Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Last Gentleman” as Want to Read:
The Last Gentleman
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Last Gentleman

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,942 Ratings  ·  130 Reviews
Will Barrett is a 25-year-old wanderer from the South living in New York City, detached from his roots and with no plans for the future - until the purchase of a telescope sets off a romance and changes his lifeforever. Publisher: Spring Arbor/Ingram Author: Walker Percy Format: 416 pages, paperback ISBN: 9780312243081
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 4th 1999 by Picador (first published 1966)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Leif
Oct 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I am a Percy addict, I admit it, and a vein full of this didn't help. Percy's novels are like non-fiction disguised as fiction, which I think throws a lot of people. He has ideas, and fiction is a vehicle for them. But just like with O'Connor, you can read his books without having a clue about the author's ideas and still love them for the literature they are. Percy's turns of phrase alone make his stuff worth reading. And boy, did this one get me. Starts out like a quaint, good-ish book, perfec ...more
Abailart
Mar 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I ended my review of Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree by adding almost as an afterthought that it is very funny. I’ll start this on Walker Percy’s The Last Gentleman by saying it too is very funny. It’s slapstick and absurdist at times, satirical, iconoclastic, wickedly spurting out stereotypes, and if you like your humour refined it’s got that subtle taste of a Socratic Kierkegaard at glee. I’m only an Englishman eavesdropping on this tale of Southern gentility so for better or worse a lot has passed ...more
Lobstergirl
Sep 10, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who scrape the burnt bits off toast
Shelves: own, fiction

Will Barrett is a slacker. A Princeton drop-out from a genteel Alabama family, unable to attend to his studies, or his life really, because he has amnesiac spells, he moves to New York City where he gets a room at the YMCA and a job as "humidification engineer" at Macy's - basically a janitor working in the basement. It's the Eisenhower era. He spends $1,900 on a fancy telescope (that's about $966,000 in today's dollars) to watch a peregrine in Central Park, but ends up training it on two succes
...more
David Lentz
Jun 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Walker Percy is one of the great novelists of the South and is at his best when he describes quotidian life there. The protagonist, whom Percy shapes as an engineer, is the personification of the Deep South. The engineer is a Princeton man with a high-powered telescope living in New York City with episodes of amnesia or "fugues," which disorient him. This poor man takes a job caring for a desperately sick young man named Jamie and falls in love with his sister, Kitty. Jamie is receiving treatmen ...more
Kirk Smith
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Whether it be Brooklyn or Birmingham I seldom appreciate accounts of banal domesticity, neurosis laden diaries. I have really made poor choices lately. ** I am however a huge fan of Walker Percy, and though I disliked this, I realize that description might fit 50% of his work. ***This was the one that completes my list of every novel he has written. I'm aware The Moviegoer should be one I object to, but I love it. My ultimate WP favorite is The Thanatos Syndrome. (Oh, correction: I just noted th ...more
Laura
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
My first Percy but definitely not my last. His words are addictive. Very much interested in how much of the main character is autobiographical, just curious.
Abby
Apr 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
Written in 1966, Percy's second novel following the classic "The Moviegoer." Young, confused Southerner, adrift, suffering 60's-style existential angst, a blank slate whose "radar" lets him know what others want him to be. A vehicle for Percy's ideas on philosophy, theology, the South and more. I suffered existential angst trying to get through it.
Paul
Sep 24, 2009 rated it liked it
Walker Percy, a much-honored novelist, might be best known in some circles for his noble effort to get the great "Confederacy of Dunces" published after its author, John Kennedy O'Toole, committed suicide. Percy knows great writing when he sees it, and his 1966 novel,"The Last Gentleman," features some great writing.

Like other Percy novels ("The Second Coming" and "The Thanatos Syndrome" come to mind), "The Last Gentleman" is not easy stuff. It features a cast of largely unlikable characters, in
...more
Paul
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'm going to be EXTREMELY generous and give a book I couldn't take past page 108 (where the sex scene in Central Park begins, or maybe failed sex scene, I give no shits) two stars. Why? Because the "engineer" is admittedly a very haunting character in certain respects. Life going nowhere because of neurosis and the inability to actually choose a path in life instead of wallowing in potential? God, the man is writing about me. Kind of. I wish I had a plantation and a check every month, however mo ...more
David Withun
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, literature
One of Walker Percy's several masterpieces, this book tells the story of Will Barrett, a man who suffers from bouts of memory loss and who, through his own peculiarities, ends up intimately attached to a Southern family he encounters while living in New York City. Like all of Percy's novels, this is both a fascinating story and an exploration of life through the insights of Christian existentialists like Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky. Some of the concepts Percy explores in this novel are elucidate ...more
Felix
Mar 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
My favorite of Walker Percy's novels. Williston Bibb Barrett, the protagonist, although that is a somewhat inappropriate label for him, wanders through the novel reacting to other people in a highly mannered way, initiating very little, but his very self-effacement presents a tabula rasa for those around him to fill in.

