The Sense of an Ending (of reading Julian Barnes)

I’ve tried reading Julian Barnes a couple of times now.   Last fall I picked up a hard copy book The Lemon Tree and gave it a try.  I made it about 25 pages in and decided that I really wasn’t enjoying it.  I put it down and never picked it back up.

When I saw The Sense of an Ending in audio book, I thought that perhaps trying a different format would help.

Nope.  I listened to the CD on the drive into Boston and I really wished the whole time I wasn’t on a crazy highway so I could stop and switch to my iPod.  I managed to make it through about the first quarter of the book.  My impression was the same as The Lemon Tree.  If I hadn’t known that the author was an award winning writer, I would have assumed he was a horny teenager.

I’ve read several of the other books that were eligible for the Booker Prize last year and I honestly can’t understand how this book could have won.

I’m done with Barnes.  Clearly not my thing.


2 thoughts on “The Sense of an Ending (of reading Julian Barnes)

  1. I actually really liked this book. We read it in my book group, and it was a quick read. We came out of it feeling like it was a very masculine book–it’s from a man’s perspective, and his perspective is skewed. But at the end, I wanted to pick it up and read it all over again to figure out the puzzle. I do think the book got stronger as it went along, but I think part of that is that the narrator becomes less odious as the book progresses. The narrator’s perceptions at first seem legitimate, but as another character tells him at one point, (I’m paraphrasing) “you just don’t get it. you never will.” Part of what I loved about the book is the narrator’s slow realization that his own perception has been inaccurate, and that he hasn’t really understood much of anything in his life. The bravado at the beginning is off-putting, but I think the book must start there to get to the ending.

    In a way, the book is the story of the horny teenager who somehow got stuck in adolescence. The last 3/4 of the book tells of his coming of age.

    It’s the only Barnes I’ve read, so I can’t speak to the whole of his body of work. I did like this one, though, but I understand your discontent with the first quarter of it.

  2. I should have known I could have checked with you to see if it gets better!

    The Lemon Tree (if I remember correctly) was short stories and the one I read bore a strong resemblance (in content, not necessarily plot) to the first 1/4 of this book. I just assumed that was Barnes’ writing style.

    It’s too bad there can’t be some kind of literary warning “First 1/4 of book is meant to be obnoxious. Please persevere.”

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