I wanted to connect with this book so much (I loved the movie adaptation a few years ago), but just couldn’t get there. It’s was an easy book to admire and a hard one to love wholeheartedly. Isherwood is no slouch when it comes to prose. The writing is truly stunning. Unfortunately I spent most of my time reading it thinking about how beautiful the writing was instead of losing myself in the narrative and characters.
A Single Man is light on plot and instead focuses on one day in the life of George Falconer, a middle-aged, gay Englishman living in California teaching literature in 1962. His grief over losing his longtime partner a few months ago and his sexuality in a culturally hostile climate keep him at arm’s length from everyone, even the reader. The entire book is a meditation on finding your way out of grief and isolation.
This might be a book I revisit at a later time. It’s so well written that I wonder if I just wasn’t in the right mood for it. Normally I would stop reading and come back to it, but A Single Man is so short that I just pushed through. This seems like the kind of book you could revisit every year and get something new from it. There are lots of gems like this quote sprinkled throughout it:
A few times in my life I’ve had moments of absolute clarity. When for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than think, and things seem so sharp and the world seems so fresh. It’s as though it had all just come into existence. I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything, they fade. I have lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present, and I realize that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be.
Writing like that is why I’d recommend this in a heartbeat for people who love meditative, quiet books or people who want to broaden their reading and include more queer stories in their lives.