Earlier this year, courtesy of the Manchester Book Club, I made a bit of a discovery in Christopher Isherwood. Although Mr Norris Changes Trains received mixed reviews from the group, I, a girl who loves her stories with a great big splash of character, loved it. Having seen the film adaptation of Isherwood’s A Single Man a few years back, I was mortified by my ignorance (thinking it was some Colin Firth/Tom Firth one-off filmic stroke of genius) and vowed to pick it up immediately.
‘Waking up begins with saying am and now.’
George is a middle-aged literature professor at a California University. Having lost his partner Jim in a terrible car accident, the aftermath of which, due to stigma against gay men in the 1960s, he could play no part, he is stumbling through daily life trying desperately to cope with his grief. Although I’m a staunch book before film girl, the resurgence that Isherwood’s beautiful novella has experienced since Tom Ford’s 2009 creation means I am absolutely busting to run and shake the man’s hand.
Once I had managed to surmount the impossible situation of there being absolutely no chapters (exactly where am I supposed to close up for the night!?) I could sit back and lose myself in Isherwood’s wonderful meditation on a changing world. Using a desperately vulnerable man as the key witness to wild preoccupations such as war, love, education, grief and discrimination lends this book an immediacy and rawness that is incredibly moving.
Both of Isherwood’s novels I have experienced so far have been a perfect Relish-reading experience Well written, emotive and amusing; full of original, fascinating characters clinging desperately to the good left in life….in George’s case, even when those you love are gone…..
A beautiful book, 5 stars.