Book Review - Less by Andrew Sean Greer - Why Words Work

Book Review: Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Less - Andrew Sean Greer - Book Review - Why Words Work

Published by Abacus, imprint of Little Brown Book Group


Arthur Less is a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the post: it is from an ex-boyfriend of nine years who is engaged to someone else. Arthur can’t say yes – it would be too awkward; he can’t say no – it would look like defeat. So, he begins to accept the invitations on his desk to half-baked literary events around the world.

From France to India, Germany to Japan, Arthur almost falls in love, almost falls to his death, and puts miles between him and the plight he refuses to face. Less is a novel about mishaps, misunderstandings and the depths of the human heart.


Less by Andrew Sean Greer has been a controversial book. Whether it’s Goodreads, Amazon, or Twitter flames wars, you will see people arguing whether or not this book should have won the Pulitzer Prize For some readers, the knowledge that this book had won such a prestigious award set certain expectations for it – many of which were not met.

I personally don’t care that it’s won the award. It’s an amazing achievement to be sure – and I congratulate Greer and his publishing house for receiving it – but it is by no means a marker of quality in my eyes. I went into this book looking for a good story. Nothing more. Nothing less. (Than except, well, Less.)

So, what did I think of this book?

Less is an interesting character. Innocent and funny; inconsiderate and ignorant. Though he never strays too far into being unlikeable, it’s hard to not cringe at some of the choices he makes. Which, I believe, is the point.

On the one hand, this is a novel about a middle-aged white man who is trying to escape from lovers and regrets of the past – how original.

Yet, on the other hand, the book seems aware of this. While it gets us to sympathise with Less and his plight, it does well to show us how silly his whole mid-life crisis is. We do not empathise with Less, yet we empathise with the experiences of his journey. We relate to him not because he says anything poignant or life altering, but because his wide-eyed approach to life is something we cannot help but fall in love with. We all see something in Arthur Less, for better or worse.

Another thing which I appreciate about the book is its narrative style. Although the book is quite short, the conversational tone of the novel lulls you into a comfortable state of mind. It’s not a rip-roaring read by any means, but it’s not a slow burn either. The best way I can describe the atmosphere of this book is a comfy leather armchair; familiar, warm, and the perfect place to hear a story from a friend.

Plus, I don’t think I’ve read a book yet that portrays an older LGBT character. One who lived through the Aids crisis; who is secure in their identity, but grew up in a world where he wasn’t supposed to be. If nothing else, I commend the book on portraying an LGBT perspective that I have not yet encountered in fiction, and to do so with respect. Less is the butt of jokes for his personality, not his sexuality – something which, sadly, a lot of books get confused with. It’s a small thing, but something I greatly appreciated.

So overall, I enjoyed reading Less. It was a comfy read, one that provoked thoughts about love, loss, and time, all with a few jokes thrown in. While I can’t say that it left my heart pounding, I definitely feel glad that I read it. If you’re looking for a casual read or a book with a different LGBT perspective, I think you should give this a shot.

Award or not, Less by Andrew Sean Greer gets a thumbs up from me.

Have you read Less? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @ERHollands. And if there are any other books you’d like me to review, tell me!

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Less by Andrew Sean Greer

  1. A very full review. I am left with the impression that it was a good read, but hardly earth-shattering except that the main character is, ah, unusual. If you think of LGBTQI people as just people, is it still an award-worthy book? Or is that the whole point – and the Pulitzer committee is making a point?

    I am so tired of the trope – he is still a mid-life crisis white male writer – that I don’t think I’ll read this one, not without huge endorsements.

    But I appreciate your review enormously for clearing this up. And I pray for the day when its main character is just another Holden Caulfield, grown up. (I also hated CitR).


  2. Spot on, I think it’s so important that we share and appreciate stories of our LGBTIQ+ elders. Historically, so much LGBTIQ+ literature has been youth-focused and centered on “coming out”; it’s refreshing to see a different perspective on LGBTIQ+ lives (even if it does call upon the tropes of the middle-aged-white-guy-has-a-mid-life-crisis-and-decides-to-upend-everything story). Great review, thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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