Jenna (Falling Letters)'s Reviews > The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley
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's review
Jun 30, 2012

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bookshelves: 2011
Read in May, 2011

Amended version of the original posted 27 May 2011 on Falling Letters.


The story focuses on the very elderly Ptolemy Grey and his efforts to regain his failing memory in the last days of his life (hence the title...I really liked the title, it's the sort of thing I fall for). This leads to many snapshots of memories throughout the novel. These memories are what I liked most about this story. I love the idea of an old Ptolemy reflecting on his life and what events and people were important to him, what had an impact on him. I loved reading about this character experiencing these memories he had tried to recall for so long, and then finally be able to reflect and realize them. A lot of the memories are bittersweet, poignant, melancholic, stirring, thoughtful, all of those lonely words. I ate those up those bits of memories. Short stories within a story.

I preferred the character of Ptolemy over Robyn (sweet old man character over tough teenager any day, thanks, haha), but I did like what she added to the story. I was interested to see how she acted in front of an old man vs. how she acted with her boyfriend vs. how she acted in the street.

Three more minor notes. There was lots and lots of slang and dialects. Every character pretty much spoke in one. Usually this sort of thing drives me crazy, but I barely noticed it in Mosley's writing. Everything felt very natural. Another interesting style bit was that mostly every black character had a different skin tone description; they were never just 'black'. If it was white people being described differently each time (olive, peach, snow white, etc.) I probably wouldn't have even noticed. I guess that says a lot more about me than the writing, though I'm not quite sure what...Final note: I had never heard of the author before, but since his name was bigger than the title I figured he must be somewhat well-known. I looked him up, and apparently he's best known for his mystery series! I never would've guessed it.

I did like this book; I enjoyed it greatly while I was reading it (clearly it gave me lots to think about!) and I was planning on giving it four stars but by the end of it...I'm not sure. The story seemed to lose whatever it was that I loved about it. It just didn't grab me in a way that most books I buy do. Still, I recommend this book, I suppose, but don't hold out for a fabulous ending! (I think it was the ending that killed it. I can't stand a bad ending; it taints the good feelings I had about what came before.)
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