serious, in their group changes the dynamics subtly but the friendships last until university, careers and marriages draw them apart. It is Adrian, however, who marries Tony's first serious girl-friend; and it is Adrian who commits suicide at the age of twenty-two, and who, years later, precipitates Tony's self-examination.

For some reason, Barnes divides this book into two. The first part, which is lively and youthful, ends with Tony in retirement looking back on the memories of a survivor. For a paragraph or two in the second part, I expected a different narrator with a different perspective on the past. But, no, it is still Tony, although he sounds more subdued, older and more orientated to the present. In part two he is less sure of himself, reliant on the views and advice of his former wife, and more self-deceiving. He is still relying on memory to recount events but it is much more recent memory, disturbed by his obsession with obtaining Adrian's diary, which has unexpectedly and bizarrely been left to him by Adrian's mother-in-law. It is easy to lose patience with Tony in this second half, and the delaying tactics of the author are more obvious as we are led towards a revelation which will make us, the readers, re-assess our understanding of Tony's story; just as it made him re-assess his memory of his own past.

"What you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed", Tony says at the start of this book. But can you be blamed for a chain of events which began with something you did witness - something you did and then forgot about?

"Towards the end of your life", says Tony, "You are allowed a long moment of pause, time enough to ask the question: what else have I done wrong?". It is an interesting question but one which few of us have to face in quite the way Tony did.

Reviewed by Ann Skea (

Author Biography - Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes is the author of ten previous novels, including Metroland, Flaubert's Parrot, A History of the World in 10 Chapters and Arthur & George; three books of short stories, Cross Channel, The Lemon Table and Pulse; and also three collections of journalism, Letters from London, Something to Declare, and The Pedant in the Kitchen. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. In France he is the only writer to have won both the Prix Medicis (for Flaubert's Parrot) and the Prix Femina (for Talking it Over). He was awarded the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 2004 and the David Cohen Prize for Literature in 2011. He lives in London.

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