Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Sense of an Ending; Julian Barnes



Title: The Sense of an Ending
Author:  Julian Barnes
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Knopf
Edition: Kindle
Source: Library
Setting: England
Date Completed: 1/2/2012  
Rating: 5/5
Recommend: yes

In this story, the protagonist is an average guy; he's Tony Webster. Sixty-something, divorced, retired, and living a comfortable and somewhat unremarkable life near London..  The story covers two periods of Tony's life. One period was 40 years earlier (1960s) when he was attending a private school outside of London. At that time, he briefly dated a girl named Veronica Ford, who was clearly out of his league. At school, he was also part of a circle of young men, which included the enigmatic Adrian Finn.  When Tony and Veronica split up, Adian and Veronica become an item. School ends and the group goes their separate ways, and for the next 40 years Tony really hadn't thought about any of them.

Flash forward to the present and Tony learns that Veronica's mother has died and has made him an unusual bequest: money and the diary of his dead friend. It is this that causes Tony's mind to travel back to his younger days.  He tracks down old  friends, and before soon uncovers secrets to the past that makes him reevaluate his life and his relationships with others.

Some of the passages that resonated with me:

"remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed"

"It strikes me that this maybe one of the differences between youth and age: when you are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, when invent different pasts for others."

"How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? and the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around us to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but --mainly -- to ourselves."

" Sometimes I think that the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however, long it takes, that life isn't all that its cracked up to be."

The Sense of an Ending, winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize, is a short novel (fewer than 160 pages) that packs a punch.  The writing is simply gorgeous, and it tackles one of my favorite themes and plot techniques, the human condition and the reliability of our distant memory.  This is one of those stories that after you turn the final page, you may have several unanswered questions.  It may even cause you to reread some of the sections a second time -- it did me, but in the end, I felt it was well worth it. It's thought-provoking and literary fiction at its finest. I loved this one.


35 comments:

  1. Definitely sounds like a winner! Glad you enjoyed it so much, Diane.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Thought-provoking literary fiction" is what I love.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is one of my favorites from 2011. Love the quotes you selected. I have so many post-it flags stuck in the book, don't know how I'll choose just a few!

    ReplyDelete
  4. This sounds like a book that stays in your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh, you are making me so excited to read this book now. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  6. If you liked this one, I would recommend Brideshead Revisited to you. It deals with some of the same themes, and is just stunningly written. Very nice review today!

    ReplyDelete
  7. This sounds wonderful. Love a book that makes me think about the human condition.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This book sounds wonderful and totally captivating. I love reading a book with breath-taking prose, too. And I enjoy books that stay with me after I'm finished reading and make me think.

    This is a wonderful review, Diane, thank you for posting about this book!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you for the post. I had been considering reading this and after reading your review I know I want to. Love the theme of the remembered past. Frances

    ReplyDelete
  10. The Sense of an Ending was one of my favorite 2011 reads. I think it's one I'll re-read this year (and into the future). I adored it and hope to get to more of Barnes' work this year too. Glad you loved this one!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh my reading list for the new year is getting longer and longer. And I want to read them all first. This one does sound really, really good. I can't wait.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm going to wait and read this after I've read the book. I want to be surprised. I am quite sure I shall love it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Mmm. Interesting take. I like the idea of 'tracking' and 'uncovering'. The title speaks out, too.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I loved this one too - very, very memorable, it kept my friend and I discussing certain aspects for days - especially the barn owl poem and the meaning of the cheque. Looking just at the title - it has three meanings - the obvious one that the ending is finally near, the equally obvious one that ending this whole sad saga really does make sense, and the third one, which is about Adrian Finn - Finn = fin = the end. And I did read it twice in two days. It's a winner!

    ReplyDelete
  15. This fits my desire to read more book with a male protagonist written by a male author. With it being on a couple of favorite read lists, it is a must!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I know I SHOULD read this, and I've seen only positive reviews of it, but for some reason it just doesn't appeal to me.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I think I want to read this one

    ReplyDelete
  18. It's great that you loved it so much! Sometimes those that win the Booker prize depress me (or confuse me).

    ReplyDelete
  19. Oh, that sweet thing called distant memory!! This sounds pretty wonderful and I must say that I love the idea of a shorter book with a big punch!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Not one I've ever heard of before, but it's one that I'm sure I need to read. Thank you for the review.

    ReplyDelete
  21. That really does sound so interesting!!,

    ReplyDelete
  22. My book club meets on 19th to select our books for the year and I am considering this one. It's brief, but is it discussion-worthy?

    ReplyDelete
  23. This is on my TBR list. Between you loving it and Zibilee comparing to Brideshead I'm going to try to get it sooner rather than later.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I'm glad to see you liked this one. I put it on hold at the library a while ago. I like books that make me think.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thank you so much for your sweet comment on my blog!

    And I'm so glad to read your review of this one. I'd just read about it somewhere else, and thought that might be one for me, but now I'm sure I've got to read it!

    ReplyDelete
  26. I'll have to put that on my list. Right now I am hooked on the Donna Sloane Guido Brunetti detective series. I love reading them and have several that I am working my way through. I've read eight already.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I loved your review, and am very much looking forward to reading this one soon!

    ReplyDelete
  28. This sounds like something I'd really enjoy - particularly given my recent "thing" for books about men. Not sure what's up with that, but this one's definitely going on the list!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Does sound compelling, especially with good writing...

    ReplyDelete
  30. I really need to find time to read this book. :)

    ReplyDelete
  31. I keep hearing good things about this one. I'm sure I'll read it at one point. 5 star books are hard to ignore!

    ReplyDelete
  32. I saw this in store and was surprised at how slim it was. It does sound good though!

    ReplyDelete
  33. I was not interested in this at all until reading your thoughts and the quotes. The fact that it's short is an added bonus :)

    ReplyDelete
  34. Glad that you enjoyed this one. I'm waiting for my copy to come from the library, and I hope to get to it soon.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I just got my copy of this book from the library. I also saw that this was the first book you read this year. I just had to come and see what you thought. I'm so glad you liked it and I'm even more excited about tackling this one.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to visit and double thanks for any comments. If you ask a question in your comments, I will try to reply to it here, or by email if your settings allow me to do so. Thank again for visiting.