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The Old Romantic Paperback – 5 Aug 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Fig Tree (5 Aug. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905490194
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905490196
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.2 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 804,995 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Louise Dean was born in Hastings in June 1970 and read history at Cambridge University. Three continents, three books, three children later, she returned to the UK in 2007 and lives in Kent. Known for her dark comedies, winner of Society of Authors Trask Prize 2004, and various others, and long listed for the Man Booker and IMPAC she is at work on her next novel.

Product Description


Channels the rough music of everyday life with a tragicomic subtlety, a pin-sharp ear for dialogue and a flair for every nuance of character and class. Louise Dean's fearless, frank and darkly comic novels have brought a fresh colour and character to English fiction (Boyd Tonkin Independent )

Dark, scurrilous and richly comic. There is so much to treasure in this terrific book, but its deepest joy is the sharp, perceptive writing (Financial Times )

Dean is able to demonstrate her unobtrusive skill as the creator of comic set-pieces...painfully funny (The Sunday Times )

Very vivid are the quintessentially British characters and the snappy, well-observed dialogue. Delightful, eccentric (Observer )

Dean's observations have a lyrical intensity few can match (Guardian )

A warm-hearted comedy of bad manners (Daily Mail )

Dean writes with beautifully controlled clarity about family ties, social class, the generation gap and the vanished England of the past. She's extremely funny, but also humane and moving (The Times )

Sharply observed (Psychologies )

Compassionate and amusing (The Times Literary Supplement )

About the Author

Louise Dean is the author of three previous novels: Becoming Strangers, which was awarded the Betty Trask Prize in 2004 and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Award, This Human Season and The Idea of Love. She lives in Kent and has three children.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Cunliffe TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
If ever there was a candidate for next year's Booker Prize, then this should be it.

As the book opens we meet Nick and his partner Astrid who are driving to Hastings to pick up Nick's father Ken, a miserly, cantankerous old man, living in Hastings on the South Coast with his unfortunate wife June. They are all going to have lunch with Dave, Nick's brother and his wife, Marina. The lunch will be dominated by Ken's announcement that he wants to leave all his money to son number two, Dave, and expects Nick, a lawyer, to draw up the will which will so determinedly favour his brother. Astrid can't help herself from exclaiming, "What about Nick?", only to hear the irascible old man reply, "Thank you young lady, but you're new to this family. You're not even in the this family, matter of fact, so I'll ask you to keep your nose out".

Ken's appalling behaviour suffuses this book. He really is a wicked old man, blind to his own failings and judgemental about everyone else's. When people treat him as he deserves he is puffily hurt and fails to see how he his own provocations are at the root of his troubles.

We meet a fine cast of characters, most notably Ken's ex-wife Pearl, who is equally outspoken, and lives off the charity of kind-hearted Dave while proclaiming a bogus pride in her own self-reliance. I enjoyed the way that Louise Dean doesn't just concentrate on Ken his family but lets her readers into the lives of all her characters, even the minor ones like Nick's ex-girlfriend Morwen, or the creepy divorced Dad who tries to make a girl-friend of his twelve-year old daughter. I enjoyed reading about Astrid's delightfully-drawn, oh-so middle-class parents who meet Ken for a lunch encounter which for readers has much akin to watching a car-crash.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gleddy on 26 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
I loved this Book - its one of the most original Novels I have ever read.
Its undoubted strength lies in its brilliant characters.The author's ability to create gems like Ken made me never want to stop reading. The multi faceted Characters are so real. Their mannerisms, joys and lows will stay with me for a long time.
The real joy of this Book is the many laugh out loud moments - the times I had to stop and put the Book down while I belly laughed.However then in the space of a few minutes I would be thinking deeply about some personal memory relating to Family etc that the Author makes you think about.
This is a Book to be treasured.Funny,insightful and above all so endearingly human I adored it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. A. H. Barrett on 4 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
Fantastic new dark comedy by Louise Dean and a great Summer read. Set in and around Hastings, East Sussex, it follows the trials and tribulations of a family split by issues of the past. The main character, Ken, and his oldest son, Nick, are reunited after 20 odd years. Nick has moved on and doesn't want anything to do with his father. Nick won a scholarship, went to Cambridge and is now a professional man but comes from very humble beginnings which he would rather forget. Ken coming back in his life illustrates where he came from and he doesn't want to be reminded.
The characters in the book are great - funny, witty and colourful and I laughed at the witty banter.
Great for the holiday so would strongly recommend grabbing a copy - oh and you'll learn a little bit about embalming too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Susan Martin on 8 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
There is an old joke, the body of which I've long forgotten, but the punch line remains with me constantly: "The only thing in life you HAVE to do is die".

It's a premise which Ken, the protagonist in this excellent new novel, is taking extremely seriously. He volunteers at the local funeral parlour run by the larger than life Audrey, project manages his own send off down to the handles on the coffin. However, arranging the devoted family around his death bed proves to be a just a little bit more problematic, particularly as he hasn't seen one of his sons for over 20 years. It's the cue for a parade of what at first sight seem to be comic grotesques in the vein of a Mike Leigh film, which Dean artfully moulds into compelling characters. There are a number of incidents which had me snorting with suppressed laughter which then turned into cheek burning, toe curling embarrassment as I recalled how my own family dealt with the key themes of class, changing values and dysfunctional family relationships. This is the real joy of the novel: Louise Dean uses her trademark knowing observations on the absurdity of the quotidien to make you examine your own relationships and values. I don't want to give away the resolution to Ken's painstakingly planned death, but I think others will enjoy the unexpected and unexpectedly uplifting denouement as much as I did.

I devoured this book in a single sitting and then returned again and again to the brilliant set pieces. I suspect that long after the details fade, like the long forgotten joke, this novel will continue to make me think about what's really important in life.

Highly recommended.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John D on 4 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
I finished this book in a day and a half, something I haven't done in a long time. I was riveted by the characters who are utterly authentic, deep and rich and flawed with the most exquisite weaknesses. The pace of this story is so fast and the events so credible that you find yourself nodding off in the middle of the night having read way past bedtime, and they appear in your dreams leading you along some East Sussex trail, yammering all the way, the clip of their recorded speech so accurate and compelling as to have you tittering in your sleep. But this is no lightweight journey. The book's themes are universal and important, the dissection of our continuing imprisonment in the whole notion of class and the broad theatre of death struck ready chords with me and caused me to think past the novel, forcing me to examine my own family and relationships.
Louise Dean is a visual writer. The beauty of her characters lies in the combination of authentic regional voices and the detail of her descriptions with the little things, as is always the case, offering the clues that permit us to know them gradually. I shall never forget the morbidly-obessed Ken seated in a country restaurant in his raincoat, mounting his version of a born-again Christian interrogation of his son's potential in-laws over the 'tamada soup'. Or the delicious Pearl with her driveway boasting a forest decorated with decaying plastic dolls scrutinizing visitors to her cottage before they get to meet her disturbed German Shepherd guard dog. The circumstances might be sometimes comedy-fest eccentric but the players are subtle, believable and endearing.
Thinking back I start to smile as I recall some of the darker and more touching passages and realise they are the richer because they are familiar.
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