The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
|The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
|Category: Literary Fiction
|Reviewer: Robin Leggett
|Summary: This short book is almost perfectly formed. A retired, (and somewhat dull), man is forced to recall events soon after leaving school by an unexpected letter. Full of delicious observation and insight.
|Date: August 2011
|Publisher: Jonathan Cape
|External links: Author's website
WINNER: MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2011
'The Sense of an Ending' is almost more of a novella - it's a slim volume but exquisitely written, as you might expect from Julian Barnes. It starts off describing the relationships between four friends at school, narrated by one of the friends, Tony Webster, but quickly it becomes clear that this is written many years later. Barnes has long been a terrific observer of the English middle classes and his style invariably contains satire and dry humour. And this being Barnes, this school clique is intellectual in interest, as the narrator recalls English and History teachers and student philosophising.
Tony is a middle class everyman. He's unexceptional and his subsequent life has been so conventional as to border on the dull, unlike the catalyst for the story Adrian Finn who is intellectually gifted and a natural philosopher of the human condition. However the friendship falls apart after the friends leave to go to university and Adrian enters into a relationship with Tony's ex-girlfriend. And that would have been that, except that many years later a mysterious letter opens up the past causing Tony to reconsider the actions of his youth.
It's a book about history and how we recall events. Tony has his memories but without evidence or corroboration, how sure can he be? Do the lessons learnt in the History classroom apply to the individual? What starts off in the manner of Alan Bennett's 'History Boys' soon turns into a darker mystery as Tony is forced to face up to the actions of his younger self.
It's a joy to read. Thought provoking, beautifully observed with just enough mystery to keep you turning the pages to find out what happened. Books that involve the narrator examining their own actions can get too easily bogged down, but by keeping it brief, this never happens with Barnes. There's insight into the human condition and gentle philosophy without it becoming too introspective. It's very readable literary fiction.
Older readers in particular will relate to Tony's struggle with the modernities of the current day.
It's a terrific little book and is highly recommended.
Our thanks to the kind people at Jonathan Cape for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
I'd whole heartedly recommend anything from the Julian Barnes backlist - why not try Arthur and George for a start?
You can read more book reviews or buy The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes at Amazon.com.
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes is in the Man Booker Prize 2011.
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes is in the Costa Prize 2011.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.