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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heavy-proof coctail of profound, sad and hilarious
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...
Published on 6 May 2011 by Peter H

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Martin Declared This to Be His Father's Greatest Achievement
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...
Published 17 months ago by Stephanie De Pue


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heavy-proof coctail of profound, sad and hilarious, 6 May 2011
By 
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. Far from it, they have an eye for a party as much as the men. Even, as you would find by reading it, have very different agendas and priorities to the men folk.

Equally the massive lead character of Weaver does diminish and overshadow the others who, at least, don't like causing trouble for its own sake and are less inclined to be let their mouths run away with them.

One of these books that if you manage to read it once you will end up reading it twice...
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9 of 9 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 Sept. 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poor old Kingsley, 7 Sept. 2014
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Poor old Kingsley...he's come in for a bit of a bashing in some reviews here, mostly due to his portrayal of female characters, which are said to be both misogynistic and thinly detailed, and this is a fair criticism. Added to that, this book deals with Welsh identity and aging, viewed through the haze of alcohol...it's not a concoction for success. Yet this is one of those books that reads itself and the effort to reach the end was light. This book is warm and eloquently fermented in Amis' mind - it feels natural, organic, rather than an example of an author showing you just how clever he is (I get this feeling with, for example, Jon McGregor). You will probably either like it or dislike it, but based on your preconceptions of what is right or wrong, before you read the first lines, rather than the quality of the writing itself, which is very good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Stuff, 10 Oct. 2013
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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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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Martin Declared This to Be His Father's Greatest Achievement, 8 Dec. 2013
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
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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.

I know very little about Wales and the Welsh, just, perhaps, that they are supposed to have great musical abilities, and many citizens surnamed Jones. The book does give us a good look at the region and its people. It also gives us a glimpse at a world long gone, where a group of men, or of women, could create a smoke-filled room in no time while drinking to excess. You might wish to revisit such a place: I didn't. There are also a great many characters here, and I could hardly be bothered to sort them out. Because I found this book wordy to the extreme. I've recently re-read, and reviewed in these pages, the author's LUCKY JIM and The Green Man, and found them wordy, though not so as to compare with this. Also, virtually nothing happens here. Some drunken couplings and outbursts. A death and a marriage. Hardly anything happens until the last few pages of this 300-page book, and, by then, it was too little too late for me, though, in perhaps the book's last twenty pages the writer does achieve some power.

Upon its 1954 publication, Sir Kingsley Amis's LUCKY JIM jumpstarted his career with a bang, won a lot of awards, was eventually translated into more than 20 languages, and has probably sold more than two million copies worldwide since. Amis was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize three times until he eventually won it for THE OLD DEVILS.

Back when I was an intrepid girl journalist, quite a while before publication of this book, I interviewed Kingsley Amis in his comfortable North London home. He fed me lunch in the kitchen, including preserves made by his wife at the time, British novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, and a nice white wine, and entertained me with a series of witticisms. His son Martin, then a lanky teenager, came in and drank some milk out of the carton. As an American might.

Sorry to say I just can't recommend this book to the general reader.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The balance of action is wrong, 16 July 2011
I was attracted to this novel by the name of the author and the mention on the front cover of the Booker Prize.

However, it took an effort of will to stay with the novel all the way through to the end. This was because the balance of action seems wrong, with 80 percent of the book building up to the critical event that speeds along the rest of the novel. I would have preferred to see the critical event arrive after about 60 percent of the novel. As it is, it demands a lot of patience to wait for the "other shoe to drop." After finishing the book, I had to re-read the first chapter in order to track down the small clues that explain much of the action in the closing part of the novel which ends with a predictable denouement.

On the positive side, I liked the very under-stated irony of Welsh / British humor that is unique and sorely missed by expatriates. The many aspersions cast on the Welsh character are very funny. These were new to me as an English person with no prior knowledge of Wales beyond a one-day visit to Anglesey!

I also was moved by the quiet desperation of older people who have retired, lost their purpose in life, and grown weary of marital routine and fragile friendships. After finishing the novel, I was struck by the misery that underlies so much of middle-class life.... Probably it is this searing look into old age and its loneliness that won Amis the Prize. Certainly I can't bring to mind any other work that deals with these topics and this type of older population.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Welsh, but with a large glass of Scotch..., 13 Mar. 2014
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John Goddard (Saffron Walden, Essex) - See all my reviews
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Full of gentle humour and wry observation, 19 Sept. 2013
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Philip Mayo - See all my reviews
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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. I think that this was one of his very best, possibly even as memorable as Lucky Jim. There is a lot of the latter day Kingsley in here - spookily prescient too, as it's not that far from how things turned out. Poor old Kingsley. It feels like we have lost a really fun-to-be-with friend.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Of my age..., 9 Mar. 2015
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D. Redfern (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
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Retired, seventies, observational joy. Laugh out loud at the importance of long handled shoe horn. First ever read of Kingsley Amis. Know now why he's acclaimed.
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The Old Devils
The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis (Paperback - 15 Oct. 1987)
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