The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes

As the authors of this year’s shortlisted Man Booker Prize take to the stage to read short extracts from their nominated novels, it only seems fitting that I should write about a previous Man Booker Prize winnerThe Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.

To give an honest account of Barnes’ novel however, controversial as it may be, it is perhaps only right that this piece of information be forgotten (I rather like making my own mind up about a book). Admittedly this was rather easy for myself, having been happily unaware of the novel’s critical acclaim, and instead having been drawn to the book by the blurb alone…

The narrative promises an interesting read – Tony Webster, Barnes’ leading character, receives a lawyer’s letter more than 40 years after the suicide of his school friend, Adrian Finn. The contents of this letter dredge up a whole host of surprises and forgotten memories for Webster, who is forced to face his past in all it’s uncertainty.

I wish I could say that Barnes’ delivered on this promise, yet sadly I have to disagree. The premise of the novel is undoubtedly interesting, yet the more I read the more I felt as if the narrative wasn’t going anywhere. It seemed to wander aimlessly through some great bits of writing, but by the end I felt as if I had still missed the point. The characters are not likeable, although neither are they un-likeable – they exist in a strange in-between place, neither remarkable or interestingly unremarkable, they are simply there. In short, the word ‘apathy’ springs to mind, or maybe even boredom…I think I can honestly say that I hated every moment of reading this book.

Such criticism may seem harsh, but given that the novel won a highly prestigious award not too long ago, it seems that I am outnumbered on this front. But who am I to make up your mind for you?! Find out for yourself – ignore me, and go pick up a copy! What one man hates, the next may love!


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