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The Sense of a Disappointment

February 15, 2014


Several reviews of Julian Barnes’ prize- winning The Sense of an Ending describe the book as begging to be read in one sitting.  At 163 pages in the Vintage trade paperback edition, that is certainly manageable, but, having done so, I wish I’d done something else with that time.

The blurb from the New Yorker on the cover declares it, “Elegant, playful, and remarkable.”  What other books has this reviewer read? Elegant, certainly.  The writing style never once gets in the way of the story despite the incessant platitudes given by the narrator.

The less time there remains in your life, the less you want to waste it.

For much of the book I felt as though I was reading random greeting cards intertwined with an episode of Dawson’s Creek – The Middle Aged Years.  The foreshadowing is not so much shadowed as trumpeted: THIS WILL BE HAPPENING AGAIN IN ABOUT FORTY PAGES! The characters speak past each other, never meeting in intention or clarity.  As this is something that drives me bananas in real life, it is only natural that it would get under my skin here. In that sense, Mr. Barnes is successful in making an impression.  Unfortunately, these are characters that do not draw me in.  More to the point, they are boring and predictable and I am happy to leave them behind.

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