An Evening of Long Goodbyes

an-evening-of-long-goodbyesI just finished Paul Murray’s An Evening of Long Goodbyes. Like the protagonist, Charles Hythloday, the novel is incredibly lazy. I’ve been reading it for about a month. Charles is, frankly speaking, a ponce. He chiefly specializes in doing absolutely nothing but daydreaming about restoring the old aristocratic air to his family home. Since it is his voice that narrates the novel, it often moves slowly and a bit unreliably through its plot.

Fantastically-written, it is a literary novel peppered with bits of present-day pop culture that serve to emphasize the protagonist’s discomfort with the modern world. Unsurprisingly, it is the friction between the “real world” and Charles’s imaginary existence that elicits the most laughs. But that’s also where the drama of the book takes place: in that friction. Though it’s difficult to relate to characters whose heads are so far in the clouds, Murray does an excellent job at portraying the tension between the real and unreal that Charles and his family must face.

Neither Charles nor his sister who dreams of being an actress seems capable of leaving the family home. Finances are in a shambles; the housekeeper is going mental and their mother, having returned from a “hospital stay” (wink, wink), seems bent on making their crazy world even more insane when she forces Charles to leave the house and find a (gasp!) job.

Ultimately, it’s an extremely satisfying read as Murray never breaks out of Charles’s voice to tie up the important fragments of the story and one understands that even Charles may have figured out, at least by a decent amount, how to live a real life.

Too serious to be light reading and too light to be serious, it’s a perfect book to finish up on an overcast spring day like today.