Less is a comic, bittersweet novel about a failing writer who travels the world to avoid his ex-boyfriend’s wedding. Arthur Less doesn’t want to go to Freddy Pelu’s wedding, nor does he want to decline and sit at home. So instead, he takes up some chance invitations to travel: teaching in Berlin, an award ceremony in Italy, a not-quite-writers’ retreat in India. He turns fifty and fails to avoid looking back on his past, all the while having minor travel mishaps and wondering if he still has a love story to come.
This is a touching novel about someone who doesn’t quite realise how their life appears to others. Arthur’s journey pokes fun at Americans travelling and at the things writers who aren’t quite the writers they want to be end up doing. At the same time, the novel is a kind of bittersweet love story, about someone who can see his two main relationships in the past and can’t quite escape them. The style is distinctive and Greer uses a not-quite-present narrator to frame Less’ life, a detail which makes sense by the end.
Less is a witty and charming novel that feels like a twentieth-century book updated slightly for the twenty-first. Arthur Less is the kind of slightly sad comic protagonist that you hope things will end up well for.