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The Last Gentleman [Kindle Edition]

Walker Percy
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A jaded young man embarks on a journey of self-discovery with the help of an unusual family
Will Barrett has never felt at peace. After moving from his native South to New York City, Will’s most meaningful human connections come through the lens of a telescope in Central Park, from which he views the comings and goings of the eccentric Vaught family.
But Will’s days as a spectator end when he meets the Vaught patriarch and accepts a job in the Mississippi Delta as caretaker for the family’s ailing son, Jamie. Once there, he is confronted not only by his personal demons, but also his growing love for Jamie’s sister, Kitty, and a deepening relationship with the Vaught family that will teach him the true meaning of home.

Editorial Reviews


“Brilliant . . . shimmers with the chaste and civilized ornaments of irony, understatement, and compassion.” —Time
“Percy is a brilliantly breathtaking writer.” —The New York Times Book Review

From the Publisher

" shimmers with the chaste and civilized ornaments of irony, understatement, and compassion." --Time "Splendid...a beautifully textured novel...a distinguished work of art." --New York Times Book Review

"Lovely and brilliant...a highly whimsical kind of picaresque tale that puts one in mind of both Faulkner and Canneau." --Joyce Carol Oates, The Nation

"Breaks your heart in the midst of laughter." --Philadelphia Inquirer

Product Details

  • File Size: 987 KB
  • Print Length: 418 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0312243081
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (March 29, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,860 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Marooned in New York City, displaced Southerner Will Barrett finds himself utterly abstracted
from his world and himself. When a chance encounter in Central Park leads him to make the
acquaintance of the Vaughts, fellow Southerners who knew his father, Will embarks on a journey
that he hopes will tell him what he desperately needs to know. What does he need to know?
If Will knew the answer to that, he wouldn't need the Vaughts, or the South, or the haunted
memory of his father. Traversing the country, Will seeks the one man he believes will tell
him what to do. Percy not only weaves a lush character study of lost Will, but realizes
a profound meditation on the nature of identity, place, and home. Above all, like any
good picaresque novel, Will's journey is not so much about the end, but about what he discovers along the way. However, as a testament to
Percy's imagination and probity, Will's final destination provides nothing less than utter
revelation. I closed this book and jumped out of bed immediately, my breath coming in gulps
as I absorbed and processed what Walker Percy had taught me with such love, patience, beauty
and truth.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pilgrimage of observation February 21, 1999
By A Customer
Will Barrett, often bemused, confused, and having the uncanny ability to take on the characteristics of others to fit in as needed, seeks the meaning of life through his telescope (his powers of observation as well as a literal telescope), and a journey prompted by a girl he spys on in Central Park. While Will feels lost to himself, struggling with modern morality, the "new" South, and his family history, those he meets on his often humorous journey from New York back to the South, and finally, the new frontier of the West, often mistake him as the salvation to ease their own paths. Walker Percy is the master of fusing philosopy, religion, and an examination of the pitfalls in modern life with humor and storytelling.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A characterization of the human condition June 26, 2000
Deceptively meandering at first, slow to take root in the mind, Percy's 'The Last Gentleman' will reward persistent readers with an egrossing and entertaining characterization of the human condition. Will Barrett is the literary everyman who is never happy when things are pleasant, never satisfied at the feast, never more invigorated than when his contemporaries feel hopeless. And he doesn't have any idea why. A richly sympbolic telescope brings him into an encounter with a lovely young woman, a dying youth, a pornographic and incompetent doctor and a 'mean as hell' nun - all in the same family. While Barrett travels with this crew and ponders the unanswerable questions that continue to plague him, he becomes aware that the sick youth's 'salvation' may be 'up to' him. This is a skillful novel with elusive, eclectic characters surrounding a young protagonist whose only crime is an honest search for the truth, so that his life will take on some real meaning. The scene where Barrett converses with the nun while she feeds viscera to a bird of prey is particularly insightful and stimulating. A meaty, complex, thinking-person's novel.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An ample meal October 11, 2001
I just finished this book and wanted to get out a review while my memory was still fresh. I consumed The Last Gentleman in small doses because there was just so much. It's still settling but I think I'll have to re-read it anyhow. Where to begin? The engineer is an ideal narrater because he is such an excellent observer. That's what he does after all, views from afar, with a telescope even in the beginning of the story. He's not sure why he is where he is (did I mention that he's amnesiac) and in getting his bearings is by necesssity very keen in observing people and places. Yet despite the absurdity of his condition his actions remain plausable and despite being a dreamer he is at times the most grounded character in the novel.
