The Old Romantic by Louise Dean
|The Old Romantic by Louise Dean|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: An affectionate and wry look at old age and how the generations are changing. The writing is superb and the characters will stay with you long after you've closed the book. Highly recommmended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: August 2010|
|Publisher: Fig Tree|
Ken is nearly eighty and he's obsessed with his death and planning his own funeral. He's even helping out on a volunteer basis in the local undertaker's, but what he'd really like is to be back with his family. The trouble is that they've rather moved on. His sister – who seems to have been the perfect woman in his life – is dead. He and his first wife are divorced and he's contemplating the same end to his second marriage. His elder son left home some twenty years ago as Gary and re-invented himself as Nick. At forty he's a solicitor, living with his girlfriend and her twelve-year old daughter and he's happy. He really doesn't want Ken to spoil things, but there are some things which you just cannot avoid. Ken is one of them.
It's a wonderful picture of three generations of Ken's family, drawn with affection and the sort of observation of people which you normally associate with Alan Bennett. Dean picks out those small pointers which tell us all about Ken, such as his refusal to take his coat off in a posh restaurant – followed by a complaint that it's too hot. He's aggravating, frequently tedious but somehow you can't help but feel sympathy for him. He's old and he doesn't want to be on his own. There's very little in the way of physical description, but you know that you'd recognise him in the street.
There's a marvellous contrast between Ken's sons too. Nick's done well for himself and whilst there are irritations (apart from Ken) in his life he does his best. Dave, on the other hand is the eternal lad. On a trip to Wales which the three men take he sits in the back of the car, drinking and eating crisps – and doesn't see any reason why he shouldn't. Dave's children are brighter than he is – with Matt helping his granddad to find information about DIY Death on the internet and there's a wonderful moment when the parents can't quite explain why it's wrong.
The characters are brilliant. They stay with you long after you've closed the book, but it's a great story too. I didn't think there could be a lot of mileage in someone who is not just planning his death but seems to want to get it over with. I couldn't see that there would be much humour in it either but I was wrong on both counts. Some of it is laugh-out-loud funny, parts are very black but above all you really want everything to work out for the family. A deeply-enjoyable and satisfying book. Highly recommended.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending copy to the Bookbag.
It's completely different but if this book appeals to you then you'll probably also enjoy Burley Cross Postbox Theft by Nicola Barker.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Old Romantic by Louise Dean at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Old Romantic by Louise Dean at Amazon.com.
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