The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes

The Sense of an Ending Winner of 2011 Booker Prize

Five words from the blurb: retired, memory, imperfect, insight, past

The Sense of an Ending is a quiet, reflective book and if you know me then you’ll immediately hear the alarm bells ringing. This book has virtually no plot and, unlike the fabulous Anne Enright, Julian Barnes failed to to engage me in his slow tale.

The story is seen through the eyes of Tony, a retired man who is suffering from loneliness and the depressing knowledge that his life won’t go on forever. He reflects on his life, worrying that he hasn’t achieved anything noteworthy.

There are some plot elements, but I wont explain them here for fear of spoiling this brief book; all I can say is that they didn’t excite me.

On a positive note The Sense of an Ending is quick and easy to read. There are also lots of little snippets of wisdom.  

The less time there remains in your life, the less you want to waste it. That’s logical, isn’t it? Though how you use the saved-up hours…well, that’s another thing you probably wouldn’t have predicted in youth. For instance, I spend a lot of time clearing things up – and I’m not even a messy person.

I can see why this made the Booker long list, but I’m probably just too young to appreciate this sort of book.


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  1. Sandy says:

    Yes, as soon as you said that, I thought “oh boy this isn’t good”. I really just don’t get Bookers sometimes. Why would you need to be old to enjoy a nominated title?

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I think older people will enjoy reflective books like this much more than us younger folk. I don’t mind it when the judges select books that I don’t enjoy, as long as I can see the quality. This book is of a far better standard than any of the other books I’ve read on the long list this year and so I’m actually happy it made the long list.

  2. stujallen says:

    I really want to read this Jackie from the list this is the one other than strangers child that jumped out at me ,I like his other books arthur and George should won ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, I have high hopes that Strangers Child will equal the quality of this one. I just hope I enjoy its plot more. ;-)

  3. Teresa says:

    I have most of Julian Barnes’ novels as keepers so I’m still looking forward to this one! A bookish friend is sending me the audio-book version which she enjoyed – she did mention that she thought it probably works better in audio than in the printed version – will report back in due course. :-)

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, I can see how the audio might work better. There is a lot of dialogue so a good multi narrator recording could be excellent. I’m not going to listen to it, but that is good advise for those who haven’t tried it yet. Thanks.

  4. I have another book by Julian Barnes on my wishlist, England, England, which was recommended to me. I think I’ll skip the book you reviewed here – as you already read it, so I don’t need to. :-)

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, I have a few of Barnes’ other books on my shelf and they all appeal to me more than this one did. I will be trying them at some point as I know he can write well. I think it was just a case of the subject matter failing me on this occasion.

  5. Lucybird says:

    I tend to give up on books with little plot, would probably be the case with this one from what you’ve said.

    1. Jackie says:

      Lucybird, If this had been any longer then I don’t think I’d have made it through. Luckily it was a very short book ;-)

  6. I’m quite curious to read this one, as I recently read a Barnes short story in The New Yorker and loved it. In some ways, it sounds quite similar to On Canaan’s Side, which I am enjoying thus far.

    1. Jackie says:

      Carrie, On Canaan’s Side has just arrived in at my library and so I’ll be reading it next. I hope I have better luck with it than this one, but I look forward to comparing notes on both books.

  7. Jenners says:

    I might be too young for it too. : )

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, Way too young :-)

  8. Steph says:

    I really really like Julian Barnes (or at least, I believe I do, having only read one of his books, but loving it all the same!), so I am sure I will try this one at some point. The topic is interesting enough and sometimes I think I have an old soul, so maybe it will work for me!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I read Arthur and Goerge and loved it, but this is very different in style. I’m sure I’ll enjoy some of his other faster paced novels, but this didn’t do anything for me. :-( I hope you have more luck.

  9. Mrs.B says:

    This was just ok for me certainly not great nor good enough to make the shortlist although with the mediocre competition it just might win the big prize. (spoilers) why do you think the mother left that bequest anyway? What was the point? I really disliked the Veronica character. Everytime she’d say ‘you really just dont get it do you?’ I wanted to scream ‘No I dont get it!’ I mean how was Tony supposed to guess all that? Now, I dont get why he was left the diary anyway. I dont think that its Tony’s fault that Veronica’s family was filled with tragedy.

    1. Jackie says:

      Mrs. B,” with the mediocre competition it just might win the big prize.” I agree with you. I don’t see the magical prize winning sparkle in this book, but all the others have been very disappointing so I’m sure this will make the short list and it could even win.

      I’m not sure why she left the diary. I guess it just provided a way for him to look back at the past.

      I wasn’t a fan of Veronica, but she didn’t enrage me in the same way as she did you – she didn’t engage me enough to do that. I was faintly bored throughout the entire book and so didn’t care enough about any of the characters to want to scream at them. :-(

  10. shari says:

    I LOVED this book. It can be slightly slow but I thought it had so much to say and he says it so beautifully!!!!


  1. August Summary – Farm Lane Books Blog
  2. Who will make the 2011 Booker Short List? – Farm Lane Books Blog
  3. The Booker Prize Announcement – Farm Lane Books Blog

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