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A Single Man

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  24,721 ratings  ·  1,984 reviews
Isherwood’s short, poignant novel is a tender and wistful love story

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, Isherwood shows George's determination to carry on, evoking the unexpected pleas
Paperback, 152 pages
Published February 4th 2010 by Vintage Classics (first published 1964)
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Nastasya Poney I'm not sure : this part of the novel made me feel that it was George who imagined (rightly or falsely) what she thought. Like in the rest of the nove…moreI'm not sure : this part of the novel made me feel that it was George who imagined (rightly or falsely) what she thought. Like in the rest of the novel, it's still his personal vision of people around him and their thinking that we experience, which makes him appear very alone at that time of the novel. (less)
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Greg Kenny says he doesn't think about the past. And at the end of this book, George decides in his own way not to either.…moreKenny says he doesn't think about the past. And at the end of this book, George decides in his own way not to either.(less)

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Average rating 4.10  · 
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 ·  24,721 ratings  ·  1,984 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-to-film
“A few times in my life I’ve had moments of absolute clarity. When for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than think, and things seem so sharp and the world seems so fresh. It’s as though it had all just come into existence.
I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything, they fade. I have lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present, and I realize that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be.”

We all
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit, favourites
Christopher Isherwood has written a book that makes me hate him. Or maybe I hate myself? The main theme of this book is loss; loss of a lover, loss of youth, loss of identity, loss of direction, it's all there in beautifully phrased observations and it tickled that spot in my mind, the spot where I hide all of my fears, until I could no longer ignore the fact that I am and I continue to lose these things myself until one day the devastating and unthinkable will happen and I will lose that which ...more
Luca Ambrosino
English (A Single Man)/ Italiano

George, a middle-aged professor, has an ordinary life, but now he must relate to loneliness because of the untimely passing of his partner. Glimmers of light thanks to few daily joys can be seen in his gray days: a female friend who invites him to dinner to distract him, but awkwardily ends up kissing him, ignoring his homosexuality and pretending more than what George can offer her. Or a college student who spends the night at George's house, giving him a few hou

Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Oh, Colin Firth (sir), you are just perfect in every (single) way, and Julianne, can I become you in this film? With that eyeliner an inch thick. Let's all get drunk and dance to 'Green Onions' together. What a name for a song, right? And I don't even dance.

Is that Don Draper on the phone? Ask to speak to Betty! And Mary's husband, long before Downton Abbey, with Nicholas Hoult and his Justin Bieber hair. (Can we please start calling it Kenny/Nicholas Hoult hair?) And that sweater! Where do I ge
Steven Godin
Mar 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Even though there are positive reviews aplenty I still had concerns this would turn out to be an overly melodramatic letdown, but needn't have worried as what we have here is a compressed work of utter brilliance from a vastly undervalued writer who does not waste a single word making the reading experience flawless. There are two thing in particular to highlight that nailed it for me, firstly I do not believe Isherwood set out with the intention of writing a story wholly about about homosexuali ...more
Feb 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: isherwood, classic
An astounding piece of work; a day in the life of novel. The day belongs to George Falconer; an English professor in his 50s (English by nationality as well) teaching in southern California. It is set in the early 1960s. George’s lover Jim has recently died suddenly and he is alone again. The novel takes us from waking to breakfast, to travelling to work and so on. This doesn’t have the grandiosity of Joyce; it is much more straightforward and focuses living each day because of life’s brevity.
Julio Genao
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Students of skribblecraft
Shelves: loved
I aspire.

It's listed as being 192 pages long, but I swear it's because the edition I read had fifty words a page with three inch margins an every side.

It's so economical it is more or less mind-blowing.

If my desire to express whimsy came from Terry Pratchett and P.G. Wodehouse, and my inclination to be daring and irreverent came from David Foster Wallace and Stephen King

If my unruly imagination came from Bill Watterson, and my eye for alienation from Susan Cooper

If my lust for scale came from
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All the lonely people
Recommended to Robin by: Pedro
Ever feel lonely? Ever lose someone irreplaceable? Feel like their absence is the lion's share of what you're carrying around in that body of yours, and the only way you can drag that collection of cells through life is by putting on a face, an act, a show?

