…[Barnes] engages with the untidy collisions of the human struggle more directly than ever, even as he remains characteristically light on his feet…The Sense of an Ending is a short book, but not a slight one. In it Julian Barnes reveals crystalline truths that have taken a lifetime to harden. He has honed their edges, and polished them to a high gleam.
The New York Times Book Review
In Barnes's (Flaubert's Parrot) latest, winner of the 2011 Man-Booker Prize, protagonist Tony Webster has lived an average life with an unremarkable career, a quiet divorce, and a calm middle age. Now in his mid-60s, his retirement is thrown into confusion when he's bequeathed a journal that belonged to his brilliant school-friend, Adrian, who committed suicide 40 years earlier at age 22. Though he thought he understood the events of his youth, he's forced to radically revise what he thought he knew about Adrian, his bitter parting with his mysterious first lover Veronica, and reflect on how he let life pass him by safely and predictably. Barnes's spare and luminous prose splendidly evokes the sense of a life whose meaning (or meaninglessness) is inevitably defined by "the sense of an ending" which only death provides. Despite its focus on the blindness of youth and the passage of time, Barnes's book is entirely unpretentious. From the haunting images of its first pages to the surprising and wrenching finale, the novel carries readers with sensitivity and wisdom through the agony of lost time.
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Elegant, playful, and remarkable.” —The New Yorker
“A page-turner, and when you finish you will return immediately to the beginning.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Beautiful. . . . An elegantly composed, quietly devastating tale.” —Heller McAlpin, NPR
“Dense with philosophical ideas. . . . It manages to create genuine suspense as a sort of psychological detective story.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Evelyn Waugh did it in Brideshead Revisited, as did Philip Larkin in Jill [and] Kazuo Ishiguro in The Remains of the Day. Now, with his powerfully compact new novel, Julian Barnes takes his place among the subtly assertive practitioners of this quiet art.” —The New York Times Book Review
“[A] jewel of conciseness and precision…. The Sense of an Ending packs into so few pages so much that the reader finishes it with a sense of satisfaction more often derived from novels several times its length.” —The Los Angeles Times
“Exquisitely crafted, sophisticated, suspenseful, and achingly painful, The Sense of an Ending is a meditation on history, memory, and individual responsibility.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Clever, provocative. . . . A brilliant, understated examination of memory and how it works, how it compartmentalizes and fixes impressions to tidily store away.” —The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Concisely written and yet rich and full of emotional depth. . . . It’s highly original as well. And complicated, just like life.” —New York Journal of Books
“Elegiac yet potent, The Sense of an Ending probes the mysteries of how we remember and our impulse to redact, correct—and sometimes entirely erase—our pasts.” —Vogue
“Ominous and disturbing…. This outwardly tidy and conventional story is one of Barnes’s most indelible [and] looms oppressively in our minds.” —The Wall Street Journal
“At 163 pages, The Sense of an Ending is the longest book I have ever read, so prepare yourself for rereading. You won’t regret it.” —Jane Juska, The San Francisco Chronicle
“With his characteristic grace and skill, Barnes manages to turn this cat-and-mouse game into something genuinely suspenseful.” —The Washington Post
“Ferocious. . . . A book for the ages.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Concisely written and yet rich and full of emotional depth. . . . At times, side-splittingly funny, at others, brutally honest, but always delightfully well observed. . . . Ironically, despite focusing on endings, and on suicide, this is a tremendously life-affirming work. It’s highly original as well. And complicated, just like life.” —New York Journal of Books
“Elegiac yet potent, The Sense of an Ending probes the mysteries of how we remember and our impulse to redact, correct – and sometimes entirely erase – our pasts. . . . Barnes’s highly wrought meditation on aging gives just as much resonance to what is unknown and unspoken as it does to the momentum of its own plot.” —Vogue
“Novel, fertile and memorable . . . . A highly wrought meditation on aging, memory and regret.” —The Guardian (London)
“A brilliant, understated examination of memory and how it works, how it compartmentalizes and fixes impressions to tidily store away. . . . Clever, provocative. . . . Barnes reminds his readers how fragile is the tissue of impressions we conveniently rely upon as bedrock.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Brief, beautiful. . . . That fundamentally chilling question—Am I the person I think I am?—turns out to be a surprisingly suspenseful one. . . . As Barnes so elegantly and poignantly reveals, we are all unreliable narrators, redeemed not by the accuracy of our memories but by our willingness to question them." —The Boston Globe.
“Quietly mesmerizing. . . . A slow burn, measured but suspenseful, this compact novel makes every slyly crafted sentence count.” —The Independent (London)
"Deliciously intriguing...with complex and subtle undertones [and] laced with Barnes' trademark wit and graceful writing." —The Washington Times
When we look back on our lives, what do we remember from our experiences? Tony's story starts and finishes with his school chums, one of whom commits suicide during his college years, and his first girlfriend. When he is contacted by someone from 40 years in his past, he must reexamine events, memories, causes, and results. The pacing is steady and the insights poignant, although the ending is a bit contrived. Narrator Richard Morant moves smoothly between the awkward, loud voice of an English schoolboy, the all-knowing college student, and the resigned elder. VERDICT Barnes's 14th book and winner of the Man Booker Prize, this short novel will best appeal to readers of introspective literature. [The Knopf hc, published in October, was a New York Times best seller.—Ed.]—J. Sara Paulk, Wythe-Grayson Regional Lib., Independence, VA
Life has been good to Tony Webster, who's both contentedly retired and contentedly divorced. Then friends reappear from a childhood long left behind and presumably shelved, and as the past suddenly looms large, Tony must rethink everything that has been his life. In the hands of multi-award winner Barnes, this should be masterly—and, with the book under 200 pages, there's a gorgeous simplicity at work. Essential; with a reading group guide.
A man's closest-held beliefs about a friend, former lover and himself are undone in a subtly devastating novella from Barnes. The author's slim 11th novel (and fourth to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize) shouldn't be mistaken for a frivolous one: It's an intense exploration of how we write our own histories and how our actions in moments of anger can have consequences that stretch across decades. The novel's narrator, Anthony, is in late middle age, and recalling friendships from adolescence and early adulthood. He's focused on two people in particular: Adrian, a brilliant but gloomy schoolmate who routinely questioned the certainties of his history teachers, and Veronica, a harridan with whom he has a brief and tempestuous affair. After the breakup, Adrian and Veronica begin their own relationship. Anthony dashes off a bitter letter to Adrian, and when Adrian kills himself soon after, Anthony is willing to credit it to depression. But a letter he receives years later complicates the story. The novel has a love-triangle structure--one of its mysteries has to do with where Veronica's affections resided. But its focus is more intellectual, as Anthony considers how much of his past history he's failed to face up to, how willing he is to confront his mistakes and to what degree his own moral failings affected others. Decades after their breakup, Anthony and Veronica are forced to reconnect due to some legal tussling over Adrian's diary, and their parrying at times becomes painfully intense. The brutality of those exchanges, coolly presented, speaks to Barnes' skill at balancing emotional tensions and philosophical quandaries. A knockout. What at first seems like a polite meditation on childhood and memory leaves the reader asking difficult questions about how often we strive to paint ourselves in the best possible light.