Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 2011
The powerful, unsettling, and beautifully crafted new novel from one of England’s greatest contemporary writers.
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 retired. 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.
The 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.
A complete and unabridged reading by Richard Morant.
©2011 Julian Barnes (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
“Elegant, playful, and remarkable.” (The New Yorker)
“A page turner, and when you finish you will return immediately to the beginning . . . Who are you? How can you be sure? What if you’re not who you think you are? What if you never were? . . . 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.” (The San Francisco Chronicle)
“Dense with philosophical ideas . . . it manages to create genuine suspense as a sort of psychological detective story . . . Unpeeling the onion layers of the hero’s life while showing how [he] has sliced and diced his past in order to create a self he can live with. (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)
“Barnes seems equipped to write with humour and elegance about anything he turns his attention to” (Financial Times)
"The tongue like a sharp knife, kills without drawing blood." Budha
In 150 pages, about 4.5 hrs listening, Barnes--nothing less than a word wielding genius--has written a poignant little novel that packs a big psychological punch, wherein every perfectly placed word evokes powerful images and thoughts. [Refers to Henry VIII as the "polygamist royal butcher".] (*No doubt there will be philosophical discussions longer than this book about this book.) But, my lovely journey with this petite gem didn't start out so lovingly...
Having read a few award winners in my time, I plugged in my earbuds and waited to be wowed while I indulged in the luxury afforded to us with audible books--multi-tasking. Two-thirds the way through this book I was about to toss it. Yes, the writing was masterful, the characters, though only briefly sketched out were still relevant and interesting, but the story itself seemed whiny and pretentious, overall depressing to the point of being a tiresome listen. But, In just a few words, I suddenly went from irritated to intrigued; ultimately I was awed and regretted an ending, so I listened again. I really listened. I sat down and this time was absorbed in the luxury of writing at its best. I've read the 6 books shortlisted for the Booker--my opinion is they got it right.
Like one character says in the book, this is "like an onion and reveals itself in layers"--the reader is dropped in to walk along and sense this experience, not be wowed by a complex plot, not to have the mysteries neatly explained. Sleek, eloquent, precise, and Richard Morant is an articulate narrator that heightens the experience. I went to the book store and bought a copy. It's with me still, on my book shelf and etched in my mind.
I come from Ireland, went to college in the States, and now live and work in Japan.
The middle-aged narrator is living in fairly comfortable retirement, divorced from his wife, and filling his time with virtuous but hardly strenuous pursuits when he receives an unexpected solicitor's letter informing him of a delayed bequest from the long-dead mother of a college friend. Difficulties ensue, and this brings him back in contact with an old girlfriend from the 1960s. The story unravels slowly with some fine and rather wicked social observations, leading to a surprise ending which I must confess I found initially rather difficult to understand. The narration is excellent and the writing is finely-honed and dryly intelligent as one has come to expect from Julian Barnes. He does this sort of thing less brashly than Martin Amis and slightly better than Ian McEwan.
Can a 4 and a half hour book ever be referred to as a "tour de force" -oxymoron isn't it? Well this one can as far as I'm concerned. The writing is crisp and clever and the story intriguing. Filling in the details is left to the mind of the creative listener. This creativity is an aspect I enjoyed for a change having listened recently to wonderful epics by Martin, Follet, Courtney and Gabaldon where filling in the blanks is seldom required. I highly recommend this book and encourage listeners, especially those who might be put off by its brevity, to give it a try.
This was a very short book. Clever, and loved the ending. That's what kept me going..... the ending, and what it would be. Nothing I suspected, and that in itself was satisfying. I enjoy the quirky sense of humour the author interjected. Parts of it made me laugh out loud. Good when you just need a short book, well written!
I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.
Winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize for best fiction, The Sense of an Ending is a compact, deliberate, and extremely thoughtful story of the blind spots we all have when it comes to viewing our own actions, flaws...and perhaps even our own emotions.
We meet Tony at a point in his life when everything seems tidy and settled; his raised his daughter, retired from his work, and forged a friendly and supportive relationship with his ex-wife. He seems satisfied and proud that his life is well sorted, and that there are no loose ends or unfinished business he'd be leaving behind if the end was to come. He prizes and relies on this orderly world he believes he has created.
When a delivery from a lawyer arrives, with a message from a very unexpected source, he's forced to question the reality of his "tidy world". We watch his emotions grow from surprise, to curiosity, to (perhaps) obsession. We watch Tony learn that perceptions and memory can be misleading; and through this, we receive the lesson ourselves.
This book isn't for people that like their endings tied with a bow. Readers are given all the information needed to piece together what actually transpired all those years ago; but just like our main character, it's your job to finish putting the puzzle together.
The story does deal with adult content; you won't want to listen to this one in the car with your kids around. That said, it's a striking work with phenomenal narration, and I'm still thinking about it days after I finished.
Densely short and shockingly subliminal...this book is one of the finest I have read for plot and narration. The reader and the plot seem meant for each other.
