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An Evening of Long Goodbyes: A Novel Paperback – September 13, 2005

3.8 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

If Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster were plopped into the 21st century, his adventures might resemble those of Charles Hythloday, the buffoonish hero of Murray's insouciant romp, shortlisted for the Whitbread. For three years, ever since his father died, 20-something Charles has been pottering around the family's crumbling seaside estate near Dublin, mixing himself gimlets and watching old movies. He sees himself as attempting to perfect sprezzatura, "the contemplative life of the country gentleman, in harmony with his status and history"; his formidable sister, Bel, and everyone else, however, view him as a shiftless drunkard, and Charles's own narration leaves little doubt whose judgment is more accurate. The reappearance of Charles's mother, who's been away at a clinic for alcoholics and is now determined to reform the rest of the family, means that his allowance is promptly cut off and he's required to get a job. This proves to be predictably difficult (a tech recruiter says, " 'So in short, Charles, it's fair to say you've never worked for a living, is that right?' "). Meanwhile, the family's Bosnian housekeeper smuggles her grown-up children into the country, and Bel starts a theater company at Amaurot with the housekeeper's striking daughter, Mirela, who's much too clever for smitten Charles. Murray's blend of drawing-room comedy and postindustrial hilarity is deft and jaunty, and well-timed snippets of foreshadowing keep the story moving briskly. If the characters occasionally seem too broadly drawn, they always operate in service to the novel's witty and satirical aims. This is a breezy, highly entertaining read.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Irish writer Murray makes a brilliant debut with Long Goodbyes, which was a finalist for the prestigious Whitbread First Novel Award after its publication in the U.K. in 2003. Often compared to P.G. Wodehouse, Noel Coward, John Kennedy Toole, and Flann O’Brien (an Irish satirist), with a touch of Chekhov thrown in, Murray has penned a solipsistic soliloquy that deftly mixes farce and melodrama with social commentary. Most critics had few complaints, though a few noted some blips in the plotting. And The New York Times Book Review noticed a lapse in Charles’ voice once he left his seaside home for the slums. Still, all agree that Long Goodbyes is a bittersweet, and above all memorable, first novel.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (September 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812970403
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812970401
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #822,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Debra Hamel VINE VOICE on January 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Twenty-four-year-old Charles Hythloday resides at Amaurot, his family's estate some ten miles outside of Dublin, with his sister Bel, an aspiring actress, and their Bosnian housekeeper Mrs. P. Charles wiles away his days in apparent indolence and drunkenness, mourning a love affair gone sour, watching Gene Tierney movies into the night, overseeing the construction of a folly on the property. But to Charles's mind his purpose in life is a serious one: he means to revive "the contemplative life of the country gentleman, in harmony with his status and history." For the first third of An Evening of Long Goodbyes Charles is thus an amusing anachronism, a Wodehousian character thrust into a less polite modern world. This makes for some wickedly funny writing, both in dialogue and narrative. (Out to a seedy pub with Bel and her Golem of a boyfriend Frank, Charles looks around with some unease at his fellow drinkers. "Was I the only one in evening wear?") But one senses that Charles's retreat from society is motivated by an underlying sadness.

Unfortunately, Charles's idyllic lifestyle cannot last. Events conspire to push him out of Amaurot and into productive society, where he engages in activities--paying work, for example--that were previously unthinkable. Charles grows as a human being, developing empathy, for example, and he is eventually compelled to confront the imperfections of his childhood at Amaurot, which he had long glorified.

While Charles's development is interesting to watch, he becomes a less interesting character as he changes from a wry commentator on a society that is alien to him to a productive participant in that society. The book, too, loses charm as it moves from the farce of its early pages to the melodrama of Charles's post-Amaurot life.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not the comic masterpiece it is advertised to be, AELG is nevertheless an accomplished and enjoyable first novel. The premise is that Charles Hythloday, son of an (erstwhile) well-to-do Irish family, has decided that he is not cut out for work of any kind and has dedicated himself to reviving the dying job title of aristocratic country gentleman. Modern times being what they are, however, the Hythloday family has fallen on hard times and Charles finds that he must get a dreaded job. If this were a Wodehousian novel (as advertised), hilarity would ensue, involving bizarre complications and amusing misunderstandings. If this were an unimaginative novel, Charles would struggle through a few jobs before settling down in one, discovering along the way what he's been missing in the rarified world of the estate, gaining in self-esteem, realizing the inherent nobility of the working classes, and experiencing the transformative, even redemptive powers of good, honest work.

This is not that novel. Nor is it particularly Wodehousian in tone. It reads more like Chekhov trying to "do" Wodehouse but eventually giving up. The premise is amusing, and the plot is chock-full of odd twists and turns, but it is to the author's credit that he does not follow the well-worn path this set-up leads to. Influenced heavily by Chekhov (in fact the plot mirrors that of "The Cherry Orchard," and Chekhov is invoked by the characters themselves throughout the novel), this book explores serious themes such as our inability to truly know or understand even those closest to us; the nature of hero worship and the damage it does to both worshipper and worshipee; the sometimes dubious benefits of "progress"; and the (mostly literary) myths of the nobility of the poor and the family as haven, among others.
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By A Customer on March 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book really hit the spot for me. If Bertie Wooster were to wander into the world of "TrainSpotting", this would be the result....A witty, moving mixture of P.G. Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh, Nick Hornby, Irvine Welsh, and Stephen Fry. Like Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster stories, this book is written in the first person, which makes it possible for every sentence to be funny. Ranks very high among the wine and spirits. Highly recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had previously read "Skippy Dies" and really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to reading this one. However, overall it was a little dissappointing. The main character is a little like a less-funny Ross O'Carroll Kelly and although most of the book was mildly amusing, in the end, it came across as a little silly and lightweight. Not bad, but just not very good.
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Format: Paperback
This book was so incredibly funny. The main character, Charles, is sure to win your heart over with his innocence and naivety to the real world. He is charming and amazingly unaware of his surroundings because he's so self-absorbed. This high-society brat ends up learning about life the hard way from an unlikely character, Frank, who is Charles' complete opposite, and you can't help but cheer this friendship on. Paul Murray gives such a vivid description of Charles that you can literally see how out of place he is in his surroundings, which in turn will make you crack up trying to visualize it all. This was one of those books that when you finish it, you want to pick it right back up again and start all over.
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