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THE SENSE OF AN ENDING: A Novel ~Julian Barnes


THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is actually a long short story told in two chapters.  It is a piece of exquisite writing which will just amaze you, dazzle your mind, and require you think.  The writing is so tight and vivid the very words can control one’s thinking about the story.  It actually takes a bit of effort to see the subject of the story for what it is, and I found that workout to reveal a rather unsavory tale.

The stage of the short story is often to approach a character with problem or trauma one after each other, creating in the story a tension, which quite often leaves the reader pondering or wondering about the bigger outcome. This story has little movement because the narrator is so devoid of emotion and is just step-by-step walking through his life from his boy’s school through his retirement.  Tony just does not seem to understand and he cannot recognize his life lesson. From the first page he is attempting to figure out the meaning, the part he plays in the unfolding of the narrative.

The Mothers in the story are fascinating in that each and everyone attempts to turn on Tony’s emotions and assist him into actually living a life with meaning.  Not even his daughter holds out hope that he will engage in life and just tells him how he can relate to his grandson.  He does note that his ex-wife has a bigger role in his daughter’s life and she is willing to let him talk through his dilemma, but even she lets him know she is done and “he just does not get it”.

The section of the story about the Severn Bore, is a fascinating reveal to the reader that THE SENSE OF AN ENDING is just that as Tony experiences something deeply and is mystified by one of natures occurrences.

“,,,I stayed on the bank my myself.  I don’t think I can properly convey the effect that moment had on me.  It wasn’t like a tornado or an earthquake – nature being violent and destructive, putting us in our place.  It was more unsettling because it looked and felt quietly wrong, as if some small lever of the universe had been pressed, and here, just for these minutes, nature was reversed, and time with it.  And to see this phenomenon after dark made it the more mysterious, the more otherworldly.”

The reader grasps that eventually when Tony gets his smack in the face it is going to be a Tsunami in order for him to understand.  It will be a violent, dark, otherworldly aspect of nature.

I had to read THE SENSE OF AN ENDING two times and enjoy the form and the writing.  The destruction of a school chum who did not have a Mother was compelling and such a devastating emotional tug, it made it hard to double dose.

Julian Barnes online

Mr. Barnes won the Man Booker Award for THE SENSE OF AN ENDING.  He has a long list of successful books and articles.

This book is from my own personal library and I purchased it and analyzed it per the request of my friend DEB who said her book group, folks who are very smart just went on and on about the writing in the story but nothing about the understanding of what the story was trying to tell us – “Just what does it mean and what is it about?”  So thank you DEB for presenting me with this opportunity to share my thoughts about what I read.

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s  from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.  Donations also welcomed.

Recommended Reading:
Half as Happy
The Art of Racing in the Rain
Merle’s Door
What the Zhang Boys Know 

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6 Responses to “THE SENSE OF AN ENDING: A Novel ~Julian Barnes”

  1. Sara Says:

    Patricia — You made me very curious about this book. Normally, I would avoid a book like this, but something about your review makes me curious about it. I really do want to know how Tony gets his “life lesson.”

    Also, what I get from your review is that the writing seems to have almost distracted from the story, which is interesting to me as a novice writer. It obvious you thought the writing well done, but in reading the story, it wasn’t quite what you expected…or, at least, that’s how it seemed to me. I’m not sure I’d buy this book, but if I find at the library, I will definitely check it out.

    This was a very interesting review, Patricia. It was well done.
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    patricia Reply:

    Sara,
    Thank you for your kind words. This book has been out and about for quite a long time and was published as a book on it’s own when the author won the Man Booker Award. He is highly recognized in the UK and by the Queen for his writing.
    This is a stunning example.
    I will have to email you about the life lesson: you know one is either married to, in family with, or given birth too a person one needs to learn to get along with and points out the life work needed. I can not call Tony the hero in the story because he “just doesn’t get it – what he is suppose to see or do ” for his whole life. By not realizing, it he is living a dull programed life and may have cause great hurt and destruction in another’s life. In the several discussions I have been involved in around this book – no one seems to mention this. they go on and on and on about the writing and the tightness of the tale, but they do not want to speculate about the truth of what Tony was missing – they avoid it like the plague. I think for a writer it is a very amazing read.

  2. Hilary Says:

    HI Patricia .. I haven’t read any of Julian Barnes’ books and really should. This sounds like a good start .. but one I’d need to keep my wits about me.

    I understand JB writes very concisely and know that he’s highly regarded ..

    One I need to keep an eye out for .. or get from the Library ..

    Cheers Hilary
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    patricia Reply:

    Hilary,
    Very concise writer – indeed and I would say I needed to be in a mood for this one too. It took me several days of pondering before I could see where the Severn Bore was telling me to go.

    I am sure it is in the library and worth the read.
    You might want to schedule lunch with a fun friend close to finishing this one. Just a suggestion.

  3. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Patricia – I love the idea of a LONG SHORT STORY. Perhaps it resonates because tomorrow I’m post about MY BIG SMALL WORLD.

    Thank you for yet another engaging review.

    patricia Reply:

    Laurie,
    I did like the length of the story – it was just right to tell the tale. The writing is so concise it is worth the read. It has been out in the world for awhile so you might be able to get a loaner on this one.

    I got a Kindle copy from the College Library – it is required reading for one program.

    Amazing writing