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A Meeting by the River

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  633 ratings  ·  73 reviews
Two English brothers meet, after a long separation, in India. Oliver, the idealistic younger brother, prepares to take his final vows as a Hindu monk. Patrick, a successful publisher with a wife and children in London and a male lover in California, has publicly admired his brother's convictions while privately criticizing his choices.

First published in 1967, A Meeting by

Paperback, 192 pages
Published November 19th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1967)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  633 ratings  ·  73 reviews

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Matthew Ted
11th book of 2020. I'm a huge Isherwood fan; he's probably one of my favourite writers. As I've said on previous reviews, I feel a strong affinity with him - I think we could have been good friends if I were born in a different time and we happened to meet.

I often think I'm allergic to letters in fiction. As soon as a book breaks into a letter, I roll my eyes. Something about them, they've always bothered me. This book is predominantly written in letters, and yet, I didn't hate it. In fact, I e
"Marriage [is] an inhibition which automatically makes possible the concept of adultery."

Even as one of my all-time favorite authors, I have avoided some of Isherwood's late works, those in which he wrote of his conversion to Hinduism and close spiritual involvement with Swami Prabhavananda. I needn't have worried, at least with his A Meeting at the River (1967). Isherwood was a master craftsman who treated his readers with more respect than any author I can recall. In any case, this book is not
Aug 31, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I too seldom get to write so simple and declarative a review: this book is beautiful and humane, lovely and aching with all of the best stuff of (capitalized) Life.

(Star docked for epistolary, which is rarely ever attractive to my dilettante sensibilities)
Jul 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Full review to come.
Sep 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the one hand, I enjoyed reading A Meeting by the River. Isherwood's eloquent excellence aside, the portrayal of the love-hate relationship inherent in (some) familial relations I found to be extremely well executed, if a bit forced, for its (un)bridled passion, character exploration - or rather, exposition - as well as candour. As is to be expected from such a subjective form, the narrators are very trustworthy and it is up to the reader to see through their truths and lies, go beyond their w ...more
Jan 30, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political-animal
A sketch, written as a series of letters (how quaint) and Isherwood's last book.

It would be tempting to undervalue the skill of the author here - the tone seems casual, with subtle changes in pitch depending on who will receive the letter that is written. Character and action are set both by reportage and conspicuous absences.

The counterpoint between the two brothers can easily be read as the complex split in each person's desires; to be ascetic and mindful, at the same time as wilful, selfish
Phil Devereux
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Glorious. I enjoyed every aspect of this story and find it hard to believe it was written more than 50 years ago because I could relate to so much of it. The ending in particular is just pure joy.
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Brothers ey? such twats they can be.
Sam Quixote
Oct 25, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Christopher Isherwood is a writer I’ve been meaning to read for a while and when my Pa gave me a copy of A Meeting by the River as a gift - a book he read while a young man though today has completely forgotten - I thought now was the time. I wouldn’t have picked this Isherwood if it’d been up to me, I was more interested in A Single Man, which was made into a film a few years ago starring Colin Firth, or the even more famous Berlin Stories which became Liza Minnelli’s Cabaret, but A Meeting by ...more
Jul 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marthese Formosa
Stuck between a 2 and a 3. I did like it so I decided on 3. Perhaps not something that I would read everyday but I've been meaning to read Isherwood for ages and I treat all his books as classics (and queer classics).

A meeting by the river is a story focusing on two brothers: Patrick (Paddy) and Oliver (Olly) and is told all in letters and journal entries. At first they start to write to each other, then when they meet letters are sent to their mother, Penny and Tom and Olly writes to process.

