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Clock Without Hands

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  1,408 Ratings  ·  108 Reviews
Set in small-town Georgia on the eve of court-ordered integration, Clock Without Hands is Carson McCullers's final masterpiece as well as her most poignant statement on race, class, and individual responsibility. The actors in this allegory are J. T. Malone, a lonely, dying middle-aged druggist looking to redeem his misspent life; Fox Clane, a corrupt old judge and defende ...more
Hardcover, First British Edition
Published 1961 by Cresset Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Cecily
Published in 1961, this story is set in a small town in southern USA. The overt story concerns race, justice and to some extent mortality, though there are plenty of other threads. However, it's the examination of the protagonists' views on race that are most interesting and, to some extent troubling, especially to the modern reader as the N word and variants are used quite often, albeit as a noun/statement, rather than necessarily as an insult.

It plays with one's sympathies very effectively. F
...more
Steven  Godin
Feb 07, 2016 Steven Godin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, american
McCullers writes about about small town America with such authenticity and really captures people of a certain time and place that is hard to surpass, this is no exception. Through racial prejudice, family secrets and redemption, the lives of four men bound by histories are interwoven to create a tender, poignant and sometimes humorous read. As the last of her novels it's arguably the best written and this is quite something considering she suffered two severe strokes along with other health pro ...more
Alan
Oct 06, 2007 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If not more beautiful than The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, as good and even more brave. Gay miscegenation in the south, in the 40s? No wonder it took 10 years to be published. I'm surprised there wasn't more controversy.
Paul Bryant
Jun 28, 2010 Paul Bryant rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I’m sorry to report that this novel is pretty much a complete disaster. It’s a study of four characters located in Milan, Georgia, at the point in the early 1950s when the civil rights movement was beginning to make itself felt in the American South. We have JT Malone, a pharmacist; Judge Clane, an 85 year old ex-congressman; Jester Clane, his 17 year old orphaned grandson; and Sherman Pew, an 18 year old black guy with blue eyes.
The whole thing is painful. I’m sure there is a great novel out
...more
Kyle
Mar 22, 2012 Kyle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: McCullers Fans
Carson McCullers never fails to impress me. In this grim novel of the Southern Gothic tradition, she examines the growing race tensions at the cusp of the civil rights movement, inter-generational gaps and relations, and most importantly the theme of life vs. death. Sheer genius from the first line: "Death is always the same, but each man dies in his own way."

Another aspect of McCullers' writing that I admire is her flawless shifting of points of view between characters. Despite how flawed the
...more
Elliott
Jan 07, 2011 Elliott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thoughtful meditation on dying written as the author, Carson McCullers, was dying. Ravaged by strokes and illness, she starts off this novel with the character J.T. Malone, the pharmacist, finding out he will probably die within the year. From this spring board, McCullers weaves a tale that once again explores the themes of loneliness, isolation, and the search for identity and love. Even the opening line of this book ("Death is always the same, but each man dies in his own way") presents the ...more
Nathan
Sep 28, 2008 Nathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in a small, Southern town on the eve of the Court's decision in Brown v. Board, Clock Without Hands explores the lives of several of the town's residents as they deal with the changing racial climate of the civil rights era. A story of fear, intolerance, and violence, the novel features a rich and interesting cast of characters that quickly draws you in and a terrible building tension that keeps the pages turning. One of my favorite characters that I've read in a long time is Judge Clane, a ...more
Peter
Dec 30, 2014 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
A novel of despair and wasted lives...albeit with some mild hopes of redemption. Though Carson McCullers writes as well as ever, Clock Without Hands is a little loose at the seams compared to some of her earlier work. A small-town pharmacist is given a diagnosis of leukaemia which, not surprisingly, makes him reconsider his life and what remains of it. He discovers that “he was split between love and hatred – but what he loved and what he hated was unclear.” Yet despite reading Kierkegaard (as s ...more
Marcos
Jul 29, 2011 Marcos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I truly think after reading this, its confirmation that she's definitely one of the greatest prose writers I've ever read. This work is slightly more abrupt, terse, and tense than the gentler "The Member of the Wedding" and "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter". The interesting thing about this novel are that the main characters: A dying pharmacist, an aging judge, his grandson, and a racially mixed companion are all male. Usually, Ms. McCullers puts a female character that balances out all the masculi ...more
Jim
A bigot, a half-breed, a cancer patient, and a twink walk into a bar. The bartender says "What'll it be fellas?" Stop me if you've heard this one before...


