Homer and Langley, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Brilliant brothers Langley and Homer Collyer are born into bourgeois New York comfort, their home a mansion on upper Fifth Avenue, their future rosy.

But before he is out of his teens Homer begins to lose his sight, Langley returns from the war with his lungs seared by gas, and when both of their parents die, they seem perilously ill-equipped to deal with the new era. As romantic Homer and eccentric Langley construct a life on the fringes of society, they hold fast to their principle of self-reliance.

But they are mocked and spied on, and despite wanting nothing more than to shut out the world, the epic events of the century flow through their housebound lives as they struggle to survive and create meaning for themselves.


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Review by

The real Collyer brothers lived as recluses and compulsive hoarders at 2078 5th Avenue until their deaths in 1947. E L Doctorow very loosely bases this fiction on the two men, moving their home south along 5th Avenue to face Central Park, adapting a few facts, changing much and adding a great deal of invention including extending their lives into the latter part of the twentieth century.Homer and Langley are well educated, and Homer who narrates is an accomplished classical pianist, but while in his teens he starts to lose his sight and very soon is totally blind. When Langley returns from The Great War, his health damaged by exposure to mustard gas, he learns that both parents have been claimed by Spanish Flu. The brothers, yet barely men and ill equipped for independent life, continue to live in the family mansion which gradually fills with Langley's eclectic finds from his nightly rummages and the accumulated daily newspapers he reads.Homer takes us through their lives together from boyhood and up to his final words on one of the several Braille typewriters Langley bought him. It becomes a social record of the twentieth century, Homer supplies no dates yet we know where we are by reference to other events. But the story is essentially that of the fictionalised brothers, their diminishing staff of servants, their failed relationships with women, the few friendships they make over the years, their battle with the neighbours, authorities and utility providers, and about their obvious but unmentioned devotion to each other; two men made thoroughly human and endearing, and increasingly eccentric.What it all amounts to is a remarkable piece of fiction, superbly and intelligently written, touched with humour, often moving and ultimately heartbreaking, I read the final pages with tears in my eyes - rarely does a book so affect me.

Review by

Doctorow takes as his subjects two reclusive brothers who became the bane of New York City utility departments and object of fascination for the public. This is a finely done portrait of the brothers' tragic story.<br/>

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