Thursday, June 08, 2017

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING




The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes, Alfred A Knopf, 2011, 104 pp
 
 
This was my first Julian Barnes novel and I liked it overall; the writing, the way he created the characters, and the theme about how our memories are subject to change as life goes on. After three earlier nominations, he finally won the Booker for this one.
 
Tony Webster was one of a tight group of friends in his school days, so tight that they vowed to stay in touch for the rest of their lives. Adrian Finn, the latest addition to the group, was the brightest of them and Tony developed quite a bromance with him. 
 
The novel is narrated by Tony who is looking back over his life. He has been divorced for many years but is still "friends" with his wife and in pretty good touch with their daughter. The news that Adrian committed suicide after stealing and then marrying Tony's first girlfriend has kept the other three men in touch, though more sporadically than they had planned. When the mother of the lost girlfriend dies, she leaves a sum of money and Adrian's diaries to Tony in her will even though she and Tony only met once. 
 
As an older man, Tony is the quintessential English man, unadventurous with suppressed emotions. The bequest sends him into all manner of uncharacteristic behaviors and stirs up memories he had completely blocked out.
 
The old girlfriend was a mean, heartless bitch who toyed with the young Tony, especially sexually. She is one of the most unlikable characters I have met in a novel. As the stories of these characters unfold, the reader becomes as obsessed with finding out the truth as Tony is.

Then comes a completely unexpected reveal at the end which left me unsure of how much I liked the novel. We discussed the book at length at the Bookie Babes reading group meeting. I decided that as a novel, it was actually excellent, especially because I didn't see at all what was coming and was made to reevaluate each character. 

How do you react as a reader to surprise endings? The kind that make suddenly make you realize that the book you thought you were reading is something else entirely. I felt a bit like I had been tricked but without that ending I may have found the story somewhat boring and predictable.

Has anyone seen the movie? If so, did you find it good?


(The Sense of an Ending is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)
 
 

14 comments:

  1. I am a Julian Barnes fan, so I'm happy to read that you enjoyed this book. I thought it was brilliant how the ending made us reevaluate everything that we thought we knew about the characters.

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    1. That is what I finally decided, but I needed my reading group to help me get there! Next I will be reading The Noise of Time.

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  2. Yeah I liked how memory is a theme in this and how the reader learns the truth along with Tony. I had to reread my review of it from April to remember the twist -- but it's a doozy. The movie is a bit different but also very effective. You must see the movie! Put it in your queue right away. Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling, can anyone give a glare like she does?

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    1. OK, OK, it is in the queue!!! I am (or was) just afraid that Charlotte Rampling would make me think I was watching that other movie she was in. I think it won an Oscar. Truthfully, I got tired of looking at her in that one.

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    2. Ha! I'm not sure I saw it but I know what you mean. She's has a few that are too similar kinds of characters/roles etc. I did see her in 45 Years ... and I think my husband hated it. Ha!

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    3. That was it! 45 Years. My husband didn't like it either. I thought it was ok but I don't think I would have gotten that upset about a former girlfriend. Too much drama.

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    4. yeah I agree, who cares about your spouse's past girlfriends from so long ago. I surely don't. but maybe his feelings for her still trump those of his current wife ... though it seemed like they had it good,,, so what's the trouble?! sorry for the extra comments, taking up space

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    5. Hey, take up all the space you want! I feel like we are having book club:) I think the wife over-reacted. I think the husband was having a late life crisis. That's my opinion and I am sticking to it.

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    6. I agree completely with the opinions of both on 45 Years. I think she was making too much noise about nothing. I gave it three stars but I kept expecting an earth shattering reveal and it never came. I thought at some point that he had killed his girlfriend and she suspected it.

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    7. Yes! Now you remind me that I also thought there would be some surprising reveal but the movie just petered out.

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  3. I haven't read it and I haven't seen the film but I like your review - they are such a great food for thought. Have a great day!
    P.S. It does not matter how good my weekend was. Life is just so hard on Monday...

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    1. I understand about Mondays. So hard. That is what I love most about being retired. Try to have a good day anyway.

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  4. I haven't read this one but it sounds familiar. I'm not sure I would like a novel that changed my mind about everything I read just at the end, but I know of an excellent one that works somewhat like that, The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian. I only read it once many years ago, but it has stayed in my mind as if I had finished it yesterday.

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    1. Well I think Barnes pulled off the trick ending. I will check out The Double Blind.

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