Nov 16, 2018 rated it liked it
As an epistolary novel, this doesn't quite come off because nobody writes such long letters, with blow-by-blow accounts of conversations. However, this is a rather neat morality tale. The main protagonists are 2 brothers with divergent personalities: Oliver has always been an idealist prone to espousing causes in an ever-failing effort to find inner peace. Patrick is an urbane and successful publisher with a beautiful wife and 2 daughters he makes a great show of loving.The brothers meet again i ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book with a warm ending that gave me chills. The plot is simple: two brothers reunite in India after years of not speaking or seeing one another. The entire novel is told through letters or journal entries, which allows the reader to see inconsistencies in what a single character tells one person vs. another. Essentially, one of the brothers is a perpetual liar; the other (whose story is told through journaling) is more sensitive, yet truthful...even casting himself as a victim, at ...more
Although it is, in some ways, a rather sad story, it's a very interesting one, particularly with the background knowledge that Isherwood was himself a practicing Hindu. The reader is set up to empathize at first with Patrick, the older, worldly brother come to "save" his younger, idealistic sibling Oliver from taking his final vows as a Hindu monk. But in the course of reading his letters—in which he presents various, but never entirely honest versions of both himself and events taking place to ...more
Mar 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is more of a character study than a full novel, as it mostly focuses on the relationship between two brothers as one of them prepares to move into the next phase of his life. Patrick you only learn about through his letters to his family and lover while you only see Oliver through his diary, which gives everything a certain feeling of distance. That does make it interesting in Patrick's case as Oliver seems to have a different view of Patrick when compared to how Patrick represents himself ...more
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wholly admire the two mediums the author used to determine fact from fiction: letters, which can be sweetened and lied in, and a diary where the truth is raw and evident. The brothers voices differed, so it was relatively easy to follow (as easy as classics can be) and the dynamic between the two was interestingly tense yet friendly. The event the book focuses on, the days leading up to Oliver taking his monastic vows, is something dynamic in the world of classics and something I haven't seen ...more
Laura Alderson
An interesting novel, written in the form of letters and diary entries, in which Patrick goes to India to visit his semi-estranged brother, Olly, to try to persuade him not to take Hindu vows. It becomes clear quickly that what you read is not necessarily the truth, as the brothers' diary entries clearly differ from the letters. While they seem to be polite to each other on the surface, there is some lingering distrust and even dislike. I found it hard to follow in places and was not always sure ...more
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Christopher Isherwood is a writer I've been curious about for years, and over the last couple of months I've gotten ahold of several of his books and binge-read them. Of the three novels I read, A Meeting by the River was by far my favorite—it seemed the most fully-realized, most artfully constructed, and most moving. (The others were Prater Violet and A Single Man, and I liked both of them.)

I've been toying with a possibly wrong-headed theory that this novel is sort of like Isherwood's personal
Andy Bird
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
An epistolary novel - two unlikeable brothers reunite just before one takes his vows to become a swami.

I wouldn't say it's enjoyable, It features one of the most unlikeable characters I've ever read. The letter & journal format does a fantastic job of playing out the versions of ourselves that we present to audiences; especially as closeted gay men.

Recommended but not pleasurable.
Wilde Sky
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two brothers meet, after many years, when one of them decides to enter a religious order.

The letter format didn't really work for me, but there was enough of a story (with some good diary sections) for me to enjoy this book. I didn't really warm to either of the two main characters.

Overall rating 3.5
Jul 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: queer-studies
A slender meditation on the staying power of sibling relationships. Isherwood presents two broken brothers, both trying, in their own specific way, to find a way forward in their attempts to heal their self-inflicted wounds.
Jul 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
First time reading Isherwood. Loved it. Had no idea he wrote as long ago as he did! Smart writing and lots of good things to think about re: spirituality, self-esteem, family dynamics and what is "true." ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of those books that curiously made me almost cry as I read the last pages. I didn't know how it could be ended perfectly, but it was. ...more
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wouldn’t know where to begin...
I love his style of writing and how simple his prose can be. I wasn't a big fan of the storyline but I would probably read anything by Christopher Isherwood. ...more
May 24, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the message of the book and the ideas it explores. It's a short book but I kept zoning out. ...more
Lisa Lazarus
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A gem of a book. Elegant and insightful and compelling.
Con Robinson
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stunning portrayal of inner conflict, the use of white lies and what truths we choose to reveal to our nearest and dearest.
Richard Jespers
Isherwood’s final novel, Meeting is both enjoyable and frustrating to read. The story of two brothers—told mostly in an epistolary fashion—holds one’s attention most of the time. The prose, as always, is seductive, leading a reader from one sentence to the next, one letter to the next. The author’s grasp of his material, that one of the brothers, Oliver, is planning to become a Hindu monk, is quite adequate—based on his own extensive study of and participation in the religion.

But the storytellin
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I loved this book about the relationship between two English brothers, Patrick, the older one who works in the publishing and the film industry and is married, and Oliver, the younger one, who after having worked with the Quakers and for the Red Cross, is about to take his vows to become a swami — a buddhist monk — in a monastery in Calcutta. I don't know Isherwood that well — I have only read A Single Man, and know of his life what was on the back of the book and in the bibliography — but it se ...more
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Christopher Isherwood was a novelist, playwright, screen-writer, autobiographer, and diarist. He was also homosexual and made this a theme of some of his writing. He was born near Manchester in the north of England in 1904, became a U.S. citizen in 1946, and died at home in Santa Monica, California in January 1986.

Isherwood was the grandson and heir of a country squire, and his boyhood was privile

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