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Single Man [Paperback]

Christopher Isherwood
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 May 2001
Celebrated as a masterpiece from its first publication, A Single Man is the story of George, an English professor in suburban California left heartbroken after the death of his lover, Jim. With devastating clarity and humour, Christopher Isherwood shows George's determination to carry on, evoking the unexpected pleasures of life as well as the soul's ability to triumph over loneliness and alienation.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 186 pages
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press; 1st University of Minnesota Press Ed edition (30 May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816638624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816638628
  • Product Dimensions: 20.9 x 14 x 1.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,491,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The best prose writer in English" (Gore Vidal)

"A virtuoso piece of work...courageous...powerful" (Sunday Times)

"His key post-war work. A quarter-century ahead of its time in its portrayal of a quotidian homosexual life, it inspired a generation of gay writers in Britain and the US" (Independent)

"Lyrical and intensely moving" (Daily Telegraph)

"A testimony to Isherwood's undiminished brilliance as a novelist" (Anthony Burgess) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


His key postwar work. A quarter-century ahead of its time in its portrayal of a quotidian homosexual life, it inspired a generation of gay writers in Britain and the US - Independent This mix of humour and stoicism in the face of pent-up grief is essential Isherwood --Guardian

His own highly personal form of fiction [is one] in which simple sentences strike a note of great intimacy with the reader as if to a close personal friend, and a sense of total honesty is sought. This style, witty, observant, nostalgic, exact, was Isherwood's great contribution to modern literature --Financial Times

He had dazzling talents as a writer. His literary production was pre-eminent for its wit, humour, charm of style and narrative skill... A Single Man can be almost considered as his masterpiece --Guardian, John Lehmann

Very sad and yet at times wildly funny --The Daily Telegraph

An absolutely devastating, unnerving, brilliant book --Stephen Spender

Lyrical and intensely moving --Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Isherwood's writing had as many ups and downs as a rollercoaster, which he would have been the first to admit, but this is (I think) the rose amongst the thorns that were his 'middle' books - a sensitive, heart warming and tender depiction of the life of a middle aged, gay male in mid-century America. This was the first of his books I read, and lead me to read all the others.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a perfect novel, really 25 Jun 2013
By schumann_bg TOP 50 REVIEWER
A Single Man gives as much pleasure as you can get from a novel, I think, as the central figure is engaging - but not too 'nice' to be convincing - and the writing is unfailingly communicative as can only suggest quite a lot of common ground between George and Isherwood himself, even if we know Isherwood didn't lose his lover. The happy gay relationship - again not over-idealised - is here a thing of the past after a fatal accident, and the question the book poses is, how does one find meaning in life in middle-age in these circumstances? The book takes the form of different episodes in his day which have a much more mixed flavour than the Tom Ford film - and there are more of them. He visits a woman dying in hospital, for instance, and goes to a gay-friendly gym. He is also a good ten years older than Colin Firth who played him in the film - Firth was excellent, but the character is again brought closer to an ideal, as is his friend Charlotte. You might say the film is a kind of fantasy where the book is rooted very much in real life, even if the events follow a similar outline, with the marvellous swim in the night sea, drunk, with his student Kenny, followed by a rather less glossed continuation at his house. Another major difference is that there is no mention of suicide in the book - a facet of the film that weakened it somewhat, perhaps tapping into the mood of The Hours ... Where the novel really comes into its own is in the sense of being buoyed up by Isherwood's amazing narrative voice. The opening and close of the book are among the best I have ever read - the latter has a perfectly pitched ambiguity that I couldn't give away, but it taps into the same feeling as the opening and brings full circle a narrative thread that carries infinite humanity on the long fragile line that is any work of prose, even one as great as this, and as succinct at just over 150 pages.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MESMERIZING AND MEANINGFUL - AUDIO REVIEW 29 Dec 2009
By Gail Cooke TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
If you have not read Christopher Isherwood you have missed the work of a brilliant author. This particular book was praised by the NY Times as "...a sad, sly report on the predicament of the human animal." Isherwood's prose is spare, mesmerizing; his words well chosen, succinct, meaningful. Most importantly, his writings are true.

When first published about a half century ago A SINGLE MAN was considered shocking as it portrayed for the first time the life of a gay man, George, who was recently bereaved and trying to adjust to life without his partner. George is a college professor, careful, thoughtful. The all too brief story covers just 24 hours from the moment he awakens in the morning and remembers that he has lost his partner to his studied, sometimes painful navigation of the day.

