The Widower's Tale
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The Widower's Tale

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3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  6,958 ratings  ·  1,144 reviews
In a historic farmhouse outside Boston, seventy-year-old Percy Darling is settling happily into retirement: reading novels, watching old movies, and swimming naked in his pond. His routines are disrupted, however, when he is persuaded to let a locally beloved preschool take over his barn. As Percy sees his rural refuge overrun by children, parents, and teachers, he must re...more
ebook, 448 pages
Published September 7th 2010 by Anchor (first published 2009)
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Nette
I'm very bitter about this book: it got rave reviews for its touching character studies and perceptive social commentary, so I bought it and waited for a pleasant Friday evening to start reading. I made it through about six chapters and gave up, and I was PISSED. The main character is a 70-year-old man. He came to adulthood in the 50s, right? Here's how he talks to a salesgirl: "I'm having one of those -- what youngsters so blithely call 'a senior moment.' I thank you for your cordial assistance...more
Karen
Seeing other reviews (Jane's included), I am in the minority on this one. I remember liking "Three Junes" also by Glass, so I assumed I'd like this book. While the story was okay (about Percy a retired librarian, who allows his barn to be converted into a preschool, falls in love, and deals with various family issues) I was bogged down by the author's constant need to provide the background story on every character ever mentioned and every time they were mentioned. Two characters, Ira, one of th...more
Pearl
Her favorite story lines and more are all here. Perhaps there's too much going on in this book. At times it feels almost too topical. Let's see, Glass must have decided, I need to work in gay issues, immigration issues, ecoterrorism, cancer, and then revisit my most familiar issue - sibling rivalry.

For all that, this is still a book worth reading. Glass' work always is. She's a beautifully descriptive and witty writer. She likes her characters and makes us care about them too. (Well she was too...more
Dana
I loved every word of this densely written, thought provoking, moving, sad, happy novel. Julia Glass never writes light fluff. She is the thinking person's novelist and creates characters who are complicated, flawed, good and bad, like most people! There are plots and subplots, main characters and supporting ones, but all are well drawn and elicit some form of empathy from the readers. The story is told from more than one perspective, but mostly from that of Percival Darling, the widowed (though...more
Suze
This was the first time I've read Julia Glass, and I was awed by her character development and stunning prose. I love books that make me think, "Oh, how I wish I could write like this!" Glass's characters are authentic. They deal with their own foibles, beliefs, hurts and carefully guarded self-perspectives as they also attempt to maintain sometimes-fragile family relationships. I thoroughly enjoyed observing the process of Percy's emergence from 30 years of living in the past to reach a future...more
Jeff
Glass is, quite simply, a wonderful writer, and her newest book “The Widower’s Tale” is a fantastic addition to her growing canon. In her elegant and intelligent, yet breezy and accessible prose, the author tells a multi-layered family story that centers around a seventy year old retired librarian. Percy Darling may be resigned to spend his retirement in a quietly vigorous manner, but the goings-on of his family and his own unexpected romantic feelings toward a local artist conspire to change th...more
Connie
I'm not suggesting that this would be a 5 star book to my friends, but I could fall in love with Percy if I were the woman I wish I were rather than the one I am. Maybe I just want to be like Percy. Percy is a 71 year old curmudgeon with a smart mouth (I can do that) and an off-beat sense of humor, who always has something to say which then prompts me to think, "Well said!" I would want Percy's astute memory, his artful vocabulary, his unique style. I would want to banter with Percy and have a w...more
Gerry
How I came to read this is kind of a funny story that isn't about the book at all.
It was one of those days, when I needed a book. I went out to the choice reads shelf and found one that looked interesting but didn't pick it up. It was one of my typical quick-mystery books.
When I didn't find anything else I wanted, I picked it up and headed to the checkout and checked it out.
Except when I got home, I had The Widower's Tale in my bag. I thought maybe I'd picked up somebody else's book, but no, thi...more
Deb
The Widower's Tale is one of those books I closed wistfully, sad to say goodbye to all my new friends. The ensemble cast is headed by Percival Darling, a 70-year-old retired librarian from Harvard, and the widower of the title. At the start of the novel, he is confronted by drastic change in his life when he allows the barn adjacent to his historic Massachusetts home to be converted to a progressive pre-school. Meanwhile, he has to cope with two difficult daughters, a budding romance, and a gran...more
Jeanne Julian
We read this for our book group, and everyone liked it, although some thought it started slowly, then they got hooked. It'd be a good companion read to Franzen's "Freedom," as it's a subtle exploration of the American conscience through individuals. It's sort of a "bomber crew" cast representing different aspects of transition in contemporary America (the immigrant, the single woman who adopted, the gay couple, the high profile woman professional who's tried to "have it all," the prosperous subu...more
Lynn
This is my first Julia Glass novel. I went into it with no expectations one way or the other and, I admit, I wasn’t too sure at first. For me, a good read is one which has me thinking about the characters and/or their situations at odd moments during the course of my day. This didn’t happen until I was well into the story, but happen it did. The characters are well-drawn, interesting, and real individuals. Percy, the protagonist is a retired Harvard librarian and has the pedantic nature and dry...more
Kris
If you want to read a book that covers every political, environmental and social issue of the day then this is the book for you. Definitely my pet peeve when reading a book is to have the author use her characters to cram her political views down your throat. This book had everything from eco-terrorism to single mothers adopting, gay marriage to cancer, and immigration laws to urbanization of the countryside...YIKES and there is more!!! Not a book I would recommend unless you want to know how Ju...more
Lynn
I did not think it was as good as Three Junes. I couldn't put down Three Junes, and The Widower's Tale was eh,
Nancy
When my eyes scanned the first paragraph and lingered on, "...I read in our weekly town paper about the first of what I would so blithely come to call the Crusades....I can also say for certain, Because Elves & Fairies were scheduled.... " I began to question having hastily grabbed this book from the library new book table. Fortunately, I decided to read more before casting it aside.

