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The Old Devils [Paperback]

Kingsley Amis
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 Oct 1987
Winner of the 1986 Booker Prize. 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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (15 Oct 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140101330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140101331
  • Product Dimensions: 18 x 12 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 960,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A brilliant novel. It is sadly comic and comically sad" (Anthony Burgess)

"He was a genuine comic writer, probably the best after P. G. Wodehouse ... He had a lasting influence and was a very good novelist" (John Mortimer)

"A bloody funny lovely bloody book... A genius at full throttle" (Financial Times)

"In these explicit days, Mr Amis is the laureate of the unsayable, the literary it man" (Sunday Telegraph) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Amis amazes at every turn - Mail on Sunday --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Peter H
Ageing "professional Welshman" Alun (nee Alan) Weaver decides to up-sticks from his fashionable North London home and go back to his roots. Taking with him his ex-hottie wife (Rhiannon) and many half-completed written projects and other half-formed ideas.

Despite the passing of time (in which he has gained a CBE and a minor talking-heads TV career - seemingly based on knowing a, here renamed, Dylan Thomas) he is soon back as leader-of-the-gang: The "Old Devils" (Malcolm, Charlie and Peter) who pub-crawl and party to their, undoubted, premature graves.

Starting by reviewing the reviewers (rather than the book) I am tempted to say (snobbishly?) is that you either get this or you don't. Like reading War and Peace not knowing it is going to be very long, heavy and set in Russia, or Robinson Crusoe not knowing it is about solitude, you might easily get off on the wrong foot. If not be thrown entirely.

However, please, don't be put off by bare headlines, topic or even the (much noted) loose meandering plot. Indeed marvel at its Houdini-like ability to break free of its, apparent, chains, handcuffs and heavy padlocks and come to the surface as a winner.

(Here we are in the land of aching limbs, borderline alcoholism, difficult bowl movements, false teeth and how difficult toes are to clip when clinically obese. And, I say with a chuckle, much, much, more and worse!)

If I was to give one negative, it does little for women. Maybe men get the wives they deserve and maybe women do bitch behind each others back in real life, but they come across as an extra jaded lot.

However it doesn't follow the comedy rule of women being the stay-at-homes armed with curlers, a hairnet and a rolling pin.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Triple Whisky Please 18 Jan 2011
I first read this book when it came out and I didn't like it all that much. I liked his brighter kind of shinier books like 'Lucky Jim' and 'Stanley and the Women' better. However nearing the age of Amis's characters in this book I am having a right Amis binge (I am talking senior) now and I found this much more compelling.

As usual with Amis the male characters are really what the book is about, the women are a bit thin. These men are mostly fat, colossally unfit drunkards with heroic endurability and considerable tolerance for their lives, and a willingness to stick together. They are also at times very intelligent and funny. They shoulder life's difficulties with massive doses of super-bitchy humour.

The Welsh thing is interesting. Amis is of all men the most English, of all writers I should say. He has even written novels about how much he hates abroad. Wales is very definitely not England, but it is not abroad either. But in England you have to have a ticket to do Wales.

Amis seems to me to have put more into this than most of his books and the humour is as distilled as the whisky all the men seem to take their morning bath in. I would say it does for old age what 'Take a Girl Like You' does for courting. Now there's an old word for you.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wickedness in Wales 3 Sep 2009
One of his best. A Professional Welshman returns, with his beautiful wife, to the Welsh town of his youth, and together and separately the couple meet up with all their old friends. The "hero" is happy to get off with all his friends' wives and drag his old mates on a weeklong pub crawl. A lot of alcohol is absorbed as the old friends are revealed as living lives of quiet desperation, leavened by 30s jazz. The BBC dramatised this back in the 80s - the brilliant series has never been repeated, and it's not on DVD. Why, oh, why?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Welsh, but with a large glass of Scotch... 13 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this book recently as part of a personal challenge to read all the winners of the Booker Prize. I didn't instantly warm to this portrayal of damaged and damaging drunks. But they got under my skin. I remained less than convinced with the portrayal of the women, but the petty nastiness and calculating unpleasantness of the male characters was mesmeric.

Witty, but not cheerful, this was an entertaining read. I liked it and will probably read other works by Kingsley Amis (probably Lucky Jim next...), but would be unlikely to hurry back to The Old Devils - hence 4 stars rather than 5!
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By Stephanie De Pue TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Kingsley Amis's THE OLD DEVILS, in company with the author's Lucky Jim , has recently been reissued, rescued from out of print oblivion in America, by New York Review Books Classics. THE OLD DEVILS had been, at long last, a winner of Great Britain's prestigious Booker Prize for its author, the then almost-universally popular twentieth century British humorist. Why the author's work had fallen from such favor to such a low point is rather a publishing mystery, though some critics suggest it may have something to do with the rise of Kingsley's son Martin to literary acclaim.

THE OLD DEVILS is set in Wales, where Amis gazes at a group of elderly Welsh married couples who have been spending their golden years learning to live in a world where evenings have a tendency to start after breakfast. They are doing a lot of drinking, also, a bit of gossiping, complaining, reminiscing. However, their more or less orderly social world is upended when two old members of their circle unexpectedly return from England: Alun Weaver, who has made himself a celebrated man of Welsh letters, and his entrancing wife, Rhiannon. Long-dormant rivalries and romances are rudely awakened; social life at the Bible and Crown, the local pub, is smashed. Martin Amis considered this book to be his father's greatest achievement, and one of the half-dozen best of the twentieth century, as it confronts the problems of aging, which, by then Kingsley knew well, with candor and sympathy. It is certainly, as they say, a warts and all portrait of aging. And the Booker jurors evidently liked it too.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a deserving award winner
Perhaps I should have known better than buying an award winner. They mostly disappoint and this was no exception. I'm not sure if it helps or hinders being Welsh when reading this. Read more
Published 5 months ago by darllenwr
1.0 out of 5 stars Very boring
Of the 1001 books I must read before I die, this was the first I gave up on after getting through over half of it. Life is too short to waste time on this book. Read more
Published 5 months ago by David
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Stuff
Re-read 20 years later this is still great reading. Not for those with a tendency towards depression as Amis's knife lances deeply into the boil of everyday life for older couples. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Neil Carmichael
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of gentle humour and wry observation
Reread, for the first time in years in Jan 2013. Wonderful writing, full of gentle humour and wry observation. He always seems to find the right word and perfect phrase. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Philip Mayo
5.0 out of 5 stars Over The Moon
the rating on this book was excellent also it is in very good condition,if you are a Kingsley Amis fan worth reading
Published 11 months ago by patricia
2.0 out of 5 stars Lost interest
Perhaps I am not the biggest Kingsley Amis reader but I found it rather long winded and didn't finish it.
Published 15 months ago by Custard
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious and emotional.
Set in Wales this novel provides an interesting introspection of the Welsh character and life in the villages. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Cuauhtemoc Rodriguez
4.0 out of 5 stars The balance of action is wrong
I was attracted to this novel by the name of the author and the mention on the front cover of the Booker Prize. Read more
Published on 16 July 2011 by Thoughtful reader
1.0 out of 5 stars Sad Story, Badly Bound
The story is sad and told in a rather jerky style, as if written in spurts over several years. But what sent me to the publisher with complaints is the binding. Read more
Published on 10 Feb 2011 by R. J. Scott
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