Somewhere in this book I remember seeing the description of manners as existing so that "nobody would ever not know what to do." I have looked for the line and not found it lately
...more
Chrystal
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an unusual reading experience for me. I slogged through the book and the story never gripped me. I even considered giving it up about 100 pages in. However, I was always conscious of the undeniable skill of the author and wanted to find out how he ended the story. He had something very tangible to say that was developing in a seemingly disconnected, but very unique way. I may come back and write a review after I mull things over, because this is a remarkable book with a powerful ending. ...more
Osvaldo Ortega
Wow! Just finished this wonderful journey of a book. Barrett is a wonderful surreal character living on the edge of his own life. He holds in his soul the confusion and disorientation that comes from living old in a modern world. Incredible. Percy is a master of both dialogue and the stream of consciousness. This last gentleman is a tragic but enviable character.

For those living in the South, or familiar with this strange place facing the Gulf, Percy's references will truly hit home. The author
...more
Marion
Jun 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book, based in small part on Dostoevsky's The Idiot, is, is, is everything. The final pages will make you tremble or cry, or just appreciate how we kiss and kick around despair.
Simon Robs
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Walker Percy's second novel also picaresque Southern gentleman's look at the world going on around him as he tries to fit in while making sense. It's a straight telling with stable plot points well limned but always from the unreliable narrator Will Barret who with bouts of deja vus and/or fugues where amnesia leaves holes to memory yet takes us through a series of events beginning in New York city parks on into the deep south in or about the mid-to late sixties or so frame. There is an interest ...more
Neal
Sep 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
I am giving this book one star because I did not like it. The beginning was ok... It concerns a young man transplanted from the South living in a YMCA apartment working the night shift in a basement. Perfect - young man stuck in the labrynth. This I can work with. But then he meets some other characters and goes on a road trip down South and the whole book falls apart. It's the South with a capital S - Walker Percy is one of those southern authors you read in college - so of course he tries to m ...more
Paul
May 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
I really enjoyed this book. It was strange; the author made some interesting choices, like calling his narrator "the engineer" all the time, instead of by his name. This was odd, because all the characters called him by his name, but for the first part of the book he doesn't interact with anyone, so you don't learn his name until 50 pages in or so. Odd. (p.s. the narrator shared my surname.) There's a ton of philosophy in here, no surprise from Percy, and overall the story is mostly compelling a ...more
Christian
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Last Gentleman is difficult to review and I kind of think that I should reread it to really get a grasp of many of the ideas presented within. The book follows a young man who somewhat lacks an identity and constantly suffers from bouts of amnesia. Through him the author explores themes of identity, society, and religion. The book often feels as aimless as its protagonist and can be somewhat difficult to follow but about halfway through I thought it became easier to follow (or perhaps I beca ...more
Sarah
Sep 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: northerners in the south or southerners in the north
An Alabaman with a telescope and nervous fits is taken in by a rich, faltering Southern family. Reading it made me feel like a better, more wholesome person; like I should sit down with a glass of milk and eat whatever kind of homemade sandwiches Southerners favor. It's a very warm novel. I liked it against my will. I think it's a good 100 pages too long, maybe. Percy takes his time when he has something to say, but at the same time it's weirdly quick and not boring.

The silence was disjunct. It
...more
Gail Jeidy
Feb 18, 2010 rated it did not like it
This one didn't do it for me. There were some interesting trains of thought and ideas and some lovely description. Interesting that the main character suffers from mental issues and goes into spurts of amnesia and fugue states, but the way this is written is too difficult, cumbersome, annoying for the reader to follow. I did not relate to nor care for any of the characters. Or rather I did not feel emotionally invested in their journeys. The journey of the main character, the engineer, felt rand ...more
Justin Lonas
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Just went back through this a third time in prep to lead our book club through it at our next meeting. It just gets better and better with age. All of Percy's work feels more or less prophetic, as humanity has still not fully come to terms with the dislocation of the individualized, technological society birthed by WWII. The "New South", the old South, the sexual revolution, cultural Christianity, and so much more comes under his withering eye.
Claire
Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read this at 17, but found that, ten years later, I couldn't remember it at all except for the opening scene in Central Park. I haven't changed that much in ten years. I just re-read it and really wanted to like it, took my time with it, trying to understand the metaphors and trying to picture the scenes in my mind - but I just didn't get much out of it. Maybe I'm not philosophical enough...
I do like the descriptions of Southern culture as a New Yorker with some Southern experience...
Jason
Jul 29, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is my 2nd try at Walker Percy, the first being The Moviegoer, which won the 1962 National Book Award for Fiction and was on TIME's list of the 100 best English language novels since 1923, and both have been 1 stars for me. As with The Moviegoer, the book is mostly existential nonsense. I can handle no plot if the dialogue is profound enough, but here it's not. I should have stopped with The Moviegoer.
Elena
Nov 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, southern
I don't know what it is about Walker Percy--I always seem to think I'm going to like his books more than I do. This one in particular felt like I needed to devote more time to it and try to finish it faster but it's pretty long to demand that. And I found it rather slow-going. Some parts were funny, sad, and interesting but others seemed really bizarre and unconnected--like the excerpts from Sutter's casebook. I was left not fully understanding the novel but maybe that's to be expected.
Kathrina
Dec 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-fiction
Read the whole thing for the reward of the last 20 pages --a true and honest depiction of the moments just prior to death after a prolonged illness. What will you do with your life? What will you do with your death? There's a lot to think on here: memory, identity, recognizing who we are and our place in the world, home and not-home. Challenging, but worthwhile.
Kay
Oct 08, 2014 rated it did not like it
Some amusing parts but over all a ridiculous book to me. I am sorry I took the time to read it.
Jeff
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Walker Percy is an excellent writer. His most notable book, The Moviegoer, is very well known, this book is much less so. In this book we meet Will Barrett, a 25 year old man who suffers from mental fugues and memory loss. After learning some of his backstory we watch him meet a Southern family ( purely by happenstance ) in a hospital.

