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The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending

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Written by Julian BarnesAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Julian Barnes

  • Format: Hardcover, 176 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • On Sale: October 5, 2011
  • Price: $23.95
  • ISBN: 978-0-307-95712-2 (0-307-95712-8)
Also available as an eBook and a trade paperback.
about this book

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 new 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.

“Both surprising and contemplative in its reflection on the nature of love, life, and how we’ve chosen to live.  It is a novel that can be read in one sitting, but it is bound to reverberate through a lifetime of changing memories. . . . Upon its conclusion I had to wonder if what I had read could be so affectingly brilliant.” —Drew Gallagher, The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

“Barnes tackles hefty questions—of love and death, aging and memory, the fragile origins of self and the immutability of one’s character, once formed. And he has the wisdom to let the questions fester, unanswered, as the novel extends. . . . By [that] time we readers will find that Barnes has led us, cunningly and unexpectedly, into the misty depths of a truly grand, epistemological mystery. The Sense of an Ending is a stunningly powerful book, distinguished by the clarity of Barnes’s insights and the concision and dexterity of his prose. That he manages to pack it all into such a small, pitch-perfect package might be its greatest accomplishment.” —Doug Childers, The Richmond Times Dispatch

“Deceptively simple yet tantalizing. . . . The ending one senses is that of the lie we too often tell ourselves, that we are not to blame. Barnes’ prose is as clear and direct as his character’s memory is murky and evasive. And the story is so perfectly structured, the voice of the narrator so perfectly pitched, the light it shines into the dark, unexamined recesses of the average, everyday soul so penetrating, that it will haunt you for weeks.” —James D. Watts, Jr., Tulsa World

“A mystery of memory and missed opportunity. . . . Evelyn Waugh did it in ‘Brideshead Revisited,’ as did Philip Larkin in "Jill" [and] Kazuo Ishiguro in ‘The Remains of the Day.’ Now, with his powerfully compact new novel, Julian Barnes takes his place among the subtly assertive practitioners of this quiet art. . . . He engages with the untidy collisions of the human struggle more directly than ever [and] reveals crystalline truths that have taken a lifetime to harden.  He has honed their edges, and polished them to a high gleam.” —Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times Book Review

“Brief, beautiful. . . . That fundamentally chilling question—Am I the person I think I am?—turns out to be a surprisingly suspenseful one. . . . As Barnes so elegantly and poignantly revels, we are all unreliable narrators, redeemed not by the accuracy of our memories but by our willingness to question them.” —Julie Wittes Schlack, The Boston Globe.

“A brilliant, understated examination of memory and how it works, how it compartmentalizes and fixes impressions to tidily store away. . . . Barnes reminds his readers how fragile is the tissue of impressions we conveniently rely upon as bedrock.” —Tom Zelman, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[A] jewel of conciseness and precision. . . . The Sense of an Ending packs into so few pages so much that the reader finishes it with a sense of satisfaction more often derived from novels several times its length.” —Martin Rubin, The Los Angeles Times

“Elegant, playful, and remarkable.” —The New Yorker

“A page turner, and when you finish you will return immediately to the beginning. . . . Who are you? How can you be sure? What if you’re not who you think you are? What if you never were? . . . At 163 pages, The Sense of an Ending is the longest book I have ever read, so prepare yourself for rereading. You won’t regret it.” —Jane Juska, The San Francisco Chronicle

“Dense with philosophical ideas. . . . [I]t manages to create genuine suspense as a sort of psychological detective story. . . . Unpeeling the onion layers of the hero’s life while showing how [he] has sliced and diced his past in order to create a self he can live with." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Ferocious. . . . a book for the ages.” —John Freeman, Cleveland Plain Dealer

“An elegantly composed, quietly devastating tale about memory, aging, time and remorse. . . . Offers somber insights into life’s losses, mistakes and disappointments in a piercing, thought provoking narrative. Bleak as this may sound, the key word here—the note of encouragement—is ‘insights.’ And this beautiful book is full of them.” —Heller McAlpin, NPR

“With his characteristic grace and skill, Barnes manages to turn this cat-and-mouse game into something genuinely suspenseful.” —Jeff Turrentine, The Washington Post

An iceberg of a novel. . . . Concisely written and yet rich and full of emotional depth. . . . At times, side-splittingly funny, at others, brutally honest, but always delightfully well observed. . . . Ironically, despite focusing on endings, and on suicide, this a tremendously life-affirming work. It’s highly original as well. And complicated, just like life.” —A.J. Kirby, New York Journal of Books

“A tragedy, like Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. . . . Its mystery is as deeply embedded as the most archaic of memories.” —Anita Brookner, The Telegraph

“Of universal importance . . . full of insight and intelligence [about] youthful sex, inhibition, class, regret, and false recollection. . . . A very fine book, skillfully plotted, boldly conceived.” —Justin Cartwright, The Observer

“With great but invisible skill, Barnes squeezes into this novel not just a sense of the infinite complexity of the human heart but the damage the wrong permutations can cause when combined. It is perhaps his greatest achievement that, in his hands, the unknowable does not mean the implausible.” —Michael Prodger, Financial Times

“Quietly mesmerizing. . . . A slow burn, measured but suspenseful, this compact novel makes every slyly crafted sentence count. . . . [T]he concluding scenes grip like a thriller–a whodunit of memory and morality.” —Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

“Dexterously crafted [with] polished phrasings, elegant verbal exactness and epigrammatic perceptions. . . . Uncovering, link by link, an appalling chain reaction of briefly wished-for revenge, almost accidental damage, and remorse that agonisingly bites after most of a lifetime, it’s a harsh tale rich in human resonances.” —Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times

“Novel, fertile and memorable. . . . [A] highly wrought meditation on aging, memory and regret.” —Justine Jordan, The Guardian

"Deliciously intriguing . . . with complex and subtle undertones [and] laced with Barnes' trademark wit and graceful writing." —Corinna Lothar, The Washington Times

“Ominous and disturbing. . . . This outwardly tidy and conventional story is one of Barnes’s most indelible [and] looms oppressively in our minds.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“The slender, 163-page volume is a finely wrought, succinct repudiation of the dim nostalgia and self-serving recriminations inevitably employed while combing through the perceived tragedies of one’s past.” —Matthew Love, Time Out New York

“Exquisitely crafted, sophisticated, suspenseful, and achingly painful, The Sense of an Ending is a meditation on history, memory, and individual responsibility.” —Glenn C. Altschuler, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“From the haunting images of its first pages to the surprising and wrenching finale, the novel carries readers with sensitivity and wisdom through the agony of lost time.” —Publishers Weekly