Category Archives: “The Sense Of An Ending”

“The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes, 2011




IMG_3069The Sense of an Ending deals with endings of relationships and lives as Tony Webster, now retired, attempts to reconcile aspects of his past with the present.  The two other central characters are Veronica, his mysterious first girlfriend in college, and Adrian, his intellectual high school friend, who is in some ways his polar opposite. In his 60’s, Tony receives a letter informing him that he is named in the will of Veronica’s mother.  He has been out of touch with Veronica and her mother for forty years and the letter serves as a catalyst to revisit his student days and retrieve Adrian’s diary from Veronica, which was bequeathed to him by her mother. Back in the 1960’s Adrian struck up a relationship with Veronica shortly after she dumped Tony.  After a few months or so, Adrian, then a freshman at Cambridge, makes a philosophically based decision to end his life.   Years pass as Tony has lived an ordinary middle-class life; marrying Margaret, having a daughter, Susie, and divorcing Margaret. Now he looks up Veronica for the diary and ruminates about all the social missteps of his life.  Some unexpected facts about Veronica, her mother, and Adrian emerge.  Tony completes his journey back into the past with disquiet and self-reproach: “You get towards the end of life–no, not life itself, but of something else: the end of any likelihood of change in that life.  You are allowed a long moment of pause, time enough to ask the question: what else have I done wrong?”  ….”There is accumulation.  There is responsibility. And beyond these, there is unrest.  There is great unrest.”

We all reflect back on moments in our lives, some with more acceptance than others.  This book takes a close look at that and offers insights into how we see our past. Tony has shown us a more pessimistic view.  He, for example, regards Adrian’s youthful suicide as having more integrity than his lifetime of letting things happen to him.  He lacks the acceptance of his mediocre outcomes and minor transgressions which are the consequences of his lifelong insecurities and passivity.  This reader would like to see him close the circle and find his peace, but the author chose to end on the note of ‘unrest’.