Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Length: 150 pages
About: Mysterious letter raises life-changing questions
Style: 1st person
Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit.
Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life.
Now Tony is retired. He's had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. 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.
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, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams;
- another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface;
- bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door. This last isn't something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed.
...“The Sense of an Ending” is a short book, but not a slight one. In it Julian Barnes reveals crystalline truths that have taken a lifetime to harden. He has honed their edges, and polished them
to a high gleam.
New York Times, Liesl Schillinger November 10th 2011 for full review click here
Not so good
...The first-person narration has to conform to the limits of Tony's decent but - as he knows - hardly Adrian-level intellect. Mostly Barnes succeeds, although a key image of the Severn Bore –
that tidal anomaly in which "nature was reversed, and time with it" – seems to bear the author's more than the narrator's stamp...
The Independent, Botd Tonkin, Friday 05 August 2011 for full review click here
About the author
Barnes was born 19 January 1946 in Leicester, although his family moved to the outer suburbs of London six weeks afterwards. Both of his parents were teachers of French. He has said that his
support for Leicester City Football Club was, aged four or five, "a sentimental way of hanging on" to his home city. He was educated at the City of London School from 1957 to 1964. At the age of 10,
Barnes was told by his mother that he had "too much imagination". In 1956 the family moved to Northwood, Middlesex, the 'Metroland' of his first novel. He then went on to Magdalen College, Oxford,
where he studied Modern Languages. After graduation, he worked as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary supplement for three years. He then worked as a reviewer and literary editor for
the New Statesman and the New Review. During his time at the New Statesman, Barnes suffered from debilitating shyness, saying: "When there were weekly meetings I would be paralysed into silence, and
was thought of as the mute member of staff". From 1979 to 1986 he worked as a television critic, first for the New Statesman and then for The Observer.
His wife Pat Kavanagh, who was a literary agent, died on 20 October 2008 of a brain tumour. Barnes wrote about his grief over his wife's death in an essay in his book Levels of Life.