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A Gentleman's Guide to Graceful Living

3.38  ·  Rating Details ·  208 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
Arthur Camden's greatest talents are for packing and unpacking suitcases, making coleslaw, and second-guessing every decision in his life. When his business fails and his wife leaves him-to pursue more aggressive men-Arthur finds that he has none of the talents and finesse that everyone else seems to possess for navigating New York society.


Arthur tries to reinvigorate his
...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 30th 2008 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Aharon
Jul 21, 2008 Aharon rated it it was ok
Like being stuck in a small room with a poor conversationalist.
Jamie Barnes
Mar 22, 2013 Jamie Barnes rated it really liked it
Auchincloss, John O'Hara and F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about rich northeastern WASPs living in Boston and New York. Their protagonists are most often powerful people with Harvard and Yale degrees who are used to getting their way but run into marital and professional difficulties they must either solve or come to terms with. Michael Dahlie writes about this same microcosm but his protagonist in A Gentleman's Guide to Graceful Living is a failure. He runs his business into bankruptcy and his wife ...more
Larry H
Arthur Camden is a well-to-do, middle-aged New Yorker in a bit of a bind. His wife left him (after having affairs through most of their marriage) because he wasn't aggressive enough, he's run his family business into the ground and he doesn't quite know what the next step in his life should be. And bursting into tears in front of other members of the exclusive Hanover Street Fly Casters is probably not the best way to put on a brave face.



Michael Dahlie's book tells the story of a man whose life
...more
Diane
Sep 15, 2008 Diane rated it really liked it
The Gentleman's Guide To Graceful Living, by Michael Dahlie, was a really fun read, and an impressive debut novel.

The reader is introduced to Arthur Camden, fifty-something, who lives on the upper East side of Manhattan. Arthur is a devoted husband and father who loves fly fishing and belongs to an elite club for fly-fisherman. Suddenly, Arthur's life is full of bad breaks: his wife leaves him for another man, his business fails due to his own incompetence, he has trouble making a good impressio
...more
Emi Bevacqua
May 05, 2009 Emi Bevacqua rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Super fast read about a guy so pathetic it's a tribute to the literary powers of Michael Dahlie that he's able to sustain interest in a guy who's run his family's import-export business into the ground and is left by his wife of 32 years and is ridiculed by all for his ineptitude. Despite his angst and failures, Arthur lives a cushy life on Manhattan's privileged upper east side; he considers the other 10 gentlemen in his private fly fishing club to be his best friends, but then he accidentally ...more
Shane
Jul 17, 2008 Shane rated it liked it
This book was highly regadred in the NY Times book review and given its linking with fly fishing I could not pass it up!

If you ever have the feeling that things in your life are off track, this book will quickly show you that it can always be worse. Though the main character has his share of bad luck the book is light, humorus (sometimes laugh out loud funny), and is in no way a dark or depressing read.
PJ
Oct 23, 2008 PJ rated it it was ok
I tried, I really tried.
Jennifer
Aug 12, 2008 Jennifer rated it did not like it
dont judge a book by its cover
Laura Hayat
If it weren’t for the fourth part of this book, I would have rated "A Gentleman’s Guide to Graceful Living" 1 star. Although I enjoyed the way this novel was written and found the narrator to perfectly depict the protagonist – I though this book would drive me crazy. Arthur Camden, the protagonist, has spent his entire life not making decisions, he allows others to bully him and choose things for him. He seems terrified with the possibility of any sort of confrontation. By the time the book star ...more
Asuka Nguyen
Nov 10, 2016 Asuka Nguyen rated it really liked it
Arthur's personality type (the negative side of its to be more specific) somehow reminds me of myself.

I'll give odds that in this crazy world, politeness and self-effacement will almost always be considered as weakness. And you, most of the time, are dubbed 'a weakling'.

If you are like Arthur, a gentleman with a total lack of aggression, you find yourself being stepped on by cruel and mean people most of the time.
You keep telling yourself that letting some obnoxious people get away with mistrea
...more
Meave
Jul 10, 2009 Meave rated it it was ok
I read this book only because it won the 2009 PEN/Hemingway award, for which the worst book I've read in 2009 (thus far) was also a finalist. I thought, is this contest's standards so low, or did that other, terrible novel get in by mistake/because of politics/favoritism/for some other non-merit-based reason?

