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The Old Devils (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 5 Feb 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (5 Feb 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099461056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099461050
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 80,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Peter H on 6 May 2011
Format: Paperback
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 By conjunction on 18 Jan 2011
Format: Paperback
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 By L. R. Fisher on 3 Sep 2009
Format: Paperback
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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By fiona miles on 25 April 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
this should have been half as long as there wasnt enough going on ,but twas a good portrayal of certain types in the South Wales valleys of this era amusing in parts
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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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. Hinders I suppose; it's characters are rather stereotyped and introverted. Goes into the general category of award winners where I'm convinced the judges are simply too pretentious to call the writer's bluff and declare it mediocre.
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By Neil Carmichael on 10 Oct 2013
Format: Paperback
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. The theme is fatalistic and loaded with equal measures of sarcasm and irony. The setting is a dull and conservative suburban corner of South Wales where "Welshness" is a topic for endless discussion. An intelligent and well educated gang of old Welsh boozers have their everyday life disrupted by the return of a minor literary celebrity and "would-be" Don Juan. The intrigues and old wounds that have been just below the surface for years are suddenly forked to the surface. While some have taken this book as a litany of misogyny it is not that at all. While the women may not be as loyal or supportive to their husbands as might be hoped, it is the lack of will and energy of their husbands which provokes this. When the would-be hero arrives, he shows up the other men's lack of drive by his "up and at 'em" approach. Can be read in many ways, none of them terribly optimistic although there is a hidden romantic theme if you look deep enough.
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