Friday, October 14, 2011

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The publisher for The Sense of an Ending rushed to get it out in the states two weeks before the Man Booker Prize is announced, something which this reader greatly appreciates!  (I'm going to have to just suffer reading envy for the sixth shortlisted book - Half-Blood Blues - which will not come out here until next year sometime).  The official announcement will be on Tuesday, October 18, and I think with the time difference, I will be able to find out first thing in the morning.

But first, the book itself.  The Sense of an Ending is incredibly short, 150 pages, divided into two sections.  The first part tells the story of Tony in his late childhood and into early adulthood.  He has a close group of three other friends, and the narrator (also Tony) is constantly reflecting on the nature of time, and on how relationships change.  In my vague intentions, I am not being very useful in telling you what the book is about, but saying too much would give it away.

The second part is no longer looking back but Tony has reached late adulthood, where he is friends with his ex-wife and volunteers at a care facility, and had thought the interesting part of his life had already passed by.  His past comes back to his present and he has to figure it all out.

This is one of two from the longlist that are told from the perspective of people very late in their lives, the other being On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry.  The Man Booker judges have made it very clear that they are looking for adventure this year, so I'm not surprised only one of the two made it to the shortlist, and that does not bode well for the Barnes to take the prize.  I do agree that of the two books of protagonists in their twilight years (which is considerably different from their Twilight years, you must understand), the Barnes is more compelling because it moves from humor to sorrow and back again so quickly.

Unlike the Hugo, I don't believe the Booker judges rank the shortlisted books from 1-6 once they pick a winner.  Since I am not one of them, I am going to anyway!  This is a list based on my preferences, not a list based on an attempt to try to anticipate who I think they will pick.

My picks:
  1. Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
  2. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
  3. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
  4. Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch
  5. Snowdrops by A.D. Miller
  6. N/A
(Unknown: Half-Blood Blues)

One interesting list I found is an attempt to include all books that would have been eligible for the Man Booker Prize this year.  The list is in Listopia in GoodReads, and if you have an account, you can vote for the titles you would have preferred to see.  Most of them are unfamiliar to me for now, but maybe a year from now more will have made their way to the states.

1 comment:

  1. I'll have to read On Canaan's Side - I haven't had a chance to yet. My own review of The Sense of an Ending is here, if you are interested.


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