This family is your traditional southern aristocracy from the middle of the last century. Race relations and the burgeoning trouble appear at the edge of this sto
...more
Bob Pearson
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Two things marked this book for me. First, it seems to be a Southern Catcher in the Rye, which it followed by 15 years. Knowing about Percy's life as an existentialist, a man of faith, and one who struggled against depression helped the book make sense to me. A young white Southerner, a dropout from Princeton caught in New York in the wrong place and time, serendipitously falls in with a classic Southern family and is launched on a journey with no destination the hero can see, but one he may hop ...more
Gail Walraven
I have very mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed the story of the young engineer's journeys (both physical and emotional) but at times I found the writing style to be so convoluted that I had to re-read entire paragraphs to get the gist of what the author was saying. A tad too verbose for me.
Here is an example:
"It was possible for him to be at home in the North because the North was homeless. There are many things worse than being homeless in a homeless place - in fact, this is one conditio
...more
Mark
Dec 18, 2016 rated it liked it
this is, i suppose, the confusion of the modern american south. though dated already, and a smaller world than any i can really imagine. i would have liked this more if i had more inclination to feel something for the grand families in collapse, but i think i was more interested in the odd details than the sweep.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Walking with the Gentleman 3 30 May 30, 2015 04:26PM  
  • The Correspondence of Shelby Foote and Walker Percy
  • Lanterns on the Levee: Recollections of a Planter's Son (Library of Southern Civilization)
  • Sweet Dreams
  • The Mansion
  • Falstaff
  • The Old Men at the Zoo
  • Facial Justice
  • A Childhood: The Biography of a Place
  • The London Novels
  • The Disenchanted
  • A Place on Earth
  • The Anti-Death League
  • Losing Battles
  • The Old Forest and Other Stories
  • The Aerodrome
  • Cocksure
  • World Enough and Time
  • Godric
337
Walker Percy (1916–1990) was one of the most prominent American writers of the twentieth century. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, he was the oldest of three brothers in an established Southern family that contained both a Civil War hero and a US senator. Acclaimed for his poetic style and moving depictions of the alienation of modern American culture, Percy was the bestselling author of six fiction t ...more
More about Walker Percy...

Fiction Deals

  • Star Sand
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Chasing the Sun
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Hidden
    $3.99 $2.00
  • Jubilee
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Where We Fall
    $4.49 $1.99
  • Over the Plain Houses
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Mustard Seed
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Count Belisarius
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Memory of Things
    $7.80 $2.99
  • Julie of the Wolves
    $6.24 $1.99
  • To Hold the Crown: The Story of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York (Tudor Saga, #1)
    $11.99 $2.99
  • A House for Happy Mothers
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Lace Makers of Glenmara
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Quaker Café (Quaker Café #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Honest Spy
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Gone Crazy in Alabama (Ala Notable Children's Books. Middle Readers)
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Mercer Girls
    $4.99 $1.99
  • While the World Is Still Asleep (The Century Trilogy Book 1)
    $5.49 $1.99
  • The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.: A Novel
    $9.99 $1.99
  • 600 Hours of Edward
    $4.49 $1.99
  • Prayers for the Stolen
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Daughters of Palatine Hill
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Very Valentine
    $10.99 $2.99
  • The Cellar
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Clouds (Glenbrooke, #5)
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Ireland
    $10.49 $2.99
  • Funland
    $3.99 $0.99
  • The Secrets of Mary Bowser
    $7.24 $1.99
  • The Comfort of Strangers
    $8.99 $2.99
  • Endless Night
    $4.49 $0.99
  • Lilac Bus
    $7.99 $1.99
  • God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Unremembered Girl
    $4.99 $2.49
  • A Severed Wasp: A Novel
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Love in the Ruins
    $11.99 $1.99
  • We're All Damaged
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Clara and Mr. Tiffany
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Golden Age: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth
    $8.24 $1.99
“Like many young men in the South, he had trouble ruling out the possible. They are not like an immigrant's son in Passaic who desires to become a dentist and that is that. Southerners have trouble ruling out the possible. What happens to a... man to whom all things seem possible and every course of action open? Nothing of course.” 18 likes
“Christ should leave us. He is too much with us and I don’t like his friends. We have no hope of recovering Christ until Christ leaves us. There is after all something worse than being God-forsaken. It is when God overstays his welcome and takes up with the wrong people.” 3 likes
More quotes…