This is a wonderful tale of someone slightly older than I, his marriage and loss of it, his children and grand...more
Eileen Granfors
In "The Widower's Tale," Julia Glass deftly introduces many, many narrators, each offering a portion of the intertwined stories of life in Boston's affluent suburbs.

The book's star is Percival (Percy) Darling, a curmudgeonly gentleman, who can be counted on to say something witty in response to questions or simply toss in a remark off the cuff. Not everyone appreciates his dry wit, especially his two adult daughters, Clover and Trudy. He raised them after their mother, Poppy, died. The interact...more
Julie
I love Julia Glass. I love her because her writing style is so smooth and perceptive that sometimes I forget that I am reading. It feels more like someone is sitting with me and telling me about some really interesting people they know and I get completely sucked into the story and don't want it to end.
In this book, Glass tells us about the tragedy(s) that befell the Darling family at their quaint New England home. Lots of the story is told in a first person narrative by Percy Darling who has s...more
Jill
Julia Glass gifts her readers with a stunning tale, a tale that encompasses multigenerational relationships, love and self-forgiveness, family loyalty and betrayal, the meaning of parenthood, and the intricate web of human connections.

Percy Darling – a 70-year-old retired librarian with an offbeat wit and courtly manners – is at the vortex of this novel, the only character that narrates from the first-person perspective. He has spent years in self-afflicted soltitude following the senseless and...more
Bookmarks Magazine
In The Widower's Tale, Glass continues to explore the intricate ties of family and friendship that have become her trademark. Some critics felt the novel was just as evocative, timely, and emotionally gratifying as Three Junes, and they enjoyed the novel's different voices and timely issues. Others, however, couldn't get past the inauthentic dialogue and overuse of clichés, such as the droll gay couple who also love whipping up gourmet cuisine. Additionally, several reviewers felt overwhelmed by...more
Elly Sands
I wanted a light read, a good story but I'm sorry to say this was a disappointment. Started out great but the characters became so convoluted that it became a nuisance to read. I previously tried another book by this author and was disappointed so I guess she is just not for me.
Marge
Three voices in this novel: one a widower (hence, the title), a medical student and an illegal immigrant from Guatemala. The loudest of course is the widower's, who is also a dad to two grown-up daughters and a grandfather to three, one of whom is the medical student.

I did not rush through the book. Reading it is like eating a huge piece of cake which one has to eat slowly to be able to finish. It satisfies.

What I like about it the most is the style of writing - grandiose, smart, verbose from...more
Katie O'Rourke
Julia Glass is one of my favorite authors. It's always with a bit of trepidation that I read new books from old favorites. The mysterious combination of my too-high hopes and the lower standard known authors must meet to be published often ends with disappointment.

But not this time. I wouldn't say The Widower's Tale was Glass' best novel - she'll be hard pressed to outdo The Whole World Over, in my eyes - but I enjoyed every minute of this read.

