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The Sense of an Ending: A Novel | [Julian Barnes]

The Sense of an Ending: A Novel

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

“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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (817 )
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4.0 (695 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Beth Anne Philadelphia, PA, United States 11-14-12
    Beth Anne Philadelphia, PA, United States 11-14-12 Member Since 2012

    i like to read. i like to listen.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Short easy OK listing."
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    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.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Julian Barnes again?

    Yes. Definitely. The way that Barnes writes is easy and lends itself really well to listening on audiobook.


    What does Richard Morant bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    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.


    Did The Sense of an Ending inspire you to do anything?

    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.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Houston, TX, United States 08-08-14
    David Houston, TX, United States 08-08-14 Member Since 2008

    Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving. Love the reviews.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Beautifully written tedium is still tedium"

    I am old enough that I should be able to relate to this novel quite easily. It is clear that a lot of people do. It is about the unreliability of memory and how that intersects with an accumulating sense of responsibility for actions which now lie partially obscured by our inexact recollections of the distant past.

    The book begins with a good deal of discussion of the nature of history, but what is never said is that, after participants in events have had their shot at justifying or condemning their own actions, the real work of evaluating is done by people who have some useful distance from which to observe. Memoirs are not history whether they condemn or exonerate. They are only useful as raw material for later evaluation. And I can think of few activities more useless and self indulgent than picking apart one's own memories in search of untapped resources of guilt. Dealing with the readily apparent lapses is quite enough to keep most of us occupied. Besides, it seems to me that living as well as one can in the present is the real moral and ethical imperative and is quite enough to keep one busy and challenged as long as breath lasts.

    That said, Julian Barnes, with his gorgeous prose and seductive way with the nagging mysteries of common life, comes close to making the tedious, ad infinitum self-examination palatable. And Richard Morant's voice and pace brought the obtuse Tony to convincing life (though he did not provide a voice for any of the other characters). Nonetheless, when I finished listening to the last, perfectly turned phrase, I breathed a sigh of relief.

    I hope this review is transparent enough to allow listeners who love a bit of very stylish wallowing in self-reproach to recognize that this is a book which will delight on every level. I think this is one of those works which will please or disappoint based on temperament rather than taste.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted Austin, TX, United States 06-04-13
    Ted Austin, TX, United States 06-04-13 Member Since 2012

    Actor/Writer in ATX "The Most Wonderfully Ridiculous Person" -Kristen Kurtis 93.3 KGSR

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Exquisite & Haunting"
    Where does The Sense of an Ending rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    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).


    What other book might you compare The Sense of an Ending to and why?

    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.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    LJ Web CA USA 03-22-13
    LJ Web CA USA 03-22-13 Member Since 2005
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    "brief, depressing glimpse into a bleak life"
    Any additional comments?

    Shades of brown and black, relieved only by the stark white light shining upon the too-frequent masturbation scenes. Characters you don't even want to like, let alone care about. I persevered through the entire ~5 hours, which seemed like 20, and nothing improved. There is a strange plot twist at the end, but it feels absolutely meaningless, since it involves characters we know virtually nothing about. On the up side, the narrator is great. I just hope he didn't feel suicidal after spending so much time with this author's work.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. Bryan SA, TX 02-12-13
    L. Bryan SA, TX 02-12-13 Member Since 2010
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    "It was ok, but certainly not uplifting!"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    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!


    Would you recommend The Sense of an Ending to your friends? Why or why not?

    No, I don't think my friends would like it.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Richard Morant?

    If it was appropriate to the character. He wasn't a favorite.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    no


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. Bowen New York, NY United States 01-15-14
    P. Bowen New York, NY United States 01-15-14 Member Since 2006

    Chally

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    "Genius"
    Where does The Sense of an Ending rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    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.


    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bookmarque 07-25-14
    Bookmarque 07-25-14 Member Since 2007

    ksx2

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    "Wait, you say people lie? You must be kidding."

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathy Davis, CA, United States 05-14-14
    Kathy Davis, CA, United States 05-14-14 Member Since 2008

    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

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "So glad I finally listened to this novel!"

    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!

    Highly recommended!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dubi New York, NY, United States 05-11-14
    Dubi New York, NY, United States 05-11-14 Member Since 2011

    People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Sense of Style"
    What made the experience of listening to The Sense of an Ending the most enjoyable?

    I had zero expectations from this book, neither positive nor negative. I literally knew nothing about or its author. It showed up one day as an Audible Daily Deal. I recognized one of the author's previous titles, though I hadn't read it. I saw from the description that it was about a relationship and friendship, but gleaned little more about it. I saw that it won a Booker Prize. But that was it. Bottom line, it was cheap enough (as an Audible Daily Deal) and short enough (at under five hours) for me to take a chance.

    Right off the bat, the book was charming and engaging. It was to the point, telling its story, as Strunk and White advised writers, in a precise and concise manner. Not a word is wasted. And still, Barnes has enough room to muse philosophically about the fluidity of history and memory in developing his characters and setting up his double-twist ending. It was a quick, easy, and most importantly satisfying listen.

    And kudos to the Audible Daily Deal -- mission accomplished: introducing me to a new author I had never heard of before and whom I will go back to as soon as possible.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Sense of an Ending?

    The final reveal is the most memorable moment. This is not a book designed to deliver memorable moments -- it is more of a meditation, an uncovering of the true history of one character as one veneer of rationalized memory after another is peeled back from his consciousness. But then comes the first reveal, which you can see coming, and then the truly memorable final reveal, which was most unexpected.


    What about Richard Morant’s performance did you like?

    One year into the world of audiobooks, I still cling to the notion that the author is the only factor that matters. True, I've been drawn to Wil Wheaton's readings of comic sci-fi and George Wilson's characterizations in various Florida crime fiction, plus a few other notable performances. But this is altogether different -- having no prior knowledge of the author or what to expect, I was instantly drawn into the book by its charm, quickly engaged by its minimalist story.

    I have to give a huge portion of the credit to the narrator. I never felt that I was listening to a performance. Once, I went back and checked to see if the author was reading it himself, because it was so perfect. After that, I came to believe that I was listening to the protagonist telling his own story. Can a reader do any better than that?


    Any additional comments?

    You'll have to take my word for this, that this came to me only after I finished this book, that I wasn't deliberately looking to prove a point about another book, but my assessment a few weeks ago of "Kavalier & Klay" is now validated, at least to myself. Barnes proves in this short novel that you can make every word count, that there is an elegance in telling a story economically and straightforwardly, that Strunk & White are still relevant and still correct in their manual of style, and that Michael Chabon had infuriatingly overwritten and under-edited K&K, its Pulitzer Prize and near-universal praise notwithstanding.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KP United States 05-07-14
    KP United States 05-07-14 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Exquisitely Crafted, Exquisitely Narrated"

    I am so glad this book was a daily deal recently, or else I might never have stumbled across it. This is an exquisitely crafted novel that follows the life of an amusingly self-involved young man, and the seeming chaos that happens around him as he moves through life unremarkably and largely unharmed. Doesn't necessarily sound like much... and yet, I found myself hanging on to every word, and even rewinding to listen again (and, unusually, I bookmarked several great quotes -- I love the Audible app!).

    The writing is simply incredible, with the story (though dreary at times) and philosophical musings the equivalent of the "icing on the cake". Had I read it instead of listened, I might have given it four stars. However, layering on the narrator with his perfect cadence and inflection (and the British accent that automatically makes me like things slightly more) got me to give this five stars.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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