Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 2011
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, rumor, 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.
©2011 AudioGO (P)2011 Julian Barnes
“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)
Probably not. I got the whole concept of the book that we can't necessarily trust our own memories of things, but I really felt like this book was just so full of itself that I had a hard time relating to it or liking the characters.
No, I think this book is complete in and of itself.
I really wanted to like this book and, with its Booker win, gave it the benefit of the doubt. I think this books was so wrapped up in its own concept of our untrustworthy memories that it failed some in fleshing out characters and creating an intriguing plot.
i like to read. i like to listen.
I'm not sure. I liked the character of Tony. I thought his insights and philosophies were great. I didn't like the ending. I think that this could have been a great character study, if it were just left at that. I didn't need the "shock" ending.
Yes. Definitely. The way that Barnes writes is easy and lends itself really well to listening on audiobook.
I enjoyed his embodiment of Tony. There were some times that I forgot he was an actor, and I really felt that he was telling his own story. That's a huge compliment.
It did. Which is why I would listen to another Barnes story. It made me think of the way that I view my past. And investigate in my own memory if I have invented a history for myself that isn't actually based in fact.
Actor/Writer in ATX "The Most Wonderfully Ridiculous Person" -Kristen Kurtis 93.3 KGSR
This was a surprise favorite of mine. Upon finishing it I immediately bought a hard copy to give to a friend (and so I could scan through to reread some of my favorite moments).
This reminded me favorably of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor, another of my favorite books in this modern, slightly poetic, sometimes vaguely aloof style.
It was ok to listen to in the car. It took a while to get into. Ending came out of the blue, had to go read reviews to understand what had happened. Anticlimactic, left with many questions. According to some reviewers that's what makes it a good book -- the author doesn't hand you everything on a platter -- but to me it seems like he ran up against a deadline and had to finish in a hurry!
No, I don't think my friends would like it.
If it was appropriate to the character. He wasn't a favorite.
What of the most delightful experiences, listening to this sad, sweet and smart story of one man look back on his life. Melancholy and marvelous.
Newly retired, I am a reading fiend! I like many types of books, both fiction and non-fiction, with the exception of romance and fantasy
I wasn't sure I'd like this book, despite its Man-Booker Prize, but it came on sale and I grabbed it. I actually shy away from prize winning books. This book is actually an autobiographic-like story where the main character, Tony Webster, details the relevancies, he believes, of his life history through his relationships.
It is exquisitely narrated by Richard Morant. Morant got to know the character beforehand and he "became" Tony. It is always a cause for celebration when an author and narrator get it just right. This book is a rare listening experience and will reward those who are patient and are willing to give it a thoughtful listen. To me, it felt like a psychological character study, but a selective study according to the narrator's (Tony's) memory. Memory is a big part of this novel. Try to listen carefully to what Tony says about history and memory.
I am willing to guarantee that you will want to listen to the last twenty or so minutes of the story more than once to figure out what really happened. You may think there is enough evidence for you to know what happened. If you are anything like me, you may google "the book's ending explained" and come upon a forum/blog that has been going on for several years, with many folks hypothesizing on exactly what they think happened, all trying to get a sense of the ending. It is that kind of book!
Julian Barnes is not really my cup of tea, so if you're a big fan, disregard this review. This book was very much in his usual vein; fussy, extremely detailed examinations of the main protagonist's inner processes and reflections. Personally I thought the characters' reactions and behaviors were unrealistic much of the time. One character is so incredibly unpleasant (at least if she has appeal it isn't conveyed) that it's impossible to see why anyone would waste time with her, let alone obsess for 40 years about her. Another character feels personally responsible for someone else's personal tragedy for almost no reason. And a romance between two 15-year-olds is treated like the love-story of a lifetime. There are a few interesting plot twists. It was not bad, but I can't say I thought it was good either. I enjoyed some of his other books more.
