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)
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.
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.
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.
Not for the faint of heart or faint of vocabulary. Wonderfully written. After reading so much fiction, it's nice to hear this intellectual story with emotion woven in as well. Narrating was exceptional. I recommend, but only if you don't mind British, intellectual sounding stories with hints of vulnerable emotions!
The story dragged on and on with the author analyzing the minutiae of his life and what it meant. By the time of the 'big reveal' I was hoping they would all jump off into the river and end everyone's misery.
Impossible to discover absolute truth and identity. Lapidary prose, meaningful but highly nuanced; ending is impressionistic.
Myst/thrillers and ✨fun fantasies✨are my favorites but always open for a good story.
Different Philosophies of fundamental fragments of our lives and how self absorbed/or not, we may become. Does age = intelligence? As he ages these are some of the questions that Tony, our main character, is asking himself when he finds himself on his own. It's remarkable how two people can have a memory of the same occasion and it be completely different for each of them, which leads us back to self absorption. I did have to re-read the last bit of this, because like many, I was trying to put two and two together. Pay close attention to the little things.
A great read for philosophy classes everywhere. The narration fit the story and had good timing. I think many people will have different feelings about the ending. I liked it. It made me use some gray matter.
it is always a matter of perspective
understanding one self
I thought the performance was good
I love how audible introduces me to different types of books' books that I would never purchase but your daily deals "lure" me in. Thank-you again
This book was horrible! The plot wasn't interesting, the characters were as limp as a dish towel, and even the setting of London was reduced to a boring and mindless place! I really don't understand how listeners could give this an overall rating of 3 1/2 stars and have 710 reviews.
This book was ok. I was waiting for some big reveal at the end, and finished thinking "what's the big deal?" Still not sure why Veronica was so angry, sure, Tony "didn't get it", but how would he get it unless someone (she) told him. And (without spoilers), why Adrian would kill himself over, well, why he killed himself, left me scratching my head, I mean yes I am from a different generation, but seems to me Tony shouldn't beat himself up over it, Adrian was likely to kill himself anyway, for some other reason, if he killed himself over that reason. I gave it 2-3 stars because I liked how the story unfolded, but I once it completely unfolded I was left very disappointed. Oh well.
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