Summary and book reviews of Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Less by Andrew Sean Greer
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Published:
    Jul 2017, 272 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A breakout romantic comedy by the bestselling author of five critically acclaimed novels.

Who says you can't run away from your problems?

You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can't say yes - it would be too awkward - and you can't say no - it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.

QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?

ANSWER: You accept them all.

What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.

Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, Less is, above all, a love story.

A scintillating satire of the American abroad, a rumination on time and the human heart, a bittersweet romance of chances lost, by an author The New York Times has hailed as "inspired, lyrical," "elegiac," "ingenious," as well as "too sappy by half," Less shows a writer at the peak of his talents raising the curtain on our shared human comedy.

Excerpt
Less

From where I sit, the story of Arthur Less is not so bad.

Look at him: seated primly on the hotel lobby's plush round sofa, blue suit and white shirt, legs knee-crossed so that one polished loafer hangs free of its heel. The pose of a young man. His slim shadow is, in fact, still that of his younger self, but at nearly fifty he is like those bronze statues in public parks that, despite one lucky knee rubbed raw by schoolchildren, discolor beautifully until they match the trees. So has Arthur Less, once pink and gold with youth, faded like the sofa he sits on, tapping one finger on his knee and staring at the grandfather clock. The long patrician nose perennially burned by the sun (even in cloudy New York October). The washed-out blond hair too long on the top, too short on the sides—portrait of his grandfather. Those same watery blue eyes. Listen: you might hear anxiety ticking, ticking, ticking away as he stares at that clock, which unfortunately is not ticking ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Less is also a love story with many bittersweet moments. Thoughts of Freddy's marriage haunt Arthur, even as he takes a lover in Berlin and comes up with a plan to re-write his new novel, after his publisher rejects it. As he completes his global journey and comes to terms with "the tragi-comic business of being alive" this story wraps up with a warm-hearted and fitting conclusion. Overall, this is a charming tale, very well told.   (Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite).

Full Review Members Only (594 words).

Media Reviews

The Washington Post

Indeed, you might expect the acid taste of personal satire here, the way certain novelists insist on flaying their alter egos in print, but there's only contagious affection in this portrayal Arthur Less. Whether he's pining after an old lover or creeping along a ledge four flights up, hoping to climb through the window of his locked apartment, this is the comedy of disappointment distilled to a sweet elixir. Greer's narration, so elegantly laced with wit, cradles the story of a man who loses everything: his lover, his suitcase, his beard, his dignity.

Kirkus Reviews

Nonstop puns on the character's surname aside, this is a very funny and occasionally wise book.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Greer (The Confessions of Max Tivoli), an O'Henry-winning author, writes beautifully, but his occasionally Faulknerian sentences are unnecessary. He is entirely successful, though, in the authorial sleights of hand that make the narrator fade into the background - only to have an identity revealed at the end in a wonderful surprise.

Booklist

Starred Review. Less is perhaps Greer's finest yet... A comic yet moving picture of an American abroad... Less is a wondrous achievement, deserving an even larger audience than Greer's bestselling The Confessions of Max Tivoli.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Greer...is both clever and compassionate as he steers Arthur through this rough period in his life, and while the book focuses on gay men and their relationships, the search for love and meaning is universal.

Author Blurb Adam Haslett, author of Imagine Me Gone
Treat yourself to this book. I missed subway stops. I doubled over in laughter. I experienced more pure reading pleasure than I had in ages. It is hilarious, and wise, and abundantly fun.

Author Blurb Armistead Maupin, author of Tales of the City
I adore this book. It's funny, piquant, bittersweet and so achingly observant about the vanity of writers that it made me squirm in recognition. I'll probably read it again very soon.

Author Blurb Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad Love Story
Marvelously, unexpectedly, endearingly funny. A love story focused on the erroneous belief that the second half of life will pale in comparison to the first. Guess what? It won't!

Author Blurb Nell Zink, author of Mislaid and Nicotine
The most deftly funny romantic comedy I've read in years. If you have a sentimental bone in your body (I have 206), the ending will make you sob little tears of joy.

Author Blurb Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
A fast and rocketing read with everything I want from a story -moments of high humor, moments of genuine wisdom, sharp insights and gorgeous images. A wonderful, wonderful book!

Reader Reviews

Lola425

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 ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

My Favorite Gay Characters in Literature

With his portrait of Arthur Less, a lovable — if somewhat hapless — man on a trip round the world, Andrew Sean Greer gives more than a nod to Mark Twain's 1869 satire, The Innocents Abroad. Less, a middle-aged gay man, needs to radically re-write his own novel about "a middle-aged gay man walking about San Francisco." This self-conscious reflection on the concept of a gay character prompted me to recall some of the diverse LGBT characters I have known and loved over the years.

Stephen Gordon is the hero of Radclyffe Hall's classic, The Well of Loneliness (1928). This story of an upper class girl who realizes from an early age that she is attracted to women was banned in Britain after an obscenity trial. Stephen, given a boy'...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Less, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice


Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

An eye-opening and riveting look at how how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Seven Days of Us
    by Francesca Hornak

    A warm, wry debut novel about a family forced to spend a week together over the holidays.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Wisdom of Sundays

The Wisdom of Sundays
by Oprah Winfrey

Life-changing insights from super soul conversations.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A Good M I H T F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.