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Cover image for The sense of an ending
Format:
Title:
The sense of an ending
ISBN:
9780307360816

9780307957122

9780224094153

9780307947727
Publication Information:
Toronto : Random House Canada, ©2011.
Physical Description:
150 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"This is a Borzoi book."
Summary:
By an acclaimed writer at the height of his powers, The Sense of an Ending extends a streak of extraordinary books that began with the best-selling Arthur & George and continued with Nothing to Be Frightened Of and, most recently, Pulse. This intense new novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he has never much thought about--until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance, one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony Webster thought he'd left all this behind as he built a life for himself, and by now his marriage and family and career have fallen into an amicable divorce and retirement. But he is then presented with a mysterious legacy that obliges him to reconsider a variety of things he thought he'd understood all along, and to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world. A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single sitting, with stunning psychological and emotional depth and sophistication, The Sense of an Ending is a brilliant new chapter in Julian Barnes's oeuvre. -- Book cover.
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Barnes, J.
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FICTION - BARNES
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FICTION - BARNES
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FIC BARNES 2011
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BARNES
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FICTION BARNES
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Barnes, J.
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Barnes, J.
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Barnes
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FIC BARNES
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BARNES Julian
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Barnes, J.
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On Order

Summary

Summary

Winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize and #1 international bestseller, The Sense of an Ending is a masterpiece.

The story of a man coming to terms with the mutable past, Julian Barnes's new novel is laced with his trademark precision, dexterity and insight. It is the work of one of the world's most distinguished writers.

Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they navigated the girl drought of gawky adolescence together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they swore to stay friends forever. Until Adrian's life took a turn into tragedy, and all of them, especially Tony, moved on and did their best to forget.

Now Tony is in middle age. He's had a career and a marriage, a calm divorce. He gets along nicely, he thinks, with his one child, a daughter, and even with his ex-wife. 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 unexpected bequest conveyed by that letter leads Tony on a dogged search through a past suddenly turned murky. And how do you carry on, contentedly, when events conspire to upset all your vaunted truths?


Author Notes

Julian Barnes was born in Leicester, England, on January 19, 1946. He received a degree in modern languages from Magdalen College, Oxford University in 1968. He has held jobs as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary, a reviewer and literary editor for the New Statesmen and the New Review, and a television critic.

He has written numerous works of fiction including Arthur and George, Pulse: Stories, The Noise of Time, and England, England. He received the Somerset Maugham Award in 1980 for Metroland, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 1985 and a Prix Medicis in 1986 for Flaubert's Parrot, and the Man Booker Prize in 2011 for The Sense of an Ending. He also writes non-fiction works including Letters from London, The Pedant in the Kitchen, and Nothing to Be Frightened Of. He received the Shakespeare Prize by the FVS Foundation in 1993, the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 2004, and the David Cohen Prize for Literature in 2011.

He writes detective novels under the pseudonym Dan Kavanaugh. His works under this name include Duffy, Fiddle City, Putting the Boot In, and Going to the Dogs.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

In Barnes's (Flaubert's Parrot) latest, winner of the 2011 Man-Booker Prize, protagonist Tony Webster has lived an average life with an unremarkable career, a quiet divorce, and a calm middle age. Now in his mid-60s, his retirement is thrown into confusion when he's bequeathed a journal that belonged to his brilliant school-friend, Adrian, who committed suicide 40 years earlier at age 22. Though he thought he understood the events of his youth, he's forced to radically revise what he thought he knew about Adrian, his bitter parting with his mysterious first lover Veronica, and reflect on how he let life pass him by safely and predictably. Barnes's spare and luminous prose splendidly evokes the sense of a life whose meaning (or meaninglessness) is inevitably defined by "the sense of an ending" which only death provides. Despite its focus on the blindness of youth and the passage of time, Barnes's book is entirely unpretentious. From the haunting images of its first pages to the surprising and wrenching finale, the novel carries readers with sensitivity and wisdom through the agony of lost time. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

