Some books just stay with you. Sometimes you know instinctively from the very first line that what you’re reading is special, and you won’t be able to put it down; with A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, I had that feeling.
The plot is simple, it is the story of a man named George Falconer, an English professor, trying to live life after the sudden death of his lover Jim. The story follows George’s attempts to decide what he wants to do with his life and how to cope with loss.
The storyline, touching as it is, is not what makes this novel special. What is so unique, and immediately noticeable from the opening, is Isherwood’s prose style. He writes in the third person, but far from making the reader feel removed from the action, Isherwood succeeds in both drawing us into George’s head, and creating the feeling that we are a removed spectator, watching him from above.
“It knows that is expected of it. It knows its name. It is called George”
It is this disconcerting ability of Isherwood’s to make the reader feel both included and detached that makes A Single Man worth reading. The empathy one gains for grieving George become especially poignant as the book draws to its fateful close. For people who enjoy novels such as Cold Spring Harbour by Yates, and other 20th century American novels, I would fully recommend reading this. Just bring tissues, lots of them.