We are privy not only to his actions but to his thoughts, thus we share his predicament, a very human one. George is an Englishman living in southern California, a place a bit inhospitable to a middle-aged scholar yet he perseveres by observing routine. Haven't many of us found ourselves left with that as our one means of coping? For this reader/listener that is the beauty of Isherwood as A SINGLE MAN is not solely a drama of gay life but of all humanity.

Reader Simon Prebble gives voice to George with understanding, and skillful narration. British born his voice is perfectly suited for this role.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the hugely successful movie version of A SINGLE MAN by Tom Ford - don't miss this. And hearty recommendations also for Isherwood's Christopher and His Kind and Prater Violet also found on audio from HighBridge.

- Gail Cooke
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Christopher Isherwood - A Single Man 9 Mar 2010
By RachelWalker TOP 500 REVIEWER
meditative, moving, thoughtful, poignant. A short, powerful novel; a gentle rumination on death and life, alienation and the small pleasures you can get from simply living, even when tragedy strikes. I wasn't expecting something quite like this, after The Berlin Novels, as this is very different in tone, much more elegaic. If anything, as good as Goodbye to Berlin is, this is even more accomplishedly written, and is certainly more beautiful, in a restrained, reserved way. Highly recommended. (I haven't seen the film, I'm not a film fan, but after reading this I just might.)
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential 7 Aug 2008
By Erastes
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I told a friend about this book, I said "it's very well written" and she said "Well, der! Isherwood!" and I laughed. But then I've only read Goodbye to Berlin and I was very young then, and didn't know good from bad.

It's possibly one of the most perfect little books I've read, absorbing from the first page and written in such a way that it feels like first person but it's actually written in third, astoundingly clever to my eyes. You get as easily into George's head as if it were first person.

Set over 24 hours, it simply covers his thought processes as he moves through the day and you learn a lot about him and the world in which he lives. From the first section he touches your heart as - as anyone who has suffered bereavement will understand - he wakes up and remembers again that his lover is dead. But he's not pessimistic about his outlook - he doesn't like the way that conservatism is encroaching upon the once bohemian area where he lives - once where there was artists and poets and easy sexual values, families are moving in, with more straight-laced ideals, but in juxtaposition to this, he loves youth.

He teaches at the University and the scenes with the Gidget-era youth are rather sweet and truly give a window into a lost American world. He does watch the athletes for his own enjoyment which was a nice touch.

I loved his optimism, despite how much he missed Jim, and the way that he finds the light and the dark in his life. He interacts with many people throughout the day, he's not at all an isolated person, but I was left feeling that he was spinning on the spot, lonely despite all the people who know and care from him. Without the one intimate friend he needed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Dated but relevant
I loved this book. The touches of humour throughout, despite the sad premise, were deft and effective. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Kyatic
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasant, uplifting and worthwhile read
A short masterpiece. While very little actually occurs within the 200 pages of the book, Isherwood manages to describe in exquisite detail some of the most obvious thoughts that we... Read more
Published 3 months ago by JamesA
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
The book arrived in good conditions. The book itself is extremely well written, and is a poignant portrait of bereavement within the context of single sex relationships and... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Val Cartei
3.0 out of 5 stars it's ok but I don't like George so all a bit tricky!
Haven't overcome the problem Of reading a book where I am unsympathetic towards the character ..I simply did not care what George thought or did..
Published 10 months ago by Ejane
5.0 out of 5 stars vivid
24 hours, covering a 58 year-old man's thought processes. He teaches at a University and ruminates on death and life and the small pleasures you can get from simply living, even... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mr. D. P. Jay
3.0 out of 5 stars not one of his best
It was an ok read, but was too disjointed for my liking and did'nt flow as well as his others
Published 16 months ago by Trevor Young
5.0 out of 5 stars A Single Man's Beautiful Tale of Lost Love
After watching Tom Ford's beautifully screened adaptation, I had high expectations that Isherwood's novel would have carried through this beauty through to paper. Read more
Published 18 months ago by J.Speake
3.0 out of 5 stars Well...
Poor George... intellectually privileged, a homosexual in times of changes. The book isn't exactly gripping, but nevertheless, quite interesting. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Stefan Medeiros
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing little book
This is a wonderful piece of writing-with a much more powerful story than the film. Beautifully written; gripping story from the first paragraph to the last page!
Published 21 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have ever read.
A Single Man, a short poignant novel; as it muses upon life and death, appreciates the simple small pleasures of live and survival upon bereavement. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Holly
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