Book Review: The Sense of an Ending

Author: Julian Barnes

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011

Pages: 163

Genre: Literary Fiction

Reason for Reading: The title appealed to me.

Rating: A+

Award Won: Man Booker Prize, 2011

Summary from NPR (National Public Radio):

Tony Webster is a retired divorced man in his mid-60s who, after receiving notice of an unexpected bequest, is pulled back into a “powerful recollection of strong emotions” from his past. This leads to a reassessment of the accuracy of his memories, a rueful realization of how much he’d gotten wrong, and a harsh re-evaluation of his passive approach to life.

My Thoughts:

Most of us live our lives pushing straight ahead through each day’s activities and pressures. We seldom stop to look back. But there often comes a time, usually after something bad happens and/or after retirement, when we have more time to look back and examine our lives.

Of course, some people never look back, but Julian Barnes fictional character, Tony Webster, does search through his memory base. His life, like ours, was not remarkable. He’s the average citizen who pursues a career, raises a family, and, in general, does the right thing. As he looks back he begins to wonder if what he did was right, could he have done better, or maybe it’s just his memory that’s faulty.

I promise you The Sense of an Ending is fiction, even though, at least for me, it felt like a memoir. It was personal and somehow philosophical. There is so much to think about here. As soon as I finished I had to go back and read certain parts.  I’m sure there will be a re-read of this one in my future.

Julian Barnes’ writing is incredible. Tuesday I quoted the opening two paragraphs here. Today I want to share with you part of the closing.

You get towards the end of life – no, not life itself, but of something else: the end of any likelihood of change in that life. You are allowed a long moment of pause, time enough to ask the question: what else have I done wrong?

About the author:

The Sense of an Ending is Julian Barnes’ nineteenth book. Three of Barnes’ earlier books have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize: Flaubert’s Parrot, England, England, and Arthur & George. He has also written crime fiction under the pseudonym of Dan Kavanagh.

About the Award:

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe.[1] The winner of the Man Booker Prize is generally assured of international renown and success; therefore, the prize is of great significance for the book trade.[2] It is also a mark of distinction for authors to be selected for inclusion in the shortlist or even to be nominated for the “longlist”. (from Wikepedia)

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About Margot

I'm also known as Joyfully Retired. I love to talk. I love to talk about books I've read, movies I've seen, places I've traveled to, people (especially my children and grandchildren), and Food. On the Quirky Girls Read blog I'm trying to read all the books that have won the major awards and then, of course, talk about them.
This entry was posted in Award Winners, Fiction, Posts by Margot and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Book Review: The Sense of an Ending

  1. I agree, this did feel like a memoir –really loved the writing:) Nice review.

  2. Louise says:

    I have this sitting next to my bed waiting patiently to reach the top of the queue.. So glad to hear that you loved it. I’m really looking forward to it.

    • Margot says:

      You’re in for a contemplative treat Louise. I’m not sure how you’ll treat this book, but I read it slowly. I read maybe 10 to 15 pages at a time over a three week period. I honestly don’t know why I did it that way. It just felt like a book to take in slow bites and then stop and think. I hope your experience is as good as mine.

  3. I tried to get this from the library but there were over 200 holds! So one of these days…

    • Margot says:

      I think I got in line at the library just in time. There were only about 75 people ahead of me when it first came out. And then there were so many people in the queue, the librarian said they had to buy a few more copies. They didn’t think it would be so popular. I’m glad they were surprised.

  4. JoAnn says:

    I loved this, too. The writing was gorgeous. I’ll definitely be reading more of Barnes’ work!

    • Margot says:

      Me too. I haven’t quite decided which one. I’ve read that the last three just before this one are just as good. I was also thinking I might read one of the ones he was shortlisted for – possibly Arthur and George. So many good boos to choose from!

  5. BermudaOnion says:

    I’m getting close to that point in my life where I’m reflecting on the past. This sounds like a real treasure!

  6. This really is such a beautifully written book. I’m really looking forward to reading more of his work.

  7. kaye says:

    I love that quote at the end–the older you get you do wonder what you’ve done wrong during your life.

    • Margot says:

      There were lots of quotable lines in this book. I had lots of little posties throughout the book. I finally decided I couldn’t quote the whole book in my review. I can only strongly recommend it to others.

  8. You have convinced me that I must read this one. Sounds like a great gift idea also!!

  9. Annie says:

    I read “Flaubert’s parrot” and I think an other Julian Barn’s book.
    He is very well known in France because he loves and knows how to laugh at France…
    Your review is very interesting and as I’m at this time of my life I think I’ll read it. Thanks, Margot !

    • Margot says:

      Oh, Annie, now you’ve given me another reason to read Julian Barnes again. I could see humor in his writing. It was very subtle. I’ll bet the people of France were happy that he finally won the Booker prize. I’m going to check to see if Flaubert’s Parrot is at the library Thanks for the recommendation.

  10. stacybuckeye says:

    An A+ AND it’s short?! I am sold. Plus I really like that it reads like a philosophical memoir.

  11. Matthew (Bibliofreak.net) says:

    I really enjoyed the book. Although I’m at a point in my life where I have relatively little to look back on, I was drawn quickly into Tony’s world and found the whole message a stark warning about the choices we make, and the preciousness of life.

    My review: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

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