Hazel's Reviews > The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley
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's review
Mar 05, 2011

it was ok
Recommended to Hazel by: LFPC
Read from March 03 to 06, 2011 — I own a copy

I've just read this for the Literary Fiction by People of Colour group here on Goodreads. I'm sorry that the story isn't as good as it could be. What is good? Oh, Mosley stikes the right note in describing Ptolemy's confusion in his cognitive decline.

Was the voice coming from the radio or the TV? No. It was in his ear. The telephone-
"Who is this?" Ptolemy Grey asked, remembering that he was having a phone conversation.

And I like the imagery he uses for memory. I think anyone who's struggled with memory loss, or witnessed another's struggle, would recognise it.

"Can I come in, Papa Grey?"
"Do I know you?"
"I'm your great-grandnephew," he (Hilly) said again, "June's great-grandson."
Too many names were moving around Ptolemy's mind. Hilly sounded familiar; and June, too, had a place behind the door that kept many of his memories alive but mostly unavailable.
That's how Ptolemy imagined the disposition of his memories, his thoughts: they were still his, still in the range of his thinking, but they were, many and most of them, locked on the other side of a closed door that he'd lost the key for. So his memory became like secrets held away from his own mind. But these secrets were noisy things; they babbled and muttered behind the door, and so if he listened closely he might catch a snatch of something he once knew well.

But the truth is Mosley tells us nothing new about aging or dementia, or the losses that go with it. And he tells us nothing that hasn't been said better. His style is lumbering and graceless, with far more telling than showing. Ptolemy's philosophical musings read like platitudes. The supporting characters are flat and unconvincing. And when I got to the end of Ptolemy's last days, I found myself wondering what was the point.

Edwidge Danticat praised this book, but I imagine Danticat herself would address the subject more thoughtfully, more incisively and more profoundly.

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Reading Progress

30.0% "Reading for LFPC. Mosley isn't as poetic as some writers would be on this subject, but I appreciate much of what he says about memory. I'm not quite sure yet just how demented Grey is meant to be, but much of the portrayal seems realistic."
70.0% "I like some of the ideas about memory. Mosley needs an editor, though. His repetitions do not add emphasis. I wonder if they're deliberate."

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