A lot of books and movies use a tired theme that some people never grow up after high school or have a real life afterwords. It seems implausible that the stupid things people did as a teenager would forever put a stamp on their personality or that the relationships they had would significantly shape their long lives. The school years are really just a blip. The vast majority of people go on to meaningful and successful lives regardless of their teenage intellect or sports prowess or success with the opposite sex.
In the story, an old high school girlfriend, now much older, tells the protagonist that "he just doesn't get it, and never will". She explains nothing. This is like a mature person saying to another the infamous teenager line "whatever". Real people communicate better than that, at least most of the time.
First, I'll say this review is chock full of spoilers, so if you haven't read the book yet, don't read this. Part of the beauty of the book is letting it unfold as it happens, so don't ruin that for yourself.
When I first started this book, it feel pretentious and trite to me because of the predictable feeling, very Tobias Wolff's Old -School, of the (perhaps unrealistic) uber-literate school boys who compete to see who can be the smartest. But then, Barnes presents the boys as they grow up and we see the rest of Tony's (oh, how he'd hate that bit of familiarity, wouldn't he?) story.
Story is so important to this book. It seems the living (almost breathing) embodiment of Joan Didion's idea that "we tell ourselves stories in order to live." How true that statement is for Tony, who lives his life based on how he sees and how he presents his story, complete with his visions and revisions (can great reviewers steal too, Eliot?). What's most interesting about Tony's story is that we really only know HIS story. There are no magical devices or unrealistic events that unfold so that we can know it all; we only know what Tony would know, even as unsatisfying as that may feel at first.
We don't really have an ending, just a sense of an ending, as the title tells us. But, isn't that life? We ourselves do not find it all out. There are stories that exist that we'll never know, yet we carry on. And, isn't that Margaret's point, when she tells the story about the nanny and the diary? Sometimes we seek to know it all, to find out the ending, we end up learning things that we'd be better off not knowing. Yet, from Adrienne's choices, we see that trying to create your own perfect ending, with his philosophically justified suicide(which seemed by the end to be as silly as the boys saying things are "philosophically self-evident"). Adrienne's choice to commit suicide and create this ending is undermined by his actions with Veronica's mother (Veronica who ended up quite damaged after all, almost all because of her interaction with Tony). Through his son, Adrienne's life and story continue on, just as our lives never really end, but live on in some way, however indirect.
The other interesting part of the book is the way history is presented. We often think of history as the BIG events where "something happens" either before, during, after, or because of times of "great unrest." Barnes shows history as personal. And, in this personal account, we see how fragmented, revised, changeable and malleable history can be, even at a personal and perhaps somewhat insignificant level. If this is what happens to our own histories, then how much more complex and complicated is our presentation of larger and more influential historical events?
I loved almost all of the 4 hours and 38 minutes of this book, except for a bit of the masturbation stuff. Maybe I'm just being a prude, but other than showing just how "sex hungry" (a quote from the book's description) Tony was as a young man, some of it just felt well, masturbatory, with no real significance to the book.
Because I liked Arthur and George by this same author, I gave his Booker Prize winner a go, but unfortunately I liked it less. Mostly because it was one big whine by a 60-something white, middle class man who has no one to blame but himself for his blindness and inability to cope with the subtlety of manipulation by others. Especially women. Gasp! So unladylike.
The writing is lovely and there isn’t a lot of extra flesh on the story, but it was difficult to sympathize with Tony Webster who admires his self-styled peaceable nature to the point that you laughed at him just as much as Veronica’s family must have. I agree that memory is fallible and time is more of a solvent than a fixative, but Tony is pretty pathetic. I found his look back at his past to be self-indulgent, which is fine as long as it isn’t boring and it pretty much is.
Overall I think William Boyd had better success with this type of novel because he made his equally fallible characters interesting. The one person who was interesting dies without much screen time and leaves very little in his wake to enlighten the reader as to his motives for suicide. I can see if you are a certain age and a certain temperament, you’d really identify with this book, but I didn’t. Is it because I’m younger? Female? American? That I usually know when I’m being played? Maybe all of the above.
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