The Sense of an Ending

Publisher: Vintage Canada
Winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize and #1 international bestseller, The Sense of an Ending is a masterpiece.

The story of a man coming to terms with the mutable past, Julian Barnes's new novel is laced with his trademark precision, dexterity and insight. It is the work of one of the world's most distinguished writers.

Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they navigated the girl drought of gawky adolescence together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they swore to stay friends forever. Until Adrian's life took a turn into tragedy, and all of them, especially Tony, moved on and did their best to forget.

Now Tony is in middle age. He's had a career and a marriage, a calm divorce. He gets along nicely, he thinks, with his one child, a daughter, and even with his ex-wife. He's certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer's letter is about to prove. The unexpected bequest conveyed by that letter leads Tony on a dogged search through a past suddenly turned murky. And how do you carry on, contentedly, when events conspire to upset all your vaunted truths?


I remember, in no particular order:
– a shiny inner wrist;
– steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it;
– gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house;
– a river rushing nonsensically upstream...
Read More


1. Would you describe Tony Webster as an ‘unreliable yet sincere narrator’?

2. To what extent do you think Julian Barnes uses “peripeteia”, the unexpected twist in plot, to encourage the reader to adjust their expectations?

3. Do you agree with Anita Brookner’s review, “...

Read More


A New York Times Notable Book

“Exquisitely concise, The Sense of an Ending...offers a merciless portrait of late-twentieth-century males.... This novel lingers.” The Globe and Mail
 “Barnes builds a powerful atmosphere of shame and silence.... As ever, Barnes excels at colouring everyday reality with his narrator’s unique subjectivity, without sacrificing any of its vivid precision.... Novel, fertile and memorable.” The Guardian
“A dexterously crafted narrative of unlooked-for consequences.” The Sunday Times

"A brief but potent work about memory, class, sex and the way we imperfectly bear witness to our own lives.... Each of Barnes's meticulously written sentences bears lingering over, and the novella's impact has a visceral power." Winnipeg Free Press
"Julian Barnes may well have written his best novel--he has certainly told a wonderful story that is all too human and all so real." The Irish Times