The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes: Review

June 21, 2013 1:52 pm

Winner of the Booker Prize in 2011, it’s safe to say that I expected a lot from Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending. I hadn’t read a bad review of it, and since the novel is only 150 pages, I settled down to read it in a short amount of time. The Sense of an Ending follows the life of Tony Webster, as he recollects his life from college to university to marriage. But his memories become more and more centred around two people in particular: Veronica Ford, Tony’s ex-girlfriend, and his friend from college Adrian. The Sense of an Ending questions memory and the passage of time in such a way as to enable a great shock at the end – are Tony’s memories truly to be trusted?

Whilst I did enjoy the ending twist and Tony’s character, the novel didn’t quite do it for me. Tony’s constant self-questioning began to grate on me after a while, and the turns of phrase such as ‘philosophically self-evident’, whilst giving the characters individuality, became more than a little irritating to read. The novel is only 150 pages, but once you start reading it feels a lot longer.

Julian-Barnes-007I felt that there was something missing from Barnes’s novel, and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. I did want to find out more about Adrian and why Tony’s memories seemed to be fixated on Veronica, yet I would not describe the novel as “unputdownable”. I could have stopped reading The Sense of an Ending at any point and still have been able to sleep at night without knowing the ending.

So whilst there are some positive aspects to Julian Barnes’s Booker Prize winning novel, it is mediocre at best. A satisfactory read, but certainly not something that will blow you away.

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