Having read this book, I'm going to go with: this contest has very low standards. It's a fine little book, I guess, A Gentleman's Guide, but it's not especially interesting. The plot doesn't
...more
Amie Adrian
Jul 20, 2016 Amie Adrian rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jon Box
Feb 13, 2017 Jon Box rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
A "nice" book I found in a used books store; I got what I paid for ... The main character gets walked over by most everyone and continues to return for more. He's an emotional wreck and his responses are not really for the betterment of those he comes in contact with. He lacks "a little bit of stick" in almost all situations. I'm not sure I should pat myself on the back for finishing it ... the writing was okay and there was some insight gained. Oh well ...
Melinda Seyler
Mar 09, 2013 Melinda Seyler rated it did not like it
Recommended to Melinda by: newleaph@gmail.com
This book is the epitome of "nice". You know how you know, when someone says about someone else that they are nice, that they may well be "nice", but if that's the best someone can say, they are probably also a bit boring and not someone who will really add much to your life? That is this book to a "t". Arthur, the protagonist is very "nice" and is constantly being insulted, rejected, made fun of, taken advantage of by his "friends", relations, ex-wife, contemporaries and even people he barely ...more
Emily
Apr 06, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it
This book represents, for me, something that I would never pick up while browsing through a new release section of borders. However I picked it up after it was recommended by Julia Glass at a book reading she did in Boston. I guess it wouldnt occur to me to read something like this, because its typically male. Arthur Camden is a 60 something retired head of a failed import/exporting business. His wife just left him, and he is left a sorry sap of a charcter by page 2. But you cheer for Arthur, fo ...more
Brian
Sep 18, 2008 Brian rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marian
Jul 19, 2009 Marian rated it did not like it
Arthur Camden's life is a disaster. He is both a shmiel and a schamozzel. (the shmiel is the waiter who spills the soup on the schamozzel) For 270 pages of the 281 page book, you read about all the disasters in his life: his divorce; his bankruptcy of the family business, his burning down of his beloved fly-fishing lodge, his run in with the French police, his bad dates, etc. Only in about ten of the last pages does he meet a woman who gives him hope and the book ends on a positive note. I don't ...more
Sonia
Jun 20, 2008 Sonia rated it liked it
Arthur is not doing so well. His wife left him and his business went under. Despite his troubles, he manages to spend lots of time in Colorado with his son and his family, he travels to France and enjoys the countryside, he dates ... a lot. Little by little, Arthur figures out what it is that he wants instead of the role chosen for him. After a while, I was tired of reading how people walked all over him while he did nothing about it ... it was a relief when Arthur starting back, just a little b ...more
Mike Steinharter
Jan 14, 2015 Mike Steinharter rated it liked it
depressing, hiliarious, ridiculous and hopeful all at the same time. Arthur is an incredibly pathetic character of course, but obviously we are all meant to see some of ourselves in him. "stand up!" I wanted to shout, like his son finally does. Any ending other than the one provided would have been disappointing. It was fun read; frustrating at times, and after you get into the rhythm, very funny. thanks, Mark, for the recommendation.
Tim
Mar 02, 2011 Tim rated it liked it
Shelves: comic-fiction
I categorized this as "comic fiction" because it essentially is a comic novel; in fact, it's often quite hilarious, though in the painful way that watching Michael Scott on "The Office" is hilarious (i.e., cringeworthy). Arthur Camden is high WASP, a well-bred, well-mannered, wealthy NYer of the old school, right down to his membership in the Hanover Street Fly Casters club and his vacationing in Bar Harbor etc.

Funny!

Karen
Aug 09, 2010 Karen rated it it was amazing
What a pleasant surprise! The writing is just perfect, and it's funny in an understated way that is even funnier for the fact that it catches you by surprise. It's a thoughtful book, and just when you think Arthur's going to keep having one mishap after another, you (and he) realize he's really doing all right.
Beth
Nov 15, 2010 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: loser-lit
I LOVED this. It reminded me for some reason of Netherland. It's also part of my beloved loser lit genre, where the main character keeps making mistakes but is nonetheless totally endearing. This may be my favorite fiction book of the year (although I'm not sure that it has very wide appeal).
Meg
Jul 30, 2008 Meg rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lit, favorites, 2008
This is a quick, fun read - about a reserved man who can't seem to get anything right, especially when he thinks he's getting it right. Parts of it can be annoying and even depressing as the main character screws up and fails to act or make decisions, but the ending warrants all the frustration you go through reading it.
Denise
Jul 23, 2008 Denise rated it really liked it
Kind of cute. Arthur is such a hapless guy. Pretty much a nerd that isn't sure how he is ever supposed to act in any situation. It's a quick, funny read if you can stand not being able to shake the main character.
Becky
Jul 25, 2011 Becky rated it it was ok
This book was pretty good and won some awards and stuff, but oh my god the main character is just SUCH a sad sack that I couldn't appreciate it at all. Instead of sympathizing with his rich white guy problems I basically just wanted to slap him across the face. Then again, maybe that was the point?
Lea
Apr 04, 2012 Lea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, fiction
If Arthur did nothing but sit naked in his living room all day drinking vodka and eating potato chips (perhaps while scattering his toenail clippings across the floor), absolutely no one in the world would object.
LInda L
Aug 29, 2008 LInda L rated it did not like it
I finished this, but didn't really want to. I was under the impression that it was kind of funny. It wasn't. I thought it would have a logical story. It didn't. I thought the main character would learn something. He didn't. Apparently this book got great reviews. I hated it.
muMs
Nov 11, 2008 muMs rated it it was ok
eh...
Tyra
Oct 04, 2008 Tyra rated it liked it
A very nice, quiet story about a retired gentleman coming to terms with his life after his wife leaves him. I found myself rooting for him to succeed
Elizabeth
Funny and moving.
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