The Sense of an Ending

Book Club, Book Reviews / Sunday, October 13th, 2013

I was so happy to have been pushed to read The Sense of an Ending by my book club.  It has been on my TBR 12280827for a while and on my shelves for about 6 months.  I enjoyed this book so much that I’ll be holding it up as an example of why short, sweet, and precise is a lot better than long-winded winding and vague.  What a brilliant book!

The Sense of an Ending is the story of Anthony, nickname Tony.  It ranges from his life as a 15-year-old boy at school till he’s a man in his sixties.  We see how the events of our past aren’t always remembered accurately and are sometimes even completely forgotten.  Barnes constructs a simple story of friendship, love, and life, which gradually becomes something a lot more surprising.  The writing style is simply ingenious and each word was obviously chosen conscientiously.  Some may find Tony a bit of a wimp always complaining and never facing any of the difficulties he was confronted with.  From his failed marriage with Margaret, to his daughter Sophie, and his ex-girlfriend Veronica, frankly, he’s not very reactive.  “He just doesn’t get it.”  The phrase that’s repeated constantly the last quarter of the book.  In spite of all of his whining, I still liked him.  He seemed to be a man trying to lead a very normal life no matter what, which is what most people do.

The ending left me bewildered so my first reflex was to reread the last 20 pages.  That still didn’t help me understand.  At that point I felt that the interaction between Veronica and Tony was a way to fuel the end of the story, particularly Veronica repeating “you just don’t get it” all the time.  Well at my book club discussion we finally worked out the mystery and then things seemed to fall into place a lot better for me.  The Sense of an Ending made sense, however I can see how some people might completely pass over the ending and not getting it.  The clues are in Tony’s past and it’s for the reader to find the sense of the ending.

The only other book I’ve read about the fragmentary nature of memory is Marcel Prout’s Swann’s Way from the  series In Search of Lost Time.  Julian Barnes goes about it in a different way but I feel it’s worth the read and simply special in its own way.  Barnes is English and is known for writing novels, memoirs, short stories, and essays.  He won the Man Booker Prize in 2011 for The Sense of an Ending.  He’s also well-known for having written other memorable novels such as Arthur & George, Flaubert’s Parrot,  and England, England, which were all shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.  He won the  Prix Médicis Étranger for Flaubert’s Parrot and the  Prix Femina Étranger for Talking it Over.

18 Replies to “The Sense of an Ending”

  1. Thank you for this recommendation!! I was “trying to get it” though the last portion of the book and FINALLY, I got it. I really enjoyed this book and totally agree some of the best stories are the short and sweet ones. I laughed out load at times when Tony had to catch himself from going astray and force sticking to the task at hand. Another great book.

    1. It’s just too bad that Tony was slow to catch on to everything. Veronica’s family was very perverted and her mother was a mess. Tony was lucky to have escaped all of that and unfortunately it drove his best friend Adrian to his death.

  2. Still haven’t read this one, but I did manage to get through the 828 page winner from this year, but so I should, it is very rare that we ever see an author from New Zealand win any kind of literary prize, just a pity that the size may put many people off. 🙂

      1. Usually I save books like that for a holiday, days of reading bliss, so it was an effort to make time to finish it in a week, but I found it compelling reading, thank goodness it had pace.

        Happy Birthday! Wow you’ve got some great books to read and love your Paris video, hadn’t heard of Berkley Books, what about Shakespeare & Co, is that worth a visit?

        1. Thanks I was so spoiled! 😀 Yes it is but it’s usually full of tourists. I like Berkley Books and San Francisco Book Co. because they are small and I can’t spend a good while before too many people show up. Shakespeare and Co. is an institution not to be missed. Eventually I’ll do a video there.

          1. I’m going to be in Paris from the 25th to the 30th Dec, any chance you might be there then? I must start making an itinerary of where to visit, after reading Hemingway, I do want to see Shakespeare & Co and the cafes he frequented and also the book carts along the river.

            Let me know if you want to spend a winter’s day in Paris 🙂

          2. Wow that’s great! I’d love to hang out with you. I should be back by Saturday in the afternoon from Ardèche. Maybe I could come and hangout on Sunday the 29th with you. We could do Shakespeare & Co. and some other stuff. I’ll keep you posted by email. 🙂

          3. Intriguing, think it will be easy to get into, didn’t read last night as I went to see Malavida instead, you must see it, it’s set in Normandie. My friend thinks they misrepresented how many people in the village spoke English, I said I think its more common in the North, but she’s probably right.

          4. Me neither and I know nothing about Luc Besson, but it’s kind of like a homage to Scorcese’s early gangster films, there is some of that gangster brutality, but the French location and the subtle humour, even if not entirely realistic is entertaining.

  3. I just read this book, per your recommendation, and I absolutely loved it! I finished it thinking, “Wow, this little bugger packs a mighty punch!” I usually figure out mysteries in novels but this one had me stumped. Thanks for the recommendation Didi! Keep up the great work with this awesome blog!

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