A terrific novel that is wonderfully read in this audio version. The nuance of Barnes writing is beautifully conveyed and the characterizations are taught and believable.
It's a meandering tale about a bunch of school chaps who like each other and really are over-awed by one of their members who later comes to a sticky end. And the details of this sticky end are confined to the last few pages leaving it to the reader to fill in the blanks, which isn't too hard. Turns out, their idol had feet of clay. Don't want to be too specific and give away the ending, but the whole book seems to culminate in those last few pages.
The little blurb out this book you get before buying it doesn't really have much to do with the story. The story was just interesting enough to keep me listening to the end, which had an unexpected twist. The main character's ex-girlfriend keeps telling him "You just don't get it. You never did." I have to admit that I didn't get it either.
The writer is clearly skilled but the actual ending of this story was just not worth the effort. An unsympathetic protaganist and a pointless end. The reviews misled me but maybe someone saw something in this that I sure didn't.
"The Sense of an Ending"
A wonderful book, beautifully read. As soon as I had finished I wanted to start listening again.
"Sense at the end"
Being committed to complete this book in as few sittings as possible is important, and not too difficult a commitment, given its compactness. At the half way point, this seems to be a plodding biography and a big mistake - but suddenly things pick up and what you are treated to is a thrilling display of plotting, narrative construction and some reason insights into that most tragic of all human conditions - remorse.
Whilst Barnes is a wonderful exponent of the narrative twists and turns from have followed on from the mechanics of Post-modernism, it is the appeal to real, commonly held emotions that separates Julian Barnes from the crowd. Very well recommended, a hugely enjoyable and rewarding read.
"A book to read again"
I can't tell you exactly why, but I loved this book. It was definitely enhanced by the narrator who read it in a very natural way.
Don't let the short length of this fool you, it has all of the story and detail needed to tell it. Any more would have been unnecessary.
Work of art. The structure is deceivingly simple; Barnes masterfully weaves together an interlocking series of memories that are only understood from the vantage point of hindsight. The story is not what matters here; it's self-realisation and the power of memory. We construct who we are through selective memory and Barnes reminds us how important it is to view the past - and, indeed ourselves - from a wider perspective in order to fully understand.
A wonderful performance. Morant 'gets' it.
This novel is so deserving of the Booker and rightly sets Barnes amongst the giants of literature.
"I can't recommend this enough"
Exquisite prose beautifully read. I love the way in which the listener is left to fill in the gaps in the story. A truly first class listen.
"A real gem of a book"
This book absolutely hooked me. The story is gripping and I found myself looking forward to the time when I could get my next chance to listen. The narrative accelerated rapidly towards the end and I did a lot of thinkling about it to pull the threads together but the reading is sympathetic and the characters well deliniated. The real pleasure is in the beautiful writing, expertly delivered by Mr Morant, making it a very rich experience.
I listened to the book in its entirety while on a long car trip and it had me hooked from the start to the finish.
It is beautifully written and wonderfully narrated. It is an intriguing story all the way to the closing pages when the details of what happened forty years previously are finally revealed. Or are they? There are some clues that would suggest that the revelations at the end may not be all they seem to be. At the very least, a re-listen is in order as some incidents in the story may have a much greater importance than they seemed to have on the first listen.
"A sense of brilliance"
The is the story of Tony, a man in his sixties who is reflecting on the events in his life. His boyhood friends form a pretentious yet intelligent clique and this is stirred by the introduction of Adrian, a charismatic boy who they all want to impress. Tony is reflecting on a particular set of events where there is a central mystery that he just doesn't get. As the tale unfolds you are slowly drawn in and begin to appreciate exactly what Tony is trying to resolve.
This is a tale of how even the dullest of lives can be filled with mystery. It is also about how time affects how we interpret events and how much even the most intelligent people can misunderstand.
Richard Morant does complete justice to this extraordinary book. This is one of the most thought provoking stories I have ever read.
"Life in the book"
A life in a (short) novel. Starting in a primary school, with story of four friends, and continuing to university years and romantic connection which will leave big effect on their lives...
Very short, but very atmospheric, conveys feelings of a narrator, who is now retired, and telling a story of his life. At one point, book switches from narration of the past to narration in actual present time, but it almost does not lose pace or interest with that change.
While the story is relatively ordinary (and main character admiting he had a normal and probably boring life), feelings are conveyed very realistically, and it also make you think about how we see time, history and past events. It is quite an achievement that in such a short story, narrator manages to tell a lifetime-long story, pose few philosophical questions about life, and also does it in literally interesting way.
Not perfect, but recommended reading...
The writing of this story is simply beautiful. I finished it in two listens as it drew me in from the first sentence. I don't think I have thought so much before about the pictures we paint or the stories we tell ourselves, of our own life and events in it over the years. Especially not whilst listening to a fictional book anyway. It's been in my library for a while and I put off reading it but now am taken aback with its depth and insight and feel it is a gem amongst all of my books.
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