At once commanding and subtle, Barnes has created a refined novel intensely suspenseful in its emotional complexities and exemplary in its arresting tropes, rhythms, revelations, and musings on the puzzle of time and the mysteries of memory and desire. And how masterfully Barnes induces us, page by page, to revise our perceptions of and feelings toward his ensnared narrator. Cordially divorced and smugly retired, Tony is yanked out of complacency by a perplexing letter. The recently deceased mother of his disastrous first love has inexplicably bequeathed him the diary of a school friend of his who committed suicide. As Tony seeks an explanation, Barnes turns evocative motifs--the way Tony and his friends wore their watches with the faces on the inside of their wrists; the night Tony witnessed the Severn Bore, a powerful tidal surge that reverses the river's flow--into metaphors for how we distort the past and how oblivious we are to the pain of others. Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Barnes' sublimely modulated and profoundly disquieting tale of delusion, loss, and remorse ends devastatingly with a crescendo twist. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Barnes is a British author Americans follow with high attention, and this novel secured him the Man Booker Prize.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

THE narrator of Julian Barnes's acclaimed novel "The Sense of an Ending" is told by Veronica, a girlfriend from his university days, that he just doesn't get it. Then, after more clues have come his way, she tells him that he still doesn't get it. There are so many things he doesn't get that he even considers using the line as his epitaph: "Tony Webster - He Never Got It." My feelings exactly. I didn't get the book when I first read it I still didn't get it when I reread it after Barnes won this year's Man Booker Prize, and Stella Rimington, chairwoman of the judging panel (and former head of MI5), said there was more to get each time you read it. To me, there seemed less to get second time around. If such a thing is possible, I didn't get it even more than I hadn't got it first time around. However, to pick Up on one of the book's themes, the accumulation of not getting things can add up to a kind of understanding. "The Sense of an Ending" is a very short novel in which Tony keeps circling back to memories of Veronica, particularly to a mildly anxious weekend he endured at her parents' house. This was back in the '60s, before the '60s really became the '60s, when all but a few pockets of England were stuck in a slightly less austere addendum to the late '50s. That weekend begins to makes sense only in light of what comes after - which in turn has to be seen in the context of what came before, when Tony and two friends were at school. These school days are actually rendered rather brilliantly, especially the moments in which a new boy, Adrian, bursts on the scene, startling the friends with his precocious intelligence. Later, after Tony has broken up with his girlfriend, Adrian commits suicide. This would be my first objection. Obviously people commit suicide, for a variety of reasons, but in fiction they tend to do so primarily in the service of authorial convenience. And convenience invariably becomes a near-anagram of contrivance. Plotwise, not a lot happens. Veronica's mother dies, leaving Tony, by now retired and divorced, some money and a "document" that turns out to be Adrian's diary, only a copied fragment of which Veronica is willing to release to Tony. This excerpt ends tantalizingly, "So, for instance, if Tony." The rest of the book, not surprisingly, involves Tony trying to get his mitts on the diary. The paucity of action gives Tony ample opportunity to reflect on - and enact - the self-serving and self-deceiving workings of memory. "Again, I must stress that this is my reading now of what happened then. Or rather, my memory now of my reading then of what was happening at the time," Tony declares in one of several reiterations of the book's central ideas. These ideas might better be termed common-places. But while commonplaces tend to dress themselves up in their Sunday best to assume greater weight, Barnes has always treated them lightly so that, by a kind of negation of the negation, they are taken . . . seriously! (Note Barnes's pre-emptive body swerve: announced early on, one of Adrian's pet aversions is "the way the English have of not being serious about being serious.") Something similar operates at the level of feeling. The author's famous restraint and withholding take on the form - and are evidence - of a powerful emotion that is being held in. How do we detect this submerged pressure of emotion? By the fact that it has been so thoroughly restrained as to appear nonexistent. Absence is proof of