The End of “The Sense of an Ending”

As March Madness and the month of betting pools roll along in the background of my life, I once more find myself engrossed in the Tournament of Books hosted by The Morning News. This year, the first book I read was The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. Partly because it was a shorter length and would allow me to get a jump start on reading as many of the books as I possibly can before the tournament final, but also because it came so highly regarded by the first round review and subsequent win in the tournament. The beauty of the novel is that it is succinct in the way that only a story recounted from memory can be, and Barnes captures this style with the addition of the occasional tangent about how we remember scattered throughout the story when our narrator, Tony, feels so compelled to comment on the topic out of the need for excuses or a search for resolution. However, Barnes saved the best for last. That is to say, the ending of the novel surprises you and proceeds to worm into your mind for days following as you ponder everything that has happened.

Jess Severson wrote a good review of the novel’s ending over at Don’t Mind the Mess. It contains many spoilers, so finish the book before you head over there, but here’s a taste.

You can’t read this book without wanting to talk about the end. I was online looking at discussions and reviews in the middle of the night to make sure I’d worked it out just right.

Some may say that with his spare last few pages, Barnes does the reader no favors. After all, he never spells out in exact terms precisely what it all means. But it’s all there.

Indeed, Barnes does give a meandering explanation, but there’s so much more that is left unsaid. The characters are suddenly not exactly as you’ve come to picture them, and the reader is only ever given Tony’s memory as a framework upon which to build the settings and characters of his past.

While I do not think that The Sense of an Ending should be the winner of this year’s Rooster award, I would not be surprised if it does win. Regardless of the tournament outcome, this slim volume is worth a couple hours of your time to read.