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The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis
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The Old Devils (original 1986; edition 1987)

by Kingsley Amis

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1,1902112,587 (3.34)119
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.
Member:lauralkeet
Title:The Old Devils
Authors:Kingsley Amis
Info:Summit Books (1987), Edition: First U.S., Hardcover, 294 pages
Collections:Removed from Library, British
Rating:*
Tags:read in 2010, fiction, borrowed, english authors, booker prize, 1001

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The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis (1986)

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English (19)  Hebrew (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Get a drink, sit back, relax and enjoy. Not clear to me why this won the Booker Prize, but I guess they were celebrating 'difference'. Nearest I can get to a comparison would perhaps be Three Men in a Boat - not much happens of any consequence but how brilliantly it's described. As I'm in the same (or even older) age bracket as our heroes, I'm disappointed that the best old devils I can muster is for the occasional lads' day out. ( )
  NaggedMan | Apr 13, 2021 |
Time to review The Old Devils, eh? Let me get some supplies.

"First into the cargo space went, in quick time, a carton of drinkables: twelve-year-old Scotch, classy spring water to put in it, gin, tonics, a rare bottle of Linie-Aquavit from Oslo, a much commoner bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream…one each of Asti Spumante and Golden Sweet Malaga…four large cold Special Brews in wet newspaper...and a spot of coffee liqueur and other muck…"

That, my dears, is what the star couple of old devils takes with them on a four-day trip with one other couple. There is so much drinking in this novel, that I often felt vicariously dizzy.

The story is set in motion by the return to Wales of Alun Weaver, Welsh poet and TV personality, and his wife Rhiannon, after several decades’ absence. Their arrival stirs up a brew of old loves, losses, and resentments, many of them acted out in bars and other drunken revelries.

Most of the characters are of retirement age, and the book begins with a careful description of each main fellow’s morning routine, right down to one’s constant struggle with constipation. But there are tender moments too, such as insights into decades-old relationships, as well as brutally honest observations on literary academia, the role of wives, and the modernization of Wales. I can’t say I got all the Welsh jokes, but I got enough of the humour to be laughing out loud more than once. So grab a scotch and tuck in. ( )
  stephkaye | Dec 14, 2020 |
Quite good, although not quite as good as Lucky Jim. But then, old age itself is rarely as good as youth. Anyway, both the 'boozing' and the 'Welsh' passages give the impression that he knew only too well what he was writing about. ( )
  Stravaiger64 | Sep 29, 2019 |
A group of longtime friends in a small, tatty Welsh town...the men meet up at the pub, the wives have drinks parties. There's still plenty of booze, adultery and rancour over past affairs, but tempered with the issues of old age.
"Diets interested him. His own eating and drinking practice was a conflation of several, often irreconcilable with each other. Thus the two halves of beer a day he reckoned he needed to help to keep him regular meant a cutback in calories elsewhere with the risk of a deficit in vital fibre."
To this group come a returning couple, the 'beautiful people' Alun Weaver (poet, broadcaster and quasi-celebrity) and his still-attractive wife Rhiannon. Each of whom have previously had - ahem, dealings - with a number of the group...
Amis' observations on the aging process are very pithy - and funny in the extreme. The unhappy marriages, obesity, increasing deafness... He also makes much of the issue of 'Welshness': while the Welsh protagonists mostly deride the recently introduced bilingual signs, and the concept of the mysterious aura surrounding all things Cambrian, newly-arrived Weaver makes a living out of pandering to the cult in his broadcasts.
So some quite clever and entertaining moents. But for me the story didn't really quite hang together and it all felt a bit 'much' (Oscar Wilde has the same effect on me.) So MUCH booze, adultery, OTT characters... Glad to reach last page. ( )
  starbox | Oct 13, 2018 |
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. ( )
2 vote thorold | May 28, 2017 |
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'If you want my opinion,' said Gwen Cellan-Davies, 'the old boy's a terrifically distinguished citizen of Wales.'
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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.

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NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 159017576X, 1590175921

 

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