Saturday, 16 August 2014

"The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes | Review

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: The Sense of an Ending
AUTHOR: Julian Barnes
PAGES: 150


Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form 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 for life. 
Now Tony is retired. He's had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce, 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.

This book seemed exciting to me, which is why I wanted to read it. I picked it up randomly at a charity shop and noticed that it had won the Man Booker Prize in 2011, and with that in mind I was excited to give it a try. At just 150 pages, I didn't think the book would take too long to read either, which I thought would be useful seeing as I set myself such a large number of books to get through this month.

The book is split into two parts. Part one opens with a bullet point list of things that the narrator remembers. All of the things listed are mentioned and bought up later in the novel, which I think is pretty clever, although when reading the book I didn't really notice this. 
The story is based around the narrators perception of himself and his life. He discusses throughout the opening few paragraphs that although time "holds us and moulds us", it's difficult to understand. I felt this was a strong and thought-provoking opening, although at times I felt it quite complex and wordy (almost TOO complex and wordy).

To me, there are merely three main characters involved in the entire story, with a handful of supporting characters that help to tell the story and move it forwards. 
The obvious protagonist is Tony, the narrator, who tells us the story of his life. He reflects on his school days, being a typical hormonal teenager who is always after sex and who acts like he is the business when really he knows nothing. In essence, he's extremely pretentious and I found him quite arrogant.
Equally, Adrian (his friend) is also pretentious and arrogant. It's clear that the narrator wants us to perceive him as the most intelligent and knowledgeable of the group, but I felt that actually he was probably just an ordinary guy who knew a lot of big words that no realistic teenage boy knows. 
The final lead role goes to Veronica. She's a complicated character who clearly has a lot of issues. I felt that there was something exceptionally odd about her throughout the entire novel which made her extremely annoying to me. She was exceptionally rude and so difficult to understand. I was constantly suspicious of her and her motives, and felt that she could not be trusted. Tony clearly wants us too see her as enigmatic and mysterious, but to me she was just over the top. 
All in all, to me, the characters weren't great. They were all flawed in some way (which is good) but they were also too perfect in other ways which made them seem completely unrealistic. No sixteen year old boy talks that way!

The setting is kind of irrelevant until later in the novel, and I felt that it was used really well in the second part. The fact that the narrator is constantly going out of his way to gain answers is crucial to his character development and did help me to understand him as a person a little better. 
The use of time in this novel is really important as it is constantly shifting between memory and the present, and this is really clever. It seems that quite a lot of Tony's thoughts about the past have become blurred and tainted, and this makes the novel quite interesting to read. You never really know if what he's saying is entirely accurate or not.

I could only give this book 2 stars. I found it boring at times, and a little unnecessary. It wasn't exactly enjoyable but the idea was kind of clever, although I'm still not sure I understand it entirely. I felt that Barnes was trying to make a point although I'm not entirely sure what exactly that point was. 


  1. I have heard things about this book and thought it might be enjoyable as well, but seeing as you only rated it a 2 stars and said it has some boring parts, I think I can tell this isn't really something for me. I don't like books that take too long to get to the point and can't keep me engaged.

    1. I can't deny, I was super disappointed with it!