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What readers think of Less, plus links to write your own review.

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Less by Andrew Sean Greer X
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Jul 2017, 272 pages

    May 2018, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
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Power Reviewer
Cloggie Downunder

entertaining and enjoyable
Less is the first novel in the Less series by award-winning best-selling American author, Andrew Sean Greer. Quickly approaching fifty, Arthur Less is dismayed to be invited to the wedding of a former lover. Attending is out of the question: Arthur Less devises a “cats cradle of junkets” that will ensure he is out of the country and very busy while Freddy Pelu marries Tom Dennis in Sonoma, CA.

First on his itinerary is New York City, interviewing an author of a sci-fi series with a cult following. This is preceded by a lunch with his agent, the outcome of which is a shock: his new novel will need a rewrite if it is to attract a publisher.

From there, Mexico City (an interview about his famous lover, poet Robert Brownburn), Turin (nominated for a book award), Berlin (teaching a five-week course), a short, unplanned stop-over in Paris (catch up with a friend), Morocco (to celebrate the birthday of a friend of a friend, and his own), India (a writing retreat, to fix his novel?), and Japan (to review some restaurant meals).

But at each destination, and often, during his travels, Arthur is overwhelmed by reminiscences, reveries, flashbacks, courtesy of those he meets, old friends and new acquaintances, and of little incidents that occur. Much as he would rather not, he recalls not just past lovers, but those he truly loved (and perhaps still does?), and fails to scrub Freddy from his mind and heart.

It’s on his fiftieth birthday that he is blessed with an epiphany about his apparently unwanted novel, and it’s a delightful irony that it just about describes what Greer has written: “What if it isn’t a poignant, wistful novel at all? What if it isn’t the story of a sad middle-aged man on a tour of his hometown, remembering the past and fearing the future; a peripateticism of humiliation and regret; the erosion of a single male soul? What if it isn’t even sad?”

Greer’s protagonist might remind some readers of those that David Nicholls creates: inept, accident-prone, awkward, subject to “those writerly humiliations planned by the universe to suck at the bones of minor artists like him”, whose “brain sits before its cash register again, charging him for old shames as if he has not paid before”.

And towards the end, his friend/rival tells him “You are the most absurd person I’ve ever met. You’ve bumbled through every moment and been a fool; you’ve misunderstood and misspoken and tripped over absolutely everything and everyone in your path, and you’ve won. And you don’t even realize it.”

The story is related by an unnamed narrator whose identity gradually becomes clear. Greer’s plot, characters and prose are entertaining and enjoyable, and it’s no surprise that this novel was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Literature. Fans will be pleased to know they can look forward to a sequel, Less Is Lost.
Dee LeMaster

Less by Andrew Sean Greer
This story kept me interested all the way through. Also, it was starkly truthful and revealed how gay people are just like us in most ways. I have always felt that way as I have many gay friends, so this just sounded like something one of them would write or talk about: Love and how each of us goes through life and on our own unique paths.

I made a friend
Put this on your must read. I read this on vacation a week after turning fifty so I was ripe for Arthur Less' experiences, but on every page there is something to love. This is a book about the pull of nostalgia, of looking back, because the thought of moving forward is too painful or scary. This is a book about love and what makes a love affair, a marriage, a friendship a success (longevity? intensity?). It is a book about looking at who you are and deciding if you like who that person is and if you don't do you have it in you to become your best self? And it's a book where you make fictional friend and wish desperately for him to figure it out.

I loved Arthur from page one and soaked a sleeve of my sweatshirt with tears of sadness and frustration and joy and beauty. I also laughed. Which is how life goes, both tragedy and comedy, and hopefully we all end up like Arthur, with just enough of both.
Power Reviewer
Cathryn Conroy

A Good Book…But Something Critical Is Missing
This is a well-written, intelligent book with a clever little plot and a colorful main character. Of course, it is. It won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. But something is missing.

Written by Andrew Sean Greer, the book tells the story of 49-year-old (about to turn 50!) Arthur Less, a gay man who has had a series of love affairs. Just weeks from his 50th "over-the-hill" birthday, he receives a wedding invitation from one of those former lovers—the one he truly loved. He can't bear to attend the nuptials, so he accepts a myriad assortment of invitations to speak and teach and embarks on a several-months-long journey around the world. Poor Arthur. Nothing seems to go right for him. Or, if one looks at it differently, maybe everything goes right for him. Attitude and perspective count!

So what is missing? It took me a while to figure it out. It wasn't until the very end of the book that I felt real empathy, sympathy and compassion for the main character, and without that, I couldn't get attached to the book in the way I usually do with novels. Still, it's a good book—just not a superb one, in my opinion.
Power Reviewer

Less is More
My favorite thing about this book is that it made me laugh. Arthur Less is about to turn fifty and his longtime partner is going to marry another man. In order to avoid the wedding he decides to accept all the invitations he has been offered and travel around the world. With each stop we learn more and more about his past. The writing is wonderful and the book is witty, poignant and tender.
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