Review: Less by Andrew Sean Greer

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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.

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The Writing

Andrew Sean Greer won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction this year, and while the choice was a surprise, I can definitely understand why he won. He is an incredible writer. He is one of those rare writers who can truly suck you in to his story and make it feel as though you a reading about the life of someone you know. I loved the way that he weaved together the past and the present.

The Characters

Arthur Less has become one of my favourite characters. I have read some negative reviews where people thought he was too snarky, too pretentious, too pessimistic, etc. etc. but that is what I loved about him! He felt like a real person with real feelings! I enjoyed reading his reflections on his life and his observations on his surroundings. I have discovered that I love reading books about authors. I have not been this invested in a single character since Ove from A Man Called Ove.

I also enjoyed a lot of the side characters! They were each very unique and colourful and I had a great time getting to know them.

The Plot

This story was really a parody about an American travelling through Europe and it was a complete joy to read! Less is definitely more character-driven than plot-driven, but the plot was still intriguing. It was fun to see Europe through the eyes of a character like Arthur Less! I found myself laugh out loud multiple times. I appreciate the fact that the Pulitzer decided to mix it up and a comedy!

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The Ending

I am conflicted about how the book ended! I do not want to spoil anything so that is all that I will say about that! I thought it was a good ending but I was hoping for maybe a little more growth from Arthur Less.

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“He kisses—how do I explain it? Like someone in love. Like he has nothing to lose. Like someone who has just learned a foreign language and can use only the present tense and only the second person. Only now, only you. There are some men who have never been kissed like that. There are some men who discover, after Arthur Less, that they never will be again.”

“And at fifty, Less muses drowsily, you’re as likable as you’re going to get.”

“Where is the real Less? Less the young man terrified of love? The dead-serious Less of twenty-five years ago? Well, he has not packed him at all. After all these years, Less doesn’t even know where he’s stored.”

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I have seen some mixed reviews for Less but I am happy to report that I really loved it and connected with the main character. I have a feeling this book will not be for everyone. It is satirical and quirky and I know that is not something that every reader enjoys. If we have similar reading taste then I highly recommend giving this one a chance!

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