Author: Christopher Isherwood.
I really enjoyed Tom Ford’s film adaptation of this novel so I decided to give it a read. It’s a short piece at less than 200 pages so a quick enough read.
A Single Man (1964) depicts George, an English Professor (who is also English) at university in LA, and who has recently lost his long-term boyfriend due to an accident. The novel follows a day in his life as he copes with isolation, grief, teaching, his friendship, and loneliness in the 60’s, a time when homosexuality wasn’t exactly something to wear on your sleeve. Isherwood subtly adds in little details about contemporary beliefs on homosexuality through the use of neighbourhood gossip which I thought was very well written.
The novel was very methodical as George’s days are like clockwork and each of his daily activities and chores are laid out in front of him. The novel gave a great sense of George’s routine in the wake of his loss. We also got how he tried to distance himself from company like with his neighbours and his best-friend Charly.
The descriptive language used was sharp and emphatic. I particularly thought his description of male characters was distinctly homoerotic, which suited the tone of the novel well. For example, the scene with the tennis players reflected George’s sexual lust.
I felt there was a lack of plot, and would’ve liked to have seen more flashbacks involving George and Jim. But it was correct in having George’s grief as the core of the novel. I think it also threw me that there was so much stream-of-consciousness. It’s a writing style that I’m personally not a fan of but obviously for a story such as this it suited it perfectly. IT really allowed the reader to get into George’s head in into the mechanical thoughts and philosophical ideologies that were in his mind.
Overall, a powerful depiction of grief, isolation and homoeroticism. A quick read, but may leave you heavy-hearted.