The Sense of an Ending is Julian Barnes’ eleventh novel, and the first of his books which I’ve read. It was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 2011. I did not choose to read it during all of the Man Booker hype – and believe me, there was a lot of it that year – as I did not want popular opinion to impact upon my thoughts of this novel. Opinion during this period was incredibly divided, and The Sense of an Ending seemed to be a book which critics loved and general readers hated. I left it two years before purchasing my own copy, and read it soon afterwards.
Overall, I found the novel rather intelligently written. My main qualm, however, was the way in which the speech of the characters did not always seem realistic. I had trouble, for example, imagining that many – if any – teenage boys, despite the period of time or circumstances in which the book is set, would speak in the same way as one of the book’s protagonists, Adrian. Veronica was the most interesting character construct for me, and I liked not knowing what her next actions would be. Despite this, I found myself quite unable to warm to any of the characters, and found them all rather pretentious. They did, however, interest me enough to want to read on.
I seem to fall within the centre of the two very divided camps which existed upon this novel’s publication and subsequent prize win. The Sense of an Ending is a relatively good novel, interesting enough and rather well plotted. I must admit though that I did not really ‘get’ the hype which surrounded it for so long. It is not a book which I couldn’t bear to put down whilst reading; nor is it a book which I contemplated giving up at any point. It did feel rather stagnant and depressing at times, but the ending pulled it together for me, and I felt that Barnes’ choice of plot was rather clever. Whilst I am not yet a Barnes convert, I would like to read another of his books in future to see how it compares.