The Sense of an Ending...is dense with philosophical ideas.... Still, it manages to create genuine suspense as a sort of psychological detective story. We not only want to find out how Mr. Barnes's narrator, Tony Webster, has rewritten his own history—and discover what actually happened some 40 years ago—but also understand why he has needed to do so.... Mr. Barnes does an agile job...of unpeeling the onion layers of his hero's life while showing how Tony has sliced and diced his past in order to create a self he can live with. In doing so Mr. Barnes underscores the ways people try to erase or edit their youthful follies and disappointments, converting actual events into anecdotes, and those anecdotes into a narrative.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times
In Barnes's (Flaubert's Parrot) latest, winner of the 2011 Man-Booker Prize, protagonist Tony Webster has lived an average life with an unremarkable career, a quiet divorce, and a calm middle age. Now in his mid-60s, his retirement is thrown into confusion when he's bequeathed a journal that belonged to his brilliant school-friend, Adrian, who committed suicide 40 years earlier at age 22. Though he thought he understood the events of his youth, he's forced to radically revise what he thought he knew about Adrian, his bitter parting with his mysterious first lover Veronica, and reflect on how he let life pass him by safely and predictably. Barnes's spare and luminous prose splendidly evokes the sense of a life whose meaning (or meaninglessness) is inevitably defined by "the sense of an ending" which only death provides. Despite its focus on the blindness of youth and the passage of time, Barnes's book is entirely unpretentious. 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.
Life has been good to Tony Webster, who's both contentedly retired and contentedly divorced. Then friends reappear from a childhood long left behind and presumably shelved, and as the past suddenly looms large, Tony must rethink everything that has been his life. In the hands of multi-award winner Barnes, this should be masterly—and, with the book under 200 pages, there's a gorgeous simplicity at work.
A man's closest-held beliefs about a friend, former lover and himself are undone in a subtly devastating novella from Barnes.... [S]peaks to Barnes' skill at balancing emotional tensions and philosophical quandaries. A knockout. What at first seems like a polite meditation on childhood and memory leaves the reader asking difficult questions about how often we strive to paint ourselves in the best possible light.
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