The Sense of an Ending


The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. Alfred A. Knopf 2011.

The winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize is a slight book, 163 pages in length. It is divided into two parts. In the first section, narrator Tony Webster tells of his boyhood friendship with Colin and Alex. Late in their school years, the threesome are joined by Adrian, who is brilliant and never quite one of them, but a friend nonetheless. As they head off to university, they go their separate ways but stay in touch. Tony meets Veronica and they go out for a year before breaking up and moving on. Eventually, Tony marries and has a daughter and a career and divorces and retires, an average sort of life. In Part Two, Tony is now sixty-something. One day, he receives an unexpected letter that brings forgotten details of the past back to mind and Tony revisits those earlier days.

Tony speaks intimately to the reader, prefacing comments with phrases such as “You can probably guess that …” and “As you can imagine,…”. Gradually, as Tony investigates the letter he has received, a secret from the past is revealed, a secret that reshapes his understanding of past events and his own life.

As you would expect from a much-honoured author such as Barnes, winner of many literary awards, The Sense of an Ending is gracefully written and an evocative and insightful exploration of memory and time and aging.

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