What does the engineer observe? A confused, whimsical belle named Kitty who is his love, and the displaced family around her. Her con artist (in a benevolent way) of a father, her mystic, lewd brother Sutter and her mystic, martyr sister Val, her sickly brother Jamie, and finally her caretaker for a sister-in-law. In a odyssey of absurdity the engineer travels from New York City to Carolina and finally to New Mexico, facing irate Pennsylvanians and rioting students, even the police in his native town. He does so with his keen eye and lack of dishonesty, eventually untangling his love Kitty from the "loving" clutches of her sister-in-law and caring for his friend and Kitty's brother Jamie on his deathbed, leaving a wake of bewildered men and women. A great read that takes time to ingest, and who knows how long to digest.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning of Salvation January 8, 2003
I recently read The Moviegoer by Percy, and I would definately rate it as my favorite novel. I was really excited to pick of The Last Gentleman as my second Percy novel, and though I would not rate it as highly as The Moviegoer, it was far from a disappointment. It is certainly a book that I will cherish among my very favorites.
The primary character of the novel is Bill Barrett (who is more often called the engineer). The engineer suffers from amnesia and periods of deja vu, and he reads about a near-apocolyptic catostrophe and wonders if it has already happened. He is the lost (dead) American. One day, looking through his telescope, he sees a girl, and the result is that he becomes involved with her family the Vaughts. The relationship with them ends up sending him on a journey through the South and on to New Mexico, a journey in which he gains a type of salvation.
One of Percy's primary beliefs about novel writing was that it should be entertaining, and The Last Gentleman succeeds. It is at times hilarious and is often moving. It is true that there are periods where it drags a little, but the truths Percy presents more than make up for those sections. The Last Gentleman is a supremely beautiful, entertaining, and thoughtful novel.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Walter Percy is for some peoples taste but why is ...
Walter Percy is for some peoples taste but why is a mystery to me. This novel is meant to be full of wry humor and even aspires to satire but was already dated when issued. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Jonathan A. Weiss
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I do not understand the end of this book. Seriously...what is the deal with this ending?
Published 4 months ago by Josh Willis
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A novel that will keep you thinking for some time. Extraordinary scenes and an extraordinary development of character. Compelling.
Published 6 months ago by Dorothy Potter
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Interesting. You want to know what happens next but txt drawn out in places.
Published 6 months ago by Gladys Sprouffske
1.0 out of 5 stars which is something I never do no matter how bad a book may seem
I stopped reading it, which is something I never do no matter how bad a book may seem. It just did not make sense.
Published 6 months ago by Dianne Seleny
3.0 out of 5 stars Repetitive fugues, slow plot
Not as good as I expected. Lots of wandering in the plot, the repetitive "fugues" that the main character goes through get a bit tedious, I expected more from this book... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Texas Mystery Lover
1.0 out of 5 stars The author writes like he is dazed and confused
The author writes like he is dazed and confused, the title of the book is not relevant.
I'm not a southerner, which may be the reason.
Published 7 months ago by p bonds
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful Percy!
What a wonderful book and story! Being a Southerner, I should have read Walker Percy many years ago. Read more
Published 7 months ago by W.
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
excellent writing, characters and plot.
Published 10 months ago by E. Diemente
5.0 out of 5 stars Walter Percy brilliantly addresses so much of humanity's hunger for...
As expected, Walter Percy brilliantly addresses so much of humanity's hunger for the transcendent by placing bombshells between the lines; his imagery is more timely than ever. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Joseph P Kennedy
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More About the Author

Walker Percy (1916-1990) was one of the most prominent American writers of the twentieth century. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, he was the oldest of three brothers in an established Southern family that contained both a Civil War hero and a U.S. senator. Acclaimed for his poetic style and moving depictions of the alienation of modern American culture, Percy was the bestselling author of six fiction titles--including the classic novel The Moviegoer (1961), winner of the National Book Award--and fifteen works of nonfiction. In 2005, Time magazine named The Moviegoer one of the best English-language books published since 1923.

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