The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes – 8/10

“His action had been unphilosophical, self-indulgent and inartistic: in other words, wrong.”

This review is completely impossible to write. Nevertheless, I shall try. It’s partly my own fault – I read the book in October or November and it’s been lying around waiting to be reviewed ever since.

I don’t want to rate this highly, but I sort of have to. It is so smooth, so readable, and yet so cleverly worded and framed and constructed, that despite the narrator’s almost repulsive self-justification, you HAVE to keep reading.

Tony Webster is an ordinary sort of man, reminiscing now about his time at school and university and the group of friends he had at that time. He drops tiny hints along the way that his account might not be an entirely objective truth, but the scale of his unreliability as a narrator comes as a shock.

Some of my favourite quotes:

“We live in time – it holds us and moulds us – but I’ve never felt I understood it very well.”

“In the meantime, we were book-hungry, sex-hungry, meritocratic, anarchistic.”

“Yes, of course we were pretentious – what else is youth for?”

“But wasn’t this the Sixties? Yes, but only for some people, in certain parts of the country.”

“One of those suburbs which had stopped concreting over nature at the very last minute and had ever since smugly claimed rural status.”

Fortunately, I have a get out of jail free card on this review, namely – I convinced The Book Accumulator that he must buy and read it, which he duly did in short order, and this is what he had to say about it:

Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending, which I read slowly – it was almost meditative – but could not put down. It was justifiably short-listed for the Booker prize; it won, so I suspect the judges were all sixty-year-old men. The narrator recounts his school and student days, and then forty years later has cause to look back at it – as well as at what has happened in the intervening time. I enjoyed the introspective and retrospective view of this life and the narrator’s ruminations as he tries to make sense of one part of his life, until the surprise ending. His hero claims he is average, but it is interesting to judge him as not only above but also below the mean, a limited and not always attractive individual whose memory lapses can be both useful and hurtful. A pleasantly surprisingly short novel about memories and memory and how we view our own history, about changing with age while settling into an ever more ordered and ordinary life, and yet about how life can surprise us, because we just don’t see things as we should.

See? Clever thoughts, articulately arranged. Thanks Dad :-)

Additional info:
This  copy was borrowed from my magnificent local library.
Publisher: Vintage Books, 150 pages
Order The Sense of an Ending from Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards giveaways.

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7 thoughts on “The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes – 8/10

  1. Arlee Bird February 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm Reply

    Maybe I should read this since I fit in the sixty year old men category.

    Lee
    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out
    Twitter: @AprilA2Z
    #atozchallenge

  2. Leeswammes February 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm Reply

    I’m going to read this next month, to be discussed with a group of Dutch book bloggers – we’re meeting up once in a (long) while. It sounds great and I’m really curious about reading it. Not long now!

  3. Mini-Me February 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm Reply

    Well done dad :-)

  4. [...] and philosophical bent of the prize-winner (see also: A Visit From The Goon Squad and The Sense Of An Ending… and The God Of Small Things, while we’re listing prize-winning books I can’t [...]

  5. Matthew (Bibliofreak.net) May 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm Reply

    You’re so right – it’s a book that encourages you to keep reading and almost before you realise, it’s finished. I really enjoyed it and as your Dad says, it creates an almost meditative atmosphere.

    My review: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

  6. [...] beyond the bookshelf, I’ve struggled with a few but then given them good ratings (e.g. The Sense of an Ending, which The Book Accumulator said has an ideal reader who is a white 60-year-old man) or where [...]

  7. […] is very much a type book; if you liked Sense of an Ending, or When God Was A Rabbit, or maybe The Spare Room (Spare Room is the best of these), you will […]

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