presence. We must be fair. Quizzed by a master at school, Adrian comes up with a breathtaking aphorism: "History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation." It turns out Adrian is quoting a Frenchman, Patrick Lagrange. Proof that Barnes doesn't have any ideas of his own! Except that Lagrange has been invented by Adrian (on the spur of the moment), and self-evidently by Barnes, which means he does have ideas of his own! But this then throws up a rudimentary technical problem, namely, that we are expected to believe that Adrian could have come up with a formulation - and an alleged source - not only implausibly beyond the capacities of even the most precocious adolescent but distinctly sharper than anything else his creator manages in the course of the book. Tony's less startling observations often take the form of rhetorical questions posed by "a pedantic, unignorable bore" who does not like "mess" and, as He puts it in one of his endless perambulations round the point, can "only be straightforward." Not that he is a pathologically unreliable narrator. He is a reliably unreliable narrator, a representative of the national average. Ever since he left school, Tony reliably informs us, he has been "average": "Average at university and work; average in friendship, loyalty, love; average, no doubt, at sex. There was a survey of British motorists a few years ago which showed that 95 percent of those polled thought they were 'better than average' drivers. But by the law of averages, we're most of us bound to be average." Now, the delineation of ordinariness is not a peculiarly English preoccupation. The narrator of Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe trilogy leads "the normal applauseless life of us all," and tells us about it in a "no-frills voice that hopes to uncover simple truth by a straight-on application of the facts." In Ford's hands, this becomes an ambitious undertaking that has the sprawling amplitude of a prose continent at its disposal. Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, Barnes's infolded scrupulousness seems every bit as well adapted to a reduced idea of English fiction, to a habit of reading that appeals (I get it!) and wearies (yeah, I get it!) in equal measure. The English Ford - Ford Madox Ford - prepared the narrative formula in "The Good Soldier" ("Is all this digression or isn't it digression?") in 1915; instead of being patented, however, it was, so to speak, nationalized. A recomposition of the passively active ingrethents can be found in Kazuo Ishiguro's narratives of wanly undermined selfevasion, most notably "The Remains of the Day." The efficacy of the mixture is tried and tested even if the precise sources remain obscure - but if they are recognized then so much the better. Thus Barnes's title gives averagely wellinformed readers a preparatory pat on the back as they recognize that it has been lifted from a well-known book of criticism by Hugh Kenner. This was not one of those years when the Man Booker. Prize winner was laughably bad. No, any extreme expression of opinion about "The Sense of an Ending" feels inappropriate. It isn't terrible, it is just so . . . average. It is averagely compelling (I finished it), involves an average amount of concentration and, if such a thing makes sense, is averagely well written: excellent in its averageness! Two final points. First, unreliability is not the sole preserve of fictional narrators. Second, the pleasure of patting oneself on the back for seizing on instances of unreliability and ignorance is, as the late Frank Kermode may or may not have pointed out, considerable. Julian Barnes's infolded scrupulousness matches a reduced idea of English fiction, a habit of reading that appeals and wearies. Geoff Dyer is the author of "Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews, 1989-2010" and other books. His column appears regularly in the Book Review.


Library Journal Review

When we look back on our lives, what do we remember from our experiences? Tony's story starts and finishes with his school chums, one of whom commits suicide during his college years, and his first girlfriend. When he is contacted by someone from 40 years in his past, he must reexamine events, memories, causes, and results. The pacing is steady and the insights poignant, although the ending is a bit contrived. Narrator Richard Morant moves smoothly between the awkward, loud voice of an English schoolboy, the all-knowing college student, and the resigned elder. VERDICT Barnes's 14th book and winner of the Man Booker Prize, this short novel will best appeal to readers of introspective literature. [The Knopf hc, published in October, was a New York Times best seller.-Ed.]-J. Sara Paulk, Wythe-Grayson Regional Lib., Independence, VA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.