I’ve loved Julian Barnes’ work since I read A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters back in the postmodern fictions course I took as an undergrad. He’s really skilled at taking a simple story and unpeeling it for it’s complexities and the elements of it that we often overlook. Plus, he can do absurdity – even the common, every day kind – really well.
So when I saw A Sense of an Ending on the shelf at my little local library, I had to check it out – because I really wanted to read it and I REALLY want my library to keep getting great literary fiction like this.
I wasn’t disappointed with what I found on the spare 150 pages. I don’t want to tell you a great deal about the plot of the book because I want you to enjoy unpacking that for yourself, but I will say that this is a simple story – if you’re over 30, I would guess you have lived some element of this in your own life. And that’s what makes it so great – the ability for a reader to step into the pages while also having the distance – created by the plot itself – to evaluate the protagonist with a bit of objectivity. Somehow, Barnes keeps us invested in a story while also helping us examine our own stories.
And the ending, well, let me just say that the title fits so well for the book and for life. Just when we think something is over. . . . If you like a good, character-driven story that makes you ponder your own life, well, then this book is for you.
Have you read Barnes’ books? If so, what do you think of them?
I talked about the book a bit more here, too – How Much Interiority in a Book is a Good Thing?
If you’re interested in reading about Barnes’ mildly controversial win of the Man Booker Prize last year, here’s a great discussion of it.