The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The best parts of The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes:

Marshall was a cautious know-nothing who lacked the inventiveness of true ignorance.

When I was going out with her, it always seemed that her actions were instinctive. But then I was resistant to the whole idea that women were or could be manipulative. This may tell you more about me than it does about her.

History isn’t the lies of the victors… I know that now. It’s more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated.

… You begin to understand that the reward of merit is not life’s business.

Margaret used to say that there were two kinds of women: those with clear edges to them, and those who implied mystery.

…a crocodile of ex-girlfriends all lined up.

And so, for the first time, I began to feel a more general remorse — a feeling somewhere between self-pity and self-hatred — about my whole life. All of it. I had lost the friends of my youth. I had lost the love of my wife. I had abandoned the ambitions I had entertained. I had wanted life not to bother me too much, and had succeeded — and how pitiful that was.

Sorry, no, you can’t blame your dead parents, or having brothers and sisters, or not having them, or your genes or society, or whatever — not in normal circumstances. Start with the notion that yours is the sole responsibility unless there’s powerful evidence to the contrary.


Berk – Come from the Cockney rhyming slang “Berkshire Hunt” = Cunt.

Plimsole – Slang for someone who isn’t up to snuff academically or culturally.

Severn Bore – A tidal bore seen on the tidal reaches of the River Severn in England. Phenomenon in which the leading edge of the incoming tide forms a wave of water that travels up a river or narrow bay against the direction of the river or bay’s current.

fossicking – rummaging or searching around

clubbable – Suitable for membership of a club because of one’s sociability or popularity.

exegesis – exposition, explanation; especially : an explanation or critical interpretation of a text

nous – Reason and knowledge as opposed to sense perception.

chippy – resentful or oversensitive about being perceived as inferior

7 thoughts on “The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

  1. Plimsolls were also rubber shoes designed so sailors wouldn’t slip off a wet deck. Not exactly how you get from there to someone who isn’t up to snuff academically or culturally, but I can guess it’s class-related.


  2. So curious to know what you thought of this book overall. I was kind of luke warm about it yet I loved two of his earlier books.


  3. This book made me laugh out loud all the time on the train which was a bit embarrassing. The clear edges and implied mystery was a favorite line of mine as well. It’s funny how quickly the women I know fell in either category.


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