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Why I didn't finish "The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes

I tried, I really did, but not every book is worth finishing.

By Jolene PoulinPublished 4 months ago 3 min read
Why I didn't finish "The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes
Photo by Fang-Wei Lin on Unsplash

I've been in a reading slump. I have five books on the go with no desire to finish any of them. I enjoy all of them, don't get me wrong, but I'm simply not in the mood to read to the end of a book. I thought reading a short, simple book from start to finish would break my slump.

I was wrong, but maybe not for the reasons you think.

I turned to Google and looked for a book I could read in one night. I'm not a very fast reader so I knew this was an ambitious goal. If anything, I figured the list would be a good place to start.

I scrolled through the list, read a few book synopses, then found one I could borrow right then from the library connection on my Kobo. I decided I would read "The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes.

I made it about 70% of my way through this book when I decided, I don't think I like this. The book is slow and told entirely from inside one man's mind. It's broken up into two giant chapters: the first of which focuses on the man's youth, or rather his recollection of it; the second focuses on his old age and the impact the decisions of his youth have on his life now.

The narration is what got to me, though. It's all narration. It's all speculation and remembrances that aren't entirely accurate. It's cerebral writing with very little dialogue. It's facts posed as though they present some mystery, but to me, they were simply facts.

Now, I'm an analytical person. I like facts and I'm usually pretty ready to accept them. So when the narrator tells me someone died under certain circumstances, I believe them. This scenario doesn't cause mystery or intrigue, it's just a scenario.

And I think that's my biggest issue with this book. It presents facts that are only as accurate as the narrator's memory, peppers in some mundane habits of his life, throws in the smallest amount of dialogue possible, and calls it a day. This wasn't sufficient for me.

I recently wrote down what I like about novels in two lists: things I like, and things I dislike. Of the things I like, I'll note: diverse characters, fast plot, lots of action/plot movement, and dialogue. This story has none of these things. Of the things I don't like: writing that tries to be too clever, and large chunks of writing unbroken by dialogue. This story has a ton of these things.

Simply put, this book wasn't for me.

I'm not going to lie, I Googled the ending. I needed to know if spending another two hours on this book was worth my time and I decided, ultimately, that it wasn't. The ending wasn't something I saw coming, nor was it something I particularly cared about. I didn't get the satisfaction of having "figured it out" nor did I get the answer to some big mystery I was noodling over. I'm not going to spoil the ending here in case you do want to read the book.

In the end, this slump-breaking book turned into the rock bottom of my book reading slump. Not only do I not feel the push to finish this book, I don't think I ever will continue to read it. It didn't break the slump because it simply wasn't the right book for me. Perhaps one of my other five books will break the book reading lull...or perhaps I'll find another short novel to get the juices flowing.

book reviews

About the Creator

Jolene Poulin

I'm an amateur writer with an interest in fiction and general story telling.

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