Heavens to Betsy. They gave him the Booker Prize for this? Julian Barnes once wrote A History Of The World In Ten And A Half Chapters, which had scale and ambition. Brash, clever and show-offy, it did not even make the Booker shortlist. But by some extraordinary measure, The Sense Of An Ending was deemed ‘the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland’ for the 2011 intake. Really? It’s not Barnes’ fault, of course. He is a well-respected, successful and fine novelist, can write what he likes and has no control over whether it wins or not. He has called the Booker ‘posh bingo’ and so it is. He should know, he had been shortlisted before this and had his rictus loser’s grimace in place three times until finally landing the big potato. But just to be in the mix four times in one of the world’s most prestigious literary prizes tells you that his face fits. Ian McEwan (nominated six times, won once) and Kazuo Ishiguro (four and one) are notable others for whom simply publishing a novel is to get halfway to Booker heaven. They gave McEwan a nomination for Saturday, which was all about what a brain surgeon did – yes – one Saturday, with a bit of (then) topical flim-flam about the invasion of Iraq thrown in. Ishiguro got his Booker for a silly, portentous extended creative writing exercise called Never Let Me Go. It shouldn’t have got past the Booker doorman, let alone reached the Booker decision-making play-pen – and it should certainly never have troubled the Booker scorers. But so it goes. Ishiguro and McEwan have other books out soon so expect them both to make next year’s shortlist. Anyway, to The Sense Of An Ending. An elderly bore called Tony Webster (not the one from Reggie Perrin’s office who kept saying ‘Grrreat!’) looks back at his life. He realises that a girlfriend with whom he had an adolescent fling and who was a bit mean to him had A Family Secret. It gets spelled out to you, Columbo style, on pages 148 and 149. That’s it. At least it’s short.