A Single Man, By Christopher Isherwood

Lesley McDowell
Sunday 28 February 2010 01:00

Reviews of Tom Ford's film adaptation of A Single Man suggest that the fashion designer hasn't quite captured the depth of Christopher Isherwood's slight, but angry and affecting 1964 novel.

University lecturer George has just lost the love of his life in a car accident. He doesn't just rail against whoever or whatever has robbed him of his lover, he also rails against the suburban society that patronised and condemned their love, and against the conventions that the majority of people force themselves to live by in what was once, in the 1920s and 1930s, a bohemian Californian enclave.

George's relationship with his friend Charlotte, who accepts his homosexuality except when she's drunk and wants some comfort, is drawn without cynicism but also without affection. ("Do women ever stop trying? No. But because they never stop, they learn to be good losers.") An encounter with one of his students offers the possibility either of redemption or annihilation, and Isherwood shows with horrible clarity how closely one comes to the other.

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