The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending

by Julian Barnes

Overview: A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single setting, The Sense of an Ending has the psychological and emotional depth and sophistication of Henry James at his best, and is a stunning achievement 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.

Judy Stanton (04/25/17): You can't help but appreciate an author who manages to tell an interesting story, develop characters and relationships, and accomplish it all in just 150 pages. The Sense of an Ending is the story of the loves and lives of a small group of high school buddies in England as told by Tony Webster. The second half of the book brings the reader back to him in middle age and moving on to retirement, as he learns about the fate of one of his former mates and a former girlfriend. Looking back, the reader realizes that his memory and recollections are flawed. The book is deep, with psychological and philosophical issues discussed with professors and students. It felt a little heavy at times, and perhaps something that should be read again. But, I think I'll settle for just seeing the movie. :) 4-
Rating: ****-

Marie Geesa (07/21/14): After reading Gail's excellent review of this book I picked up a copy and was also intrigued by this very interesting novel and all its psychological aspects concerning perceptions, memories and maturity. (I too was delighted that it was only 160 pages - I know, I know, authors love words and the more the better!) But about halfway thru I had the feeling that this book reminded me of another and I realized it was "Reunion", a novella of 112 pages by Fred Uhlman published in 1971. The characters, dates, settings and circumstances are all different but both books contain circumstances which drastically change the memories of the aging Tony Webster and Hans Schwartz.
Rating: ****

Gail Reid (06/26/14): In this short novel, we first meet Tony Webster and his 3 close friends as bored British adolescents, all of whom have intellectual curiosity and girlfriend deprivation. The friends go off to different universities with occasional meet-ups where they have the opportunity to meet Veronica, Tony's first serious relationship. When the relationship does not work out and Veronica eventually takes up with Adrian, one of the boyhood friends, Tony initially accepts this fact. Months later, he writes Adrian of his true feelings and dismisses the friendship forever. A life altering event occurs some months later.

We gain some momentum in the second part which features Tony reflecting over the past 40 years of his life. His marriage ended in divorce but his relationships with his ex-wife and daughter are friendly. As he muses over his life, he seems content with a peaceful life free from adventure or conflict, even if it seems somewhat drab to him.

When he receives a surprise and mysterious bequest from someone he met briefly 40 years before, he delves into a mystery never before explored. Tony is forced to re-examine his long-ago relationships and the role that memory plays as we age.

Part mystery and part character analysis, this is an exceptional and compelling read.

Why I recommend this book: FINALLY, an author who can tell a story without unnecessary padding of the narrative and unnecessary embellishment. Viva the short novel at 160 pages!! The prose is excellent; Julian Barnes is an accomplished writer and not obtuse like many other British novelists. The clues to the mystery are presented throughout but we fail to see them. And, it forces a look at self-examination. How do we look at things differently as we age?
Rating: ****

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