The plot is not something that I would have thought...more
Schmacko
Julia Glass’ new novel The Widower’s Year seems to borrow from half a dozen other great writers in a mostly flattering way. What emerges is a meandering pastiche that is both comfortably placating and yet still interesting enough to hold a reader, even if it’s not as cathartic as some of her other works. This book gets mired in too many plots, but still, the author’s balancing act is an amazing feat when you consider all the small things that could’ve gone wrong.

In the fictional and WASP-y small...more
Chris
I hated for this book to end as I had become really involved with many of the characters. And there are lots of characters, but it wasn't difficult to keep them straight. Julia Glass' gift for characterization (and beautiful writing) is just splendid. The curmudgeony protagonist is by far the most wonderful voice; humorous, wry, sarcastic, clever. His voice dominates the story, but there are three others that we hear; his beloved grandson Robert (a premed student at Harvard), Guatamelan immigran...more
Kathleen
Drawn to this novel because of the author, I was quickly reminded why I admire Julia Glass' writing. Like the pilgrims in "The Canterbury Tales," the reader meets a range of characters here on life's journey. Many are from privileged backgrounds, many focused on doing good in this world, and then, there are those struggling with relationships, with their life's work.
The widower has the most to teach the reader - when to push, when to let go - within his relationships. A bright, articulate man,...more
Nathan James
Julia Glass is a go-to author for me. When I pick up one of her books, I know I'll be spending time with charming characters. Case in point...

Septuagenarian Percy Darling's insulated world is ransacked when he allows his barn to be renovated into a Montessori-esque school.

****************SPOILERS AHOY AHOY*****************************
Percy is written with wit and spunk. His grumplings with the other characters in the novel let the reader know almost immediately what kind of narrator is leading t...more
Virginia Myers

I struggled through the first part of this book and decided several times to stop the torture. But I was reading it for a book club, so I kept going because I wanted to participate in the discussion. Then, about half way through I began to develop an interest in a couple of the story lines; but once again before I finished the book I lost interest and started skimming through some of the paragraphs.

The central character in the book is a 70 year old widower named Percy and all of the other chara...more
Alex Templeton
My feelings about this book changed as I read it. At the beginning, I was disappointed. I knew what I had been getting into when I started the book--a nice tome about middle class New England white people and the people around them. In the beginning, I wasn't as captivated by it as other similar books I'd read (see: "The Condition", for one). By the end, though, I was enjoying getting into bed at night and falling into the characters' worlds, and I was sorry to leave their presence. The book was...more
Andre Dumas
Great characters, great writing but I did find there to be one too many 'hot button' topics which made the entire book feel a little stretched. I'd have preferred to stay with Percy for the duration---especially since his was the only first person narration. As such, the other characters (in their 3rd person vantage) felt further away from....my heart?

Ending felt sad and sham-like. Where is justice for Turo?

Looking forward to reading more Julia Glass, as she's one of those writers who can easi...more
Elizabeth Sulzby
Very compelling book, surprisingly so. The protagonist is a 70 year old widower, widowed 30 years prior, and his re-emergence into love and community.

This book has a structure I may not have noticed in any book before. Many books now switch from character to character's viewpoint throughout the book. In this book only the widower's story is told in first person. All other characters are told from 3rd person omniscient point of view.

There is strong foreboding throughout the book that plays out ov...more
Maureen
I strongly recommend this poignant book which brings forth characters you'd love to meet starting with the Widower Percival Darling. Retired Harvard librarian Percy has lived over 30 years without his beloved Poppy and has raised their two daughters, workaholic, overachiever breast oncologist Trudy and aimless Clover who has left her husband and two children in New York. At 70 cantankerous Percy has a well established rich life but he's forced to make some changes as he allows his property to be...more
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Julia Glass is the author of Three Junes , which won the 2002 National Book Award for Fiction, and The Whole World Over . She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Her short fiction has won several prizes, including the Tobias Wolff Award and the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society Medal...more
More about Julia Glass...
Three Junes The Whole World Over I See You Everywhere And the Dark Sacred Night Chairs in the Rafters (Kindle Single)

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“Ready how? Who's ever ready for anything important?” 4 likes
“Well, yes, there were quite a lot of books throughout, tumbling out of haphazardly placed bookshelves, stacked beneath chairs, beside beds, even in the bottoms of a closet or two. But I was never a "collector." My love of books is a love of what they contain; they hold knowledge as a pitcher holds water, as a dress contains the mystery of a woman's exquisite body. Their physicality matters--do not speak to me of storing books as bytes!--but they should not inspire fetishistic devotion.” 3 likes
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