The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes (2011)

Genre: Contemporary Realism
Interest level: Adult
The Sense of an EndingOne of the joys of reading so much young adult fiction is the unexpected delight in finding terrific novels written specifically for adults. If that’s not clear, I mean that my eye is always considering a book’s appeal for younger readers. So when I come across an amazing novel that not only is aimed at older readers, but is decidedly unappealing for teens, it catches my attention. This one delights my, um middled-aged soul! It’s my first time reading Barnes, who won the 2011 Man Booker Prize with this little gem (150 pages). Tony Webster is in his 60s, divorced, retired, and finds himself looking back on his life, contemplating the nature of time and memory. This isn’t a story of dissatisfaction; rather Tony is looking at his view of what happened and poking at it, trying to unearth the truth in events he didn’t fully understand. “The unexamined life” and all that, you say? It’s more than that – in this novella Tony is confronted with evidence that challenges his memory of what happened. It’s ugly evidence too – this is not always a likable or sympathetic character. The evidence causes him to reconsider his old and new assumptions about his life and himself. Along the way, he examines the process and effect of examining, essentially. Flashbacks mix it up in what is a largely self-narrated novel, and moments of comedy lighten the seriousness. And just a page from the end, Barnes delivers a shocking turn of events, leading the reader and Tony to instantly review everything we’ve understood and assumed.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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