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The Widower's Tale

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  10,644 ratings  ·  1,475 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
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published September 7th 2010 by Pantheon (first published 2009)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,644 ratings  ·  1,475 reviews

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Sep 25, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 02, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
May 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 13, 2014 rated it did not like it
OH. MY. GOD. If I hadn't finished this book this morning I might have just had to not finish it. Yep. The only other book I ever didn't finish was Ulysses (and then I did read it a few years later). This is probably one of the most boring books I have picked up in the past 10 years. Seriously. I feel like I have finished a marathon on my hands and knees.

It is long. And it is stupid. And it is boring. Glass's writing is overwrought and repetitive. Her main character is a 70 year old man with impl
Lynda Schmidt
Jul 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
For me, this book dragged on and on and I really just couldn't wait to finish it. I disliked the way the story jumped - mid-chapter it would change directions completely and return to yet another thread. I also found the character of Turo unbelievable - as I did several other components of the story: After 30 years with no relationship, all of the sudden Percy is immediately comfortable in a new relationship? For me, there were too many side stories and character interactions - so that none were ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
I HATED the dialogue in this writing style. I rarely do not finish a book but I just couldn't care enough to finish the last 150 pages!
I heard this authors other books are better, hope so, this not for me! got this at the dollar store, I am finding that I am not getting any hits at the dollar store lately!
Jan 26, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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,
Oct 16, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
The best way I can think of to describe this is as an American Maeve Binchy story. It follows five or six different characters, some related as family, some otherwise related. It seems like the author came up with six different story lines, wrote out character driven short stories that revolved around a kind of stereotypical theme, and stirred them together. At one level of reading, for entertainment, it works pretty well. The story does bounce around but you do feel you've taken quite a trip by ...more
Nov 01, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: adult-fiction
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
Elly Sands
Sep 22, 2010 rated it it was ok
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.
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 grandchil
Jeanne Julian
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book!
Cherise Wolas
While I enjoyed this book and the interesting themes, there was something that didn't quite catch fire for me fully. And yet I kept reading and was especially taken with one of the main characters, Percy Darling.
Aug 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book more than I did. A little too rambling with characters that just didn't quite fit...anything or anywhere...meh.
Christie Bane
This was an example of a pretty well-written book that just didn't do it for me. The characters were believable (if not really likable), the story was sort of interesting, but I just didn't feel the magic.

There are quite a few stories going on here, but all of them are related to the loss of the main character Percy's wife Poppy in the pond behind the house several years ago when their two daughters were younger. Now the two daughters (Clover and Trudy) are all grown up. Clover is sort of a scr
Katie O'Rourke
Oct 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Bookmarks Magazine
Oct 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: nov-dec-2010
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
Dec 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 11, 2017 marked it as xx-dnf-skim-reference  ·  review of another edition
because random shiny
yeah, well, no
Sometimes I like popular fiction. And the first few pages of this grabbed me. I like Percy's manner of speech (assuming he uses it consciously, tongue-in-cheek). But the info-dump was bad, and then chapter 2 is Celestino and the info-dump to explain him (rather than let the man explain himself).

p. 73 & 10% and done. Ms Glass, you're no Anne Tyler.
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
A very leisurely read (perfect for my week-long vacation), but in the end a delightful book. I loved crochety old Percy Darling, and Celestino, the illegal Guatemalan immigrant, who reminded me of an old friend. Despite the fact that the book revolves around mostly privileged people in a fictionalized version of Lincoln, MA, I found it had much to say about the human condition -- and was generally reassuring in the end. I think I'll search out more of her books.
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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 ...more

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