Okay, so this was my first Carson McCullers, and I'm sensing this might not be her best work. She does okay with building the characters, but the plot, such as it is, seems muddled. The same material in Faulkner's hands could have been great, but this book doesn't deliver much.

Will have to try something else by McCullers
Zan
May 16, 2015 Zan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Zan by: Howie Einhorn

carson mccullers is staring at me. i remember listening to the anniversary's song 'the heart is a lonely hunter' in middle school and eventually googling the album and clicking a blue hyperlink that told me about carson mccullers. she seems very southern gothic, which is a term that means very 'to kill a mocking bird-y.'

i.e., this novel is ostensibly set in the 1950s but no one ever mentions world war II or fast food chains or anything. the racism probably was still that bad. i don't really kno
...more
Greg Z
Jan 08, 2017 Greg Z rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It is said that Carson McCullers thought Truman Capote copied her work. At best, we can agree that both are representative of Southern Gothic. But here, in Clock Without Hands, McCuller's skews Capote not once, but twice with Sherman (Black) and Jester (White). And although it seems that McCullers is pro-integration, she leaves alive, by the end of the book, her villain: the Judge who wants to turn back time and re-establish slavery. In fact, she kills her two decent characters (not members of t ...more
Kendall
A little slow at first- but I was completely engrossed by the end. She's does an incredible of dissecting a character's emotional makeup- peeling back the layers until she reaches the very core of who they are. And as she goes- she carefully holds each layer up to the light where you can examine it- and come to understand why that character is who he is. By doing this- she helps you understand completely- even empathize- with the most despicable character.
Ariela
Apr 25, 2008 Ariela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's not about liking the characters, it's about being on intimate terms with them.
Christian Schwoerke
Mortality and redemption are this novel’s chief concerns. For what will I be known when I die? Has my life had meaning? Carson McCullers uses the Judge’s crackpot scheme to redeem Confederate currency to signal the novel’s concern with its characters’ acts of misguided notions and acts of redemption. This novel centers around four characters in almost equal measure: 39-year-old pharmacist J.T. Malone who is dying of leukemia; the 70-something former congressman Judge Fox Clane; the Judge’s 17-ye ...more
Hope
May 04, 2015 Hope rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is an American tragedy that Carson McCullers isn't more widely read. I think she is in the same class as James Baldwin as one of the most important American novelists of the 20th century, due in part to her expert observation of a time and a place long since passed and her sensitivity to people of all kinds. The main characters in this book are all men: a pharmacist dying of leukemia, his friend the Judge, the Judge's gay grandson, and a black teenager with blue eyes named Sherman. Everyone i ...more
Michael Dobson
Feb 12, 2009 Michael Dobson rated it really liked it
Published in 1961, this is McCullers’ final novel. She died aged 50 in 1967, leaving an unfinished autobiography.

Clock without hands is a novel about death. It starts with Malone the chemist being told he is dying. Malone goes to visit his friend the Judge, a comic, corpulent Republican former senator in his eighties who drinks and pontificates on his own greatness, while fearing death and mourning his son, dead of suicide in his twenties. Most of the novel is concerned with the Judge, his grand
...more
Bill Huntley
Jun 29, 2015 Bill Huntley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ms. McCullers has populated her novel with characters as ambitious, deluded and flawed as any true live human. Like true humans, they are doomed or redeemed by the choices they make. The reader is drawn into a dark landscape to dwell in intimacy with the life and death struggle of the human condition, as her cast of misfits seek justice and understanding.

