The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

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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 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.


I picked up The Sense of an Ending to read after watching and loving the movie. After reading this I wonder how much I would have enjoyed the book had I read it before seeing the movie. I loved the movie and the book was disappointing for me as it was...just not as good. Which rarely happens. I am going to be referencing the movie a bit in this review because it really affected how I enjoyed the book. 

This story is all about memories and how you might not remember everything that happens, or might not remember it exactly right many years later. Which was the same as the movie, but the movie was not linear. You got bits and pieces of the past when they came up. When the main character was thinking about them. But this story was written more linearly which...I didn't enjoy as much. It is split into two parts, the first being what happened in the past. It is told just as a story from point a to point b. The second part is where the main character gets reminded of what happened and realizes he might not have known everything that was going on or even remembered some of the things that happened. was alright. But I couldn't help but want it to be more like the movie. The movie was a bit open, it ended and you weren't really 100% sure if some things happened or they didn't. And I liked that. I liked the uncertainty and how that is like your memories. The book was more straightforward and let you know this is what happened. This is how it was and this is how the main charactered remembered or misremembered it. I thought I was going to have more of an ambiguous story, but it was all laid out for us. And after reading it was like oh, okay, that is what happened. While it was never explicitly stated in the movie, it was in the book. And that was a disappointment. I liked the not knowing for sure. The is this how it all played out? The movie made me think about it for a long time afterward. I saw it with some friends and we discussed it the entire train ride home. And even the next day. The book with its straightforwardness was just oh, that is interesting. Next. It was forgettable in a way that I didn't enjoy as much. 

The other main difference between the book and the movie was the tone. The movie was a lot of fun and I laughed at times. The book I read as much more serious. I tried to read it with the lighthearted tone of the movie, but I couldn't manage it. That could just be me as I have read other books that I read has serious, but then they turned them into humorous movies. But the same scenes, the same lines that I laughed at in the movie were serious in the book. So it was an interesting read. I know this is a lot of comparing the book and the movie, but that is what I was doing while reading this. I do wonder how much I would have enjoyed it had I read it prior to seeing it. But it didn't work out that way so it was just a meh read for me. 

Rating: ★ ★ ★


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