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The Sense of an Endingby Julian Barnes
Julian Barnes won the Man Booker Prize for this lyrical little tome, and, in spite of the controversy surrounding the prize and the 2011 shortlist, I believe he deserved the award. It's the kind of book that one races through, stopping every now and then to relish a particularly elegant turn of phrase.
A reflection on time, aging, memory, and remorse, The Sense of an Ending packs a giant sentimental (but not schmaltzy) punch. Beginning in an English boarding school (I am such a sucker for boarding school stories!), the book follows Tony Webster through school, college, relationships, marriage, work, and middle age. Tony is completely unaware of his part in a tangled relationship between himself, his ex-girlfriend, and his best friend. Decades later, Tony receives a letter from a lawyer indicating that he has inherited his best friend's diary, yet his ex-girlfriend won't give it up. Trying to somehow comprehend the relationships, his part, the results, and the nature of this mess, Tony begins to question not only his own past but his memories of that time as well. The 2011 Man Booker prizewinner, The Sense of an Ending is quiet, clever, and lovely.
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Compelling....His reputation will surely be enhanced by this book. Do not be misled by its brevity. Its mystery is as deeply embedded as the most archaic of memories." Anita Brookner, The Telegraph
"Barnes builds a powerful atmosphere of shame and silence....As ever, Barnes excels at colouring everyday reality with his narrator's unique subjectivity, without sacrificing any of its vivid precision....Novel, fertile and memorable." The Guardian
"A dexterously crafted narrative of unlooked-for consequences." The Sunday Times
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?
About the Author
Julian Barnes’s honors include the Somerset Maugham Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2004 he was named Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture. He lives in London.
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