This story concerned with the legacy of the past and its impact on segregation is as relevant today as it was in 1961 on the eve of court order
...more
Dave
Dec 30, 2013 Dave rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Carson McCullers peaked at 23. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter has the character and thematic depth of a work by someone in their 40s. Clock Without Hands reads like the work of a teenager who's read one Greek tragedy and decided that putting the most painfully obvious stock characters and plot points in a shlocktastic melodrama is the way to go. Much like Uncle Tom's Cabin and Full Metal Jacket, it's hard not to laugh at the simple mind that drew up the climactic death scene in this work. This boo ...more
Denise Lampton
Sep 05, 2011 Denise Lampton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this book. The racial unequality in a small southern town in the 60s were right on target. Here, times were changing and Malone facing his own mortality. The relationship between Jester and Sherman, two boys growing up in two different worlds and they were able to forge a friendship. I like seeing what happens when there is the fork in the road and explains much as to what happened and why. I also like the fact that Malone did take a stand before his life came to an end.
Sylvie
Feb 27, 2009 Sylvie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not as appreciated as her famous one, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, but in my opinion it is a very beneficial read. It is a bit shorter, beautifully written and touches upon all the traditional McCullers themes such as race issues and death, along with the added bonus of a gay undercurrent. If you have never read anything by Carson McCullers, start with this because it will hep you appreciate The Heart is a Lonely Hunter that much more.
Claire
Apr 16, 2016 Claire rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gill
Jul 04, 2011 Gill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story is very typical of McCullers and has a sombre resonance. The characters are varied and drawn in a way that pulls one in to the story. She is a craftsman with words, and in a few deft strokes creates people who pull one into the story.
Although the story begins and ends with the fate of J.T. Malone it is his friend the Judge, and the Judge's amanuensis and his grandson who seem to occupy centre stage for much of the story. A masterful novel.
Vishal
Feb 19, 2016 Vishal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A unique take on the race situation in the American South in the 60's, against the backdrop of dying men and the introduction of integration in public schools. Death here symbolises the passing of old beliefs, old laws and old convictions (let's just say Trump would have a heart attack reading this book).
Berndt Sellheim
Feb 01, 2013 Berndt Sellheim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compassionate and moving novel, both an analysis of race relations in a changing America and a deep meditation on mortality. McCullers is a wonderful stylist, and there are sentences of such delicate beauty here they'll make you weep. Vivid and gorgeous.
And short, too, which is always nice, isn't it?
Rebecca
Nov 08, 2012 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-classics
A fascinating story about being on the inside of society and not realizing how things are slipping through your fingers - be it your way of life or life itself. It's about men who are anything but brave and men so brave it turns to stupidity. And it's an insightful description of life in a little town in the American south in the middle of the last century.
latner3
Feb 14, 2016 latner3 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As McCullers wrote the book is of the "response and responsibility-of man toward his own livingness."
A novel that explores the injustices of society, spiritual isolation and the confounding nature of human love and affection. A great read.
Carey
Sep 27, 2015 Carey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McCullers you break my heart.
Laila (BigReadingLife)
A slow-starter, but after about Chapter 5 or so, it really picks up - the characters are so vivid and strange and the story is sadly fascinating.
Liam
Feb 15, 2017 Liam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"It is the worst book I have ever read. It is incredible. If you want to read it, I will send it to you. It must signal the complete disintegration of this woman's talent. I have forgotten how the other three were, but they were at least respectable from the writing standpoint."
— Flannery O'Connor

McCullers and O'Connor are easily the greatest female (and Southern Gothic) authors I have discovered—both being firmly in my top five all-time favorite authors. At times I think they are under-appre
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Carson McCullers was an American who wrote fiction, often described as Southern Gothic, that explores the spiritual isolation of misfits and outcasts of the South.

From 1935 to 1937 she divided her time, as her studies and health dictated, between Columbus and New York and in September 1937 she married an ex-soldier and aspiring writer, Reeves McCullers. They began their married life in Charlotte,
...more
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