Christopher Isherwood captured that painful status in this small, marvellous book. George has lost Jim. And now George is bewilderingly alone - not melodramatically so, but the opposite. Mundanely alone. Sitting-on-the-toilet kind of alone. He
Bill Kerwin
Sep 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This witty, acerbic, elegant little novel should not be confused with the soggy, self-pitying movie of the same name.
Feb 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone in the universe
This book is a truly beautiful thing; a completely exquisite experience. Page after page it spoke to me, as eloquently and profoundly as any book I've ever read. It was sad and funny and wise and observant without ever becoming sentimental or maudlin.

In 186 pages of concentrated, yet langorous, stream-of-consciousness prose Isherwood gets to the heart of what it means to be a middle-aged man, a loner, a fish out of water, an expatriate on several levels -- as a Britisher in a new land, a gay man
Fabian {Councillor}
He pictures the evening he might have spent, snugly at home, fixing the food he has bought, then lying down on the couch beside the bookcase and reading himself slowly sleepy. At first glance, this is an absolutely convincing and charming scene of domestic contentment. Only after a few instances does George notice the omission which makes it meaningless. What is left out of the picture is Jim, lying opposite him at the other end of the couch, also reading; the two of them absorbed in the
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For astronauts that had returned from walking on the moon, I imagine that the worst part of their experience was having to live out the rest of their lives. Every other event would be "after the moon"; all experiences would be measured by that yardstick; old and new relationships would orbit around that event.

This then makes me think about retired professional athletes, former world-stage politicians, etc. - do they also live out the remainder of their lives reflecting on the halcyon days of yes
Jack Edwards
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't put this book down and found it absolutely fascinating to study in the context of both feminism (in the depiction of Charley) and queer theory (George and his perceptions of homosocial, and homosexual, relationships). Definitely a contender for my dissertation!!! ...more
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Confident and masterly. A simple story brilliantly told, over the course of a single day. Head over heels, here. I had found the movie breathtaking, back then; only now am I getting around to reading the source material and sure enough, it delivers. Funny to find out just how much the character of Charlotte benefited from Julianne Moore’s sex appeal and Tom Ford’s expert taste, when eventually made into a part. Didn’t quite expect the original Charlotte but easily embraced her, like all the rest ...more
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Day in the Life of Gay. In the 1960s! Artifact indeed--more valuable because it is truly a piece of Isherwood's heart, it is semi autobiographic; our hero George is an Englishman living in L.A.! But he is depressed, he is experienced... this day, like Clarissa Dalloway's, will be special.

Personally, I really admired the way White Privilege is portrayed and dissected in this novel. George is an outsider, but not un-White, not un-learned. He fights for his rightful place... as an Outsider!
Jacob Overmark
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
We never meet Jim in person.

This is George after Jim. A middle-aged man caught between daydreams and nightmares, adhering to the conformity of life in the daytime, drowning his sorrows - well knowing that the little devils can swim - in alcohol at night.

Taking exercise, working hard, and allowing himself daydreaming a little once again, ´cause there MUST be a life after Jim, except there isn´t.

How do you cope when your lover is gone, killed in a car crash, a lover you even can´t admit the lov
Rating: 4.0/5.0


Book Structure:
This book is around 152 pages with no chapters. The first half of the book is more focused on narration and the second half there is more dialogue than the first half.

"I'm like a book you have to read. A book can't read itself to you. It doesn't even know what it's about. I don't know what I'm about."

I have watched the movie adaptation when it was released in 2009 and I loved it a lot but never read this book. I wanted to rewatch that movie again but t
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A single man.
One day.
One life.

“Staring and staring into the mirror, it sees many faces within his face—the face of the child, the boy, the young man, the not-so-young man—all present still, preserved like fossils on super-imposed layers, and, like fossils, dead.”


“What are they afraid of?
They are afraid of what they know is somewhere in the darkness around them, of what may at any moment emerge into the undeniable light of their flash-lamps, nevermore to be ignored, explained away.”

Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2018
I wouldn’t dare to write anything about someone’s absence and how it bares you, as it is already there, tightly packed into this mesmerizing little book. We never truly experience what absence is till it’s too late, don’t we? That’s why we are never prepared. A Single Man, to me, is a novel about Jim-less George and his pain which feels too real to absorb - palpable and ugly, physical and raw, at times almost disgusting. What’s more important (and what I discovered reading this book for the seco ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) was an English novelist who pioneered the writing of novels with gay themes in English literature. He was openly gay, lived with and befriended fellow gay men some of them were famous also like W. H. Auden and Truman Capote. At some points in his life, he also became friends and was mentored by E. M. Forster. In turn, when he met Ray Bradbury in a chance encounter in a bookstore, he wrote a glowing review for his The Martian Chronicles that helped launch the lat ...more
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Waking up begins with saying am and now.
That which has awoken then lies for a while staring up at the ceiling and down into itself until it has recognised I, and therefrom deduced I am, I am now. Here comes next, and is at least negatively reassuring; because here, this morning, is where it had expected to find itself; what’s called at home. But now isn’t simply now. Now is also a cold reminder; one whole day later than yesterday, one year later than last year.
Every now is labelled with its date
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well. I picked this up earlier to move into the 'reading-next' pile and, on the way to the pile, thought to myself, let's read the first page and see what it's like. And now I've finished reading it the same day.

As I make my way through the top 100 list I am looking for the books I call 'masterpieces', which is my favourite word when referring to literature, as it holds so much weight, honour and power. Books are masterpieces for different reasons and this, I would have to say, is a masterpiece.
Sep 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ficciones
A Single Man is a day in the life (quaint naturalist device, that) of a middle-aged Englishman and English professor grieving in a numbed, autopilot kinda way after the recent death of his partner. I remember Don Bachardy saying in the film Chris and Don: A Love Story that Isherwood wrote this novel during one of their trial separations; the intensity of George’s sense of loss was therefore underwritten by Isherwood’s own dreadful imagination of life without Don.

I loved George’s morning, and hi
Leslie D.
Jul 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a gem of a book. The style of writing is quite lyrical in a sense and beautiful itself, let alone having a great story line!
I finished it quickly and highly recommend the Audiobook version. Narration is stunning & adds a lot to it in my opinion!
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I went into this anticipating a well-written but somewhat dated glimpse at what life was like for white gay men in the early 1960's. I knew it was first published in 1964 and considered an early gay classic for its candid, boldly sympathetic depiction of a homosexual man.

What I did not anticipate, however, was for this to be as timeless and transcendent as it is, traversing the distance of decades to resonate deeply with me as a middle-aged, “out” gay man in the 21st century.

Sure, there are re
I am not sure if I am just ignorant of what the humor was like in the 60’s, or if Christopher Isherwood was way ahead of his time, but this book definitely has what I would call a modern sense of humor. It’s that special blend of bittersweet heartbreak, self-deprecation, and sardonic wit. I am very familiar with this type of humor from my favorite movies and television shows, but I am pleasantly surprised to find it here, in this brilliant little book that, on the surface, appears to be about de ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-long-ago, read09
I noticed when I liked someone else's review that I didn't have this one marked. How could that be? I've read it at least twice. Stellar book. ...more
If you watched the 2009 movie version of this story starring Colin Firth before reading this book, be aware that the movie takes the story in... a different direction. Kinda sorta? It's different. For all of its similarities, it's different. I saw the movie first because I requested both from the library and the movie came in before the book, and the movies are only borrowable for a week, and who knew when the book was coming in, so I just sucked it up and did it.

These are both good stories. But
Dec 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-century, british
Masks - we all wear them. We've got our work masks and our family masks and our friend masks. Then, try adding to that being a gay man living in the netherworld of not pretending to be straight but also not able to be fully out (the early 1960s). That's a lot of freakin' masks! And it's exhausting. And our hero, George, is tired, tired of the bullshit and hypocrisy. Thankfully, he still has a biting sense of humor and beware if you're on the receiving end of his satirical skewer. But George is a ...more
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Masterly writing, capable of taking me in the first pages to the 'place' where George lives. Isherwood's writing is full of the little truths of our everyday lives and his wit and social commentary channelled through George rings true not only for when the time this was written but for now also, after all circumstances change but human interaction remains the same. I ended up highlighting most of the book, so I will not quote. If you want quotes, just read the book.

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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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