Julian Barnes wins the Mann Booker Prize for Fiction – Nice work everyone!
The … er… really cool novel The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes has won the booker prize. He wins 50,000 pounds as well as, no doubt, mega sales.
I read this novel in one day – it’s a novella really, and you can check out my thoughts on the subject here. I suspect, because (unlike previous winners) this is such a short easy to read piece, it will be read by many a not-so-usual reader, intrigued enough to give it a go.
I thought I would gather a few chats on the subject so you can get a bit of an idea about the chances of YOU picking up The sense of an Ending and reading Julian Barnes’ fourth Booker nomination.
Justine Jordan wrote a nice piece in the Gardian, ending with: “With its patterns and repetitions, scrutinising its own workings from every possible angle, the novella becomes a highly wrought meditation on ageing, memory and regret. But it gives as much resonance to what is unknown and unspoken – lost to memory – as it does to the engine of its own plot.”
Picking up the Kermode reference in the title, Justin Cartwright wrote this nice piece in the Gardian as well, ending with: “Deservedly long-listed for the Man Booker prize, this is a very fine book, skilfully plotted, boldly conceived, full of bleak insight into the questions of ageing and memory, and producing a very real kick – or peripeteia – at its end. As Kermode wrote: “At some very low-level we all share certain fictions about time, and they testify to the continuity of what is called human nature…” Barnes has achieved, in this shortish account of a not very attractive man, something of universal importance.”
Moving away from The Gardian, Anita Brookner wrote for the Telegraph: “It would be a mistake to dismiss this as a mere psychological thriller. It is in fact a tragedy, like Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, which it resembles. Webster remains in character throughout, as does Veronica, who is not only the prime mover but also major victim. The explanation, when it comes, is unforeseen, almost accidental, and hedged about with a wealth of humdrum detail. Its effect is disturbing – all the more so for being written with Barnes’s habitual lucidity. His reputation will surely be enhanced by this book. Do not be misled by its brevity. Its mystery is as deeply embedded as the most archaic of memories.”
Boyd Tonkin ended with this in his review in The Independant: “A slow burn, measured but suspenseful, this compact novel makes every slyly crafted sentence count. In the finale it catches fire, as Tony’s discovery of the non-negotiable truth about his past brings a harrowing immediacy to intuitions of “damage a long way back” (a half-quotation from Philip Larkin’s poem, “Love Again”). They may unfold in a convenience store and a would-be gastropub serving factory-processed “hand-cut chips” near the North Circular Road, but the concluding scenes grip like a thriller – a whodunnit of memory and morality, and one which detonates a minor, private apocalypse.”
Goodreads has a nice collection of readers reviews – and incidentally a lot of negative reviews – here.
The Literary Stew didn’t like it much at all, completely missing (i think) the subtleties and (frankly) the rather obvious answers to the question of “what happened” that isn’t spelt out at the end of the book, but does not take much of a leap of faith to work out.
A review I thought rather nice is this one by John Self written for Asylum, and I also rather enjoyed this one (MUST catch up on the spat between Julian and Martin – I knew nothing of this) by Leo Robson for the New Statesman.
As for blurby bits and bobs and ideas on the prize and this years winner check:
There! That should be plenty to help you decide about parting with some hard-earned cash for this novella.
Persoanly, I think the money is burning a hole in your pocket. Trade it for art today!