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Julian Barnes - Man Booker Prize Winner

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The wait is over. Julian Barnes has had four novels shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and finally he has won it. The Sense of an Ending is the eleventh novel Barnes has written under his own name (he also writes nonfiction, and he publishes crime fiction under a pseudonym), and it is as important a book as it is slim. Weighing in at less than 170 pages, The Sense of an Ending is split into two parts. Both are told from the viewpoint of Tony Webster, a man in his sixties, quite ordinary by all accounts, who seems to be coasting into old age, any outward signs of motivation having dimmed years ago. When we first meet him, Tony is recalling his younger, wilder days. In truth, they probably weren’t so wild, but he seems to need these memories as a way to steel himself against the dreariness of the days stretching out before him. The second part of the novel introduces a mystery, throwing doubt on all we’ve learned before. It’s subtle and deftly told, sparked by the introduction of a diary and the reappearance of an old, nearly forgotten first love, and it’s a great testament to Barnes that when the explanation comes — poignant, surprising, and deeply moving — it’s almost a throwaway, just another detail in a long life. The Sense of an Ending is about a man who is in the midst of his own ordinary ending. At the same time, he’s looking back on events to which, through the instability of memory, he’s perhaps given the wrong ending. This is a book about growing older, a story about recollection and regret. Tony Webster is an unreliable narrator, but he is compelling nonetheless. By creating him, Julian Barnes seems to be telling us that we are all unreliable narrators-- but we have our reasons.

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