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The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis
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The Old Devils (1986)

by Kingsley Amis

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Amis's 1986 Booker winner is clever, entertaining and very sharply observed, obviously written by a master craftsman who knew exactly what he was doing. Really superb in its technique, but I found it disappointingly predictable on a larger scale. The jokes about Welsh provincialism, the fake mysticism of the Dylan Thomas cult, the tackiness of 80s Britain and the indignities of old age are really just an excuse for Amis to unleash his grumpy-old-man side; the booze-and-adultery gets rather tedious; the plot about a settled community being disoriented by the return of its absent celebrities has been done many times before... If anyone else had written this book it would have been nothing more than a Welsh Last of the summer wine pastiche - Amis is a good enough writer to take it a few levels higher than that, but he only barely gets away with it. ( )
1 vote thorold | May 28, 2017 |
“Everybody had been in their twenties then; well, round about thirty. Now, from round about seventy, all those years of maturity or the prime of life or whatever you called it looked like an interval between two bouts of vomiting.

The Old Devils centre around a group of six retired old friends from Wales and their wives. Five of the couples have pretty well lived all their life in Wales. Being retired most of their days are pretty empty apart from bouts of heavy drinking. The men mainly in a pub called the Bible but also other various pubs whilst the women chiefly prefer to do their drinking in the kitchens of their respective group. There is plenty of back-biting, cattiness and moaning in each group but there is also a sense of tolerance.

All have become very staid and settled in their daily existence until two old school friends return to Wales after spending years living in London. An ageing poet, minor TV personality, posturing professional Welshman and habitual womaniser, Alun, who had been a paramour of two of the other women in his youth and his charming wife who had previously been loved by two of the other men and of whom all the women seem envious of . These new arrivals stir up long buried memories and jealousies.

Now I must admit that it took me a little while to warm to this novel, to really grasp the dry wit within but once I did I found it a charming book that speaks volumes of the daily boredom of everyday life for people who seem relatively well off financially but have no real idea as to how to fill their days and consequently have become trapped in a spiral of habit and boredom. Some of the characters no longer possess all their own teeth, whilst others have become obese or have become health obsessed concerned about approaching death what's more all their memories have become blurred by the intervening decades. None seem to be particularly happy with their lot in life yet each seem to have found some way to forgive each others' past transgressions.

Yet this is all stirred up by the returning arrivals and there is a feeble attempt to try and recapture their younger selves. Led by Alun the men set off on a road trip visiting pubs they visited years before finding much to their distaste some have been turned into hideous,trendy bars but even worse are the bars that have not changed at all. Alun also tries to rekindle long petered out love affairs with his previous lovers using the various husbands as alibis as he does.

There are constant gentle digs at the expense of both Wales and the Welsh with the novel awash with both booze and satire of a high quality. I did find it a little difficult to keep track of the more minor characters which has led to a slight downgrading but in the end I found this a very enjoyable read that I would heartily recommend. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Nov 4, 2016 |
“Professional Welshman” Alun Weaver returns to his South Wales hometown after a career in London as a writer and poet and TV pundit. His old friends are in two minds about his re-appearance. And that of his wife, Rhiannon. Yet they welcome the pair pretty much with open arms, and some private bickering. And a lot of drinking. One of the good things about The Old Devils is that, on the one hand, the various characters are conflicted about the Weavers’ return; on the other, things quickly settle into what is clearly a well-established routine. A number of past events resurface and cause a few problems, but they seem to be resolved with a surprising lack of drama – in fact, the most dramatic scene is prompted by the pettiest of disagreements. There’s often some nastiness on display – and of all the characters, it’s the wives who are treated worst. One might almost suspect Amis was a misogynist – one wife is cruelly mocked by her friends, another has her character assassinated, and a third heartlessly abandons her husband. The men are old codgers and drunkards, and amusing at times, but The Old Devils‘ one-sidedness does get wearying as the novel progresses. I’ve no idea why The Old Devils is on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. ( )
1 vote iansales | Jul 27, 2016 |
Wretched book consisting of long boring discussions amongst middle aged drunken Englishmen and women of the upper middle class. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
I foolishly bought this novel many years ago because it had won the Booker Prize. It has mouldered on the shelves ever since. Anyway, just finished it and found that a novel about boring old codgers was also a boring read. Can only think the prize was given as a belated acknowledgement of Lucky Jim, which was probably ground-breakingly irreverent at the time. ( )
  LARA335 | Oct 6, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060971460, Paperback)

Malcolm Peter and Charlie and their Soave-sodden wives have one main ambition left in life: to drink Wales dry. But their routine is both shaken and stirred when they are joined by professional Welshman Alun Weaver (CBE) and his wife Rhiannon.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:46 -0400)

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"When Alun Weaver and his wife, Rhiannon, a famous beauty in her day, move into a quiet retirement community, they find it peopled by friends from former days.

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